Rosa Parks: Arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin: Publisher, journalist, civil rights leader, suffragist and editor of the first national newspaper published by and for
African American women.

Inez Milholland: Suffragist, labor lawyer, socialist, World War I correspondent and public speaker who influenced the women’s movement in America.

Josephine Baker: A vocal opponent of segregation and discrimination, who often initiated one-woman protests against racial injustice and spoke just before Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Aretha Franklin: Created music that inspired the fight for freedom and, behind the scenes, hosted fundraisers, performed for free and bailed out activists who were arrested during demonstrations.

These female heroes – both the known and lesser-known – were showcased during the Jan. 31 Martin Luther King Jr. Gospel Celebration Breakfast, hosted by the Association of Multicultural Members of Partners (AMMP).

“Though history books contain only brief – if any – mentions of the contributions of these women activists who influenced the civil rights movement, they were instrumental in the fight for racial equality in America,” said keynote speaker Jovita Thomas-Williams, senior vice president of MGH Human Resources. “Like Dr. King, they spent their lives organizing and leading meetings, writing about and advocating for equality, and advancing the causes they believed in.”

Though Parks often is the first woman who comes to mind when recalling women in the civil rights movement in the United States, Thomas-Williams said, she was not alone in her fight. “While it is apparent that we have a long way to go, Dr. King’s dream has carried on long after his death – through the work of these women and others who have followed,” she said. “Today, let us celebrate these women and their male counterparts, who have paved the way for us to go forth and spread the message of equality in our communities – both here at MGH and beyond.”

The annual event – which was standing room only in the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation – began with the presentation of the flag by the MGH Police and Security Honor Guard, followed by the national anthem and opening prayer. Throughout the celebration, attendees were treated to inspirational musical performances by the Harvest Ministries of New England Youth Worship Team, led by Daniel Urizar, of Environmental Services.

“I encourage you all to put what you’ve learned today into action and refuse to be a bystander in the fight for equality,” said Latoya Brewster, AMMP vice chair. 

2020 AMMP Diversity Champion Award

The 2020 AMMP Diversity Champion Award recipient also was announced during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Gospel Celebration Breakfast. This award recognizes the exceptional efforts of employees who champion and advocate for equal participation of diverse professionals and support staff within the hospital community.

This year, the honor went to Mary Elizabeth Bedenbaugh, RN, of the Blake 12 Intensive Care Unit, for her work to promote inclusiveness at the MGH, and across the globe.

Bedenbaugh has been a nurse for 18 years – six of those at the MGH – in a variety of roles. She is part of the MGH Global Disaster Response team – which recently deployed to the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian – and serves on the MGH Collaborative Governance Ethics Committee. In the summer, Bedenbaugh leads outreach teams through her church to Nairobi, Kenya, to provide basic services to families and to educate local nurses to improve quality of care.

“Of all this year’s amazing nominees, Mary stood out on top among the rest,” said Sandra Thomas, AMMP scholarship chair. “Mary is clearly dedicated to diversity, and connects with all staff to make them feel welcome on a daily basis. Thank you for fostering an inclusive environment for all.”