Celebrating the life of Rep. Kennedy

Published 8:15pm Monday, December 10, 2012

This past weekend, the state of Alabama lost a great legislator and I lost a friend when Rep. Yvonne Kennedy unexpectedly passed away. Rep. Kennedy had such an impact on so many lives while she was with us. And I believe that when a person passes away, you shouldn’t just mourn them and say goodbye at their funeral. You should also celebrate their life and the impact they had while they were here. Rep. Kennedy was a person who believed in putting community and people first. Those were her values and she lived them every day of her life. For nearly 34 years, she served the people of Mobile in the state House of Representatives and she made the people her priority.

Rep. Kennedy fought for many causes. These included extending the federal Voting Rights Act and allowing former felons the right to vote if they were convicted of crimes that did not involve moral turpitude. Because of her Christian faith, she believed in forgiveness and giving people a second chance. She also fought injustice by introducing legislation to increase the amount of funding for domestic violence shelters, as well as legislation to prevent companies from price gouging during emergencies.

A natural leader, Rep. Kennedy previously served as Chair of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, as well as Chair of the Mobile County United Negro College Fund Campaign. Outside of the legislature, Rep. Kennedy served as president of Bishop State Community College for 25 years and was a Trustee of Miles College. She was also a member of the Board of the American Association for Higher Education.

Rep. Kennedy’s commitment to community and service was not limited to the legislature and post-secondary education. Rep. Kennedy also served as president of the national Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, a non-profit organization devoted to economic and educational development, physical and mental health, and political involvement. She also worked with the Junior Miss Scholarship Foundation and served as Youth Director for the Board of Christian Education of the Southeast Alabama Conference of the CME Church.

I am blessed to have known Dr. Yvonne Kennedy. She impacted so many lives while she was with us. Her devotion to the people of Alabama – to their education and wellbeing – is an inspiration to all of us who serve as elected officials. You may not have known Dr. Kennedy like I did, but we can all learn from her example.

Losing someone you care about is never easy, especially at this time of year. It was last year that I lost my baby sister, Jalaila Joi. So I will end this article with the following thought: when we lose someone, let’s not just say goodbye to them. Let’s celebrate their life and remember how they made our lives better.

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