Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington was the guest speaker during Pine Bluff Arsenal's Women's History Month luncheon March 14 at Creasy Auditorium.

The event kicked off with opening remarks by Sharon Bolden with PBA's Equal Employment Opportunity Office, invocation by Clay Ferrell with PBA's Directorate of Public Works, and words of inspiration by Becky Simmons, president of the Bluff Center Chapter of Federally Employed Women.

"Thank you God for all the cherished women in our lives. We thank you for all of the cherished women in our history. We thank you for our mothers, our sisters, our friends and for our neighbors," said Ferrell during his prayer. "Thank you especially for the women here today. May all women know the love you offer them each and every day. May every woman across the globe continue to be empowered by your love."

The Arsenal's Federal Women's Program Manager Megan Booker with the Directorate of Public Works introduced Washington before she spoke. "We are honored today to welcome Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington as our special guest. She is a former school teacher who has taught a few here in this room," she said. "Her passion for children has led her to serve as president of the Pine Bluff Education Association and as a member of the Southeast Arkansas Arts and Science Center Board of Directors."

Booker said Washington's drive for change and revitalization is evident in downtown Pine Bluff, with new buildings being built and other construction projects underway.

"Good morning everyone. This is a welcoming spot, even though I got lost trying to find the right place," said Washington. "Once I stopped my car, I saw smiling faces coming towards me and I knew I must be in the right place. Thank you for welcoming and inviting me to be here."
Washington said the world needs to know women are special. "We deserve not just a day but an entire month. I think this is great. We are great individuals -- each one of us in our own right and life," she said. "We do wonderful things."

She said she taught school for 38 years. "Twenty-two of those years I was in the classroom and the remainder I was a building administrator. Each year, I had at least 25 or more kids in my classroom. Then for 16 years, I had sometimes close to 500 kids each year," said Washington. "That was a lot of kids to remember."

I see women as the backbone of the community, said Washington. "As I look back on my time in the classroom and schools, and on my short time as mayor, I see teachers, mentors and principals coming to school every day. Dedicating their lives to helping students succeeds every day," she said. "I see mothers, sisters, aunties, cousins and grandmothers taking care of young children. I see women in church across the city embracing the mindset of Jesus Christ. They are all working together to build a Pine Bluff that we can all be proud to call home."

Washington said when she thought of women who were champions of peace and non-violence, she thought of women from the past.

"Any time you hear the name Rosa Parks, you immediately think of a lady going home from work who refused to give up her seat on the bus one day. That took courage. That took someone who was strong and was willing to stand up for something right," she said. "I think of Hannah, the prophetess and mother of Samuel. I think of people right here in our community. Women who have taken the baton to move things forward."

Speaking about her mother, Washington said she wanted the best for her children. "She was a good mother and tried her best to provide everything we needed, even though her income was about five dollars a week. She raised us (seven kids) to perfection," she said. "When I talk about a person of peace, my mother taught us to get along. She said you love your siblings. She told us to avoid fighting in school, but always let them know you aren't afraid. You just know there is a better way."

In the past and even in our own lifetimes, women are strong, bold and a catalyst for change, said Washington. "These women exemplify how one can change the trajectory of the future, how they can change that trajectory for generations and the fight still continues," she said. "The message is we have to and must keep fighting because there are still battles to be won. We fight for our voices to be heard."

Following the mayor's presentation, Roch Byrne, PBA's Deputy to the Commander, presented Washington with a certificate of appreciation.

Arsenal Commander Col. Luis Ortiz presented the FWP Woman of the Year award to Anne McGuire with the Directorate of Public Works, and the FWP Supervisor/Leader of the Year award was presented to Karen Whitlow with the Directorate of Material Management.