City councilwoman brings words of ‘encouragement’

Published 11:00 pm Friday, February 15, 2013

Dejerilyn King Henderson may not ever be governor of Alabama but she gave notice Friday that it won’t be because she didn’t try.

Henderson, a newly elected member of the Troy City Council, was the featured speaker at the Charles Henderson High School Black History Program.

Henderson told her audience that she consistently sought elected positions since becoming politically involved in the mid-1980s.

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“It was a long time coming but I believe God put me on His earth to serve His people as an elected official,” she said.

Henderson stepped forward as a leader of political change in 1982 when she ran for a seat on the Troy City Commission, which had three members. The office of mayor rotated among them.

“I knew that I could not be elected because the commissions ran at-large, which means that everybody got to vote,” Henderson said.

“I knew, too, that black people didn’t have a snowball chance of being elected to the Troy City Commission.”

Henderson sought the support of the United States Department of Justice in making a change in the city government that would give African Americans a voice. Her gallant legal actions helped change the city’s form of government to a mayor-council form with five single-member districts. The mayor-council form of government opened the doors for black representation on the Troy City Council.

Henderson said that she stood before the CHHS student body and faculty with great pride in being a voice in city government.

“My mother did not get to see me sworn in as a member of the city council. She is not here in body today but she is here in spirit,” Henderson said. “And, she is saying, ‘Lord, look at her now. Who would have thought it?’”

Henderson said that she is living her dream of public service and she is living it because she dared to dream and worked hard to make that dream a reality. A dream and hard work brought her from the housing projects to a position on the city council.

“And, if you work hard enough and set your goals high enough, you can accomplish much,” she told the students. “I am here today to encourage you and tell you not to have a slave mentality.

Henderson said getting caught up with peer pressure, bullying, stereotypes and other things of the world is having a slave mentality.

“A slave mentality will hook you and weigh you down. Don’t get caught up in that,” she said. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream to make the world a better place. Have a dream. Break the slave mentality. Be confident of your character. Work hard. Aim high and you can accomplish your goals.”

CHHS Principal Dr. Boyd English also challenged the students.

He spoke of two great leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Abraham Lincoln, both leaders in Civil Rights.

“They stood with boldness and they stood up for what was right,” English said.

“It is not the color of your skin that matters. It’s the content of your character. We are living in that time. Let your character shine through.”