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2012 KCET Black History Month Honorees

2012 Black History Month Heroes - KCET


Congratulations to our 2012 Local Heroes of the Year:

Samella Lewis   Dr. Samella Lewis
   Professor Emeritus
   Scripps College of the Claremont Colleges 

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Dr. Samella Lewis has touched the lives of artists, scholars, educators, students, and countless others through her dedication and perseverance in the field of African American art. Dr. Lewis became the first tenured African American professor in art history at Scripps College of the Claremont Colleges, and has served as a professor emeritus of art history since 1984; she’s also served as the school’s art history professor since 1969. As a celebration of Dr. Lewis’s insight into African American art, the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery of Scripps College is currently displaying the Samella Lewis Contemporary Art Collection, which focuses on African American artists, women artists and women of color. Scripps College has also named a scholarship in Dr. Lewis’s honor.

Dr. Lewis’s work has been exhibited throughout Los Angeles, and nationally and internationally, at galleries and museums, including the Museum of African American Art, which she founded and served as curator from 1976 to 1986; the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago, Illinois; the Bill Hodges Gallery in New York City; the Zora Neale Hurston Museum in Eatonville, Florida; and the Stella Jones Gallery in her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana.

As a voice of the African American art community, Dr. Lewis founded and edited “The International Review of African American Art.” The publication became a forum for educating artists and scholars about the many contributions African Americans have made to the visual arts. She created the first anthology of African American artists’ writings, “Black Artists on Art,” in 1969, and followed up with a second volume in 1971; she later wrote the first survey of African American art, “Art: African American,” in 1978. Dr. Lewis has authored 11 books, including the children’s book, “African American Art for Young People.”

Dr. Lewis has received countless awards, including the Alumni Association Award from Ohio State University, Special Day Recognition Award for Outstanding Contributions from the City of New Orleans and The History Maker Award. The Getty Center for the History of Art and Humanities also named her a Distinguished Scholar. Dr. Lewis received her bachelor’s degree from Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, and her master’s degree from OSU. She also received doctorate degrees in art and art history from OSU in 1951, making her the first recipient of such a dual major.


Shirlee Smith   Shirlee Smith
   Founder and CEO
   Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith, Inc. 

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Shirlee Smith has taken her knowledge and experience of parenting to an unexpected level. Smith spent her teenage years helping her mother raise her younger siblings, working in homes as a mother’s helper, and later raising her own six children single-handedly. Smith was a student at UCLA when her youngest was in a stroller; she graduated with a bachelor’s degree as a departmental scholar in sociology. Smith fostered a dozen infants classified as “drug babies” and soon found her calling.

In 1997, Smith founded Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith, Inc. The Pasadena based non-profit organization specializes in parenting issues and takes a no-nonsense approach to raising happy, balanced children. Smith’s stance is that the parents, not the children, take charge of the household. This philosophy has created a spirited dialogue on her cable television show, Talk About Parenting “LIVE" with Shirlee Smith, which started in Pasadena, California in 1994.

Smith has developed a brand that includes workshops, such as working with incarcerated mothers at the California Institute for Women, public speaking engagements, a parenting newspaper column and a blog posted on her Web site at www.talkaboutparenting.org. Smith is also author of “They’re Your Kids Not Your Friends,” and the Spanish version, “Son tus Hijos, no tus Amigos.”

Smith’s columns have earned her journalism awards for personal commentary from the Greater Los Angeles Press Club. Her work has also gained national recognition, including the 2006 Angel in Adoption Congressional Award and Women in Business Congressional Recognition. Smith was recently elected chair of the Pacific Clinics Family Programs Advisory Board.


View KCET Black History Month Honorees for 2011

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