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‘Momma Brave’ makes her triumphant return to ‘The Reservation’

As Black History Month comes to a close, the Myrlie Evers-Williams Honors Program and University College celebrated an Alcorn legend. On February 26th, in the Clinton Bristow Jr. Dining Facility Gold Room from 10:00 am – 11:00 am, “Succeeding Through Challenging Times” a Black History Focus Program took place. 

Zelmarine A. Murphy, also known as “Momma Brave,” an Alcorn alumna, Alumni National Historian, and retired educator, delivered a lively account of her time at Alcorn as the keynote speaker. 

Dr. Wandra Arrington, Director of the Myrlie Evers-Williams Honors Program, presided over the event. The program also featured Rev. Dr. C. Edward Rhodes II, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, who led the Invocation. The 3rd Mister Alcorn State University, Arrington Robinson, welcomed everyone to the program. 

The event opened with the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” led by Junior General Studies/ Education major J’vontae Noel. Chrissom Armstrong, a Freshman History major recited a Black History poem and afterwards Miss Senior, Kristin Washington, delivered the introduction of Murphy.

“Hailing from the vibrant city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Mrs. Murphy’s journey of education and community service is truly inspiring. A proud alumna of Alcorn State University, she has dedicated herself to a remarkable 47-year career of leaving an indelible mark in Tunica, Greenville, and Tallulah, Louisiana,” said Washington. 

Murphy has found herself serving on several boards and committees in her lifetime. Her service is not limited to the Vicksburg Warren County School Board of Trustees, the Afro-American Heritage Preservation Board, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the National Council of Negro Women. She has also been chosen for the Dr. Walter Washington – Dr. John Peoples Humanitarian Award, Madison Parish Louisiana Teacher of the Year Award, and notably the Alcorn State University National Alumni Hall of Honor. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 

Murphy is known for her ferocious pride for Alcorn. Her grandparents attended the school, and she carries the legacy with her grandchildren who currently attend. She cements her experience as an “Old Alcornite” who received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Home Economics from Alcorn in 1966.

In her speech, she emphasized to the audience the importance of knowing Alcorn’s history. Specifically, she believes that “Against Great Odds: The History of Alcorn State University,” written by Dr. Josephine Posey, should be in every student’s possession. She wants students to understand that they are living the dreams of their ancestors, who for many reasons could not pursue their dreams of higher education. 

“Alcorn was born 29 years before the turn of the century. It has experienced the classical university days, beginning in 1871. Now in 1871, in Mississippi, you know some of the things you were called. You weren’t expected to read or write, but when the legislature said that we could, they established this school for us. I wonder did they think we would ever be as great as we are,” said Murphy. 

Murphy fearlessly spoke up about issues she believes are important for students to care about. She stressed the importance of reaching out to the local chapters of Alcorn Alumni Associations when students need help with anything, as a family should. 

“Alcornintes, we don’t take a second seat to anybody. We want to be first. If you go in any town, particularly here in Mississippi, the movers and the shakers in that town are graduates of Alcorn. You talk about mayors, Alcorn’s got ‘em,” said Murphy.

She certifies that even though Alcorn is doing something right, she did not shy away from talking about the recent issues in the Mississippi news that Alcorn receives less funding than the larger universities within the state. She made a metaphor about a piece of pie, and how Predominately White Institutions (PWIs) get slices of the pie, and Alcorn and other black colleges receive crumbs. After speaking on this, she encouraged the students to get out and vote, not only in local elections but in the upcoming Presidential election as well. She places the future fate of Alcorn in the hands of its students. 

“It is a part of Black History Month which for me is a great discovery. I learned a lot about how it all started and really it’s of great importance and significance to know more about the contribution of black people to all of the spheres of life in general,” said Ekaterina Kolesnikova, a Fulbright Scholar who is a Russian educator.

“We as a people, if you give us the opportunity, we will make you proud,” – Zelmarine A. Murphy

Joy Thornton
Joy Thornton
Joy Thornton is a Senior Mass Communications major from Pass Christian, Mississippi. She will be a contributor for The Campus Chronicle for the 2023-2024 academic year.


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