“Unbothered and Unmoved: A Red Roundtable Discussion brought together (l-r) Vanecia Belser Kimbrow, Esq., Shayla Williamson, Darrah Hall, Memphis Alumnae Chapter President April Hubbard, Joan Mulholland, Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis, Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean, Robin Mayweather and Leslie Johnson.(Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

“Unbothered and Unmoved: A Red Roundtable Discussion” put Joan Trumpauer Mulholland – the first Caucasian member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated – on stage with some of her sorority sisters at the National Civil Rights Museum on Friday (Jan. 21).

Mulholland, 80, pledged Delta in 1962 at Tougaloo College, an HBCU (historically Black College and University) in Jackson, Mississippi. Her visit with Deltas at the National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) was an evening of reflections, witticisms and just plain fun.

“My mother was horrified,” said Mulholland, recalling her mother’s reaction to her decision to attend Tougaloo. “She was from South Georgia, and she didn’t know what to tell her relatives about me.

“But my father, that was a different story. He grew up in Iowa with George Washington Carver. Mr. Carver would come out and throw peanuts for the children to find them in a scavenger hunt. My daddy grew up with Mr. Carver as his godfather. So, you know he wasn’t prejudiced.”

Mulholland said she frequently is asked why she joined Delta.

“My roommates were both Deltas, and I just said, ‘Why not?’ When I say I’m a Delta, white people always thought that I was talking about Tri-Delta, Delta Delta Delta, the white sorority. I’m Delta Sigma Theta all the way. I pledged in 1962 and crossed in 1963.”

Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis (right) makes a point during the panel discussion with (l-r) Shayla Williamson, Darrah Hall, Joan Mulholland and Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

Moderator Vanecia Belser Kimbrow, Esq. engaged Mulholland in conversation before setting up the panel discussion with Mulholland and four other sorority members about race, violence and saving African-American children from the streets.

The panel featured Memphis Police Department Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, the first African-American woman to lead the department; Dr. Carol Johnson-Dean, a former Memphis City Schools superintendent, who also served as interim president at LeMoyne Owen College; Shayla Williamson, the first African-American president of a St. Jude entity, leading the Home Health LLC., and Darrah Hall, a youth advocate and consultant.

In reference to the discussion’s title, the panelists were asked for their takes on what it means to be unbothered and unmoved.

“Every time I think of being unbothered and unmoved, I think about the things that really bother me,” Johnson-Dean said. “I am bothered about the graduation rate. I am bothered about teachers not receiving all the support they need. So, I am bothered and concerned and it moves me to action.”

Williamson said she thinks about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks being unbothered and having the courage to say what they had to say.

“We should be unbothered about what others might think about us speaking our minds,” said Williamson. “The courage of these women reminds us that we add value to a conversation.”

Focused on high crime rates and gun violence, Davis said, “I am bothered by the silence, lack of engagement and the lack of support concerns me greatly. …

“When I see what is happening in our communities, I am bothered. People died for us to enjoy the freedoms and rights that are ours, but we are unmoved about what is happening around us. There is a basic inability to get us mobilized.”

Hall said, “To be unbothered and unmoved takes courage. … It also takes strength and confidence to face an issue head-on and having the courage to take action to resolve it.”

Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr. honored Joan Mulholland with a presentation and award of appreciation. Gray is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., a “brother organization” of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

Mulholland said people can remain unbothered and composed when they stand up for what is right, no matter how unpopular the stance.

“I was a part of the movement, not just a supporter,” said Mulholland. “Bloom where you are planted, as the hippies used to say in the 60s. Deltas have always been strong and courageous in civil rights.”

Attending Tougaloo and joining an African-American sorority were not youthful acts of rebellion for Mulholland.

“I saw things happening that just weren’t right,” Mulholland said. “I wanted to be a part of the movement to make a change. It was as simple as that. We must all have the courage to stand against injustice.”

One of the Freedom Riders arrested in Jackson in 1961, Mulholland spent two months in the maximum-security unit of the Mississippi State Penitentiary, formerly known as “Parchman Farm.” The following year, she became the first white student to enroll at Tougaloo College and served as the local secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Mullholland’s son, Loki Mulholland, a filmmaker recognized for his work in fighting racism through film, joined Omega Psi Phi, an African-American fraternity and “brother” organization to the Deltas.

Delta member and business owner, Robin Mayweather. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/The New Tri-State Defender)

Business owner Robin Mayweather, who served as the program’s coordinator, said – despite the challenges – Delta must continue to have the courage to do what is right, even when it is difficult.

“We have always had a strong network for social justice and equality,” said Mayweather. “And we will keep on fighting for equal rights and equal opportunities for everyone because it is the right thing to do.”