2017 “Sister Spokesman: Celebrate Moms of All” of Ages honorees

The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder is pleased to present the honorees for this year’s Sister Spokesman: “Celebrate Moms of All Ages” event. Join Sister Spokesman Saturday, December 2, 2017, from 12 to 4 pm to see these phenomenal mothers honored and celebrated at Midpointe Event Center at 415 Pascal Street North in S.t Paul. 

Update: See photos from the event here.


Janaya Bagurusi

Janaya is one of the most courageous, authentic, heartfelt, funny and determined women I know. She’s spent her life in social service, working with organizations that provide housing and education for individuals and families that need help and hope.

She’s raised four children on her own since late 2013, the year she lost her husband, Jumba, to cancer.

Through it all, she’s met every challenge with determination, kept her sense of humor, pushed for high educational standards and opportunity for her children, and has hung onto her dreams of career changes and advancements that will better align with her values.

I hope you choose to celebrate her drive, her courage, and her spirit by choosing her for this “Celebrating Moms of All Ages” award.

—Kathleen Spehar

 Josephine Arkadie Bunton

Some people may say that Josephine Arkadie Bunton was just a teacher, but there is no such thing. Over the course of her 35-year teaching career, Josephine (affectionately known as Jo) taught science and economics to thousands of youth.

As a science teacher, she helped to develop and encourage the hunger within her students to seek and do more and many have.

Before bringing her passion and love for teaching and learning to the Twin Cities, Josephine began her teaching career in Humboldt, Minnesota where she was the first Black teacher at Humboldt High School. This 4-ft. 11” woman realized that parents often counted on teachers to continue mothering their children by teaching and preparing them to participate in a changing world.

As a teacher, Josephine had been mothering a long time before she became a mother to Joseph and Joslyn. Josephine is also the grandmother to Gregory, William, and Kalani. Jo has encouraged me and other African American teachers not to give up on our desire to nurture students while teaching because our children need us.

At 87 years old she continues to inspire me to fight for our children and to guide our youth. She inspires me to continue to believe as a teacher that I can make a difference; that I can still reach one and teach one and that I can instill hope and love to children who need us to keep hope alive.

I am nominating Josephine Bunton because I believe she would be a worthy recipient of the Sister Spokesman honor, Celebrating Moms of all Ages, in recognition for her ongoing support of youth and education in our community and the teachers who serve them.

—Kathlyn G Stewart

 Arlene Thomas Favors

I would like to nominate Arlene Thomas Favors for the Mothers of All Ages event.

Arlene is a real estate agent, entrepreneur, women’s football player, business owner, a mother of six children, and a grandmother with five of those children being step-children.

With all of that, she still has time to mentor and take care of boys in her community who are underprivileged or just don’t have a very involved parent. At any given time, you can see Arlene with a full group of boys who are not her children, and she lets them stay as much as they like or to help their parents.

She buys sports equipment and clothing for them without being asked, and does so quietly and doesn’t expect anything in return.

For a woman and mother of only 36 years of age, I believe she is a great role model and mentor not to only children, but to other young mothers and women trying to plant financial roots.

—Younin Greenfield

Clare Henderson

This is a real Wonder Woman. Clare is a working mom and has done an amazing job with her three children. She is the cornerstone of her first-generation immigrant family, listening to their struggles, helping them process strategies to improve things.

She is the one to bring everyone in the family together. She is dedicated to the culture of her homeland, South Africa, infusing it into the Minnesota landscape. She takes time to support community initiatives and social justice events involving her family and friends.

During the day, she works as a social worker and gives her clients hope with her tender response and love for her fellow Minnesotans who lack resources or who life has not treated fairly. At night, she has her kids connect with family members using FaceTime so they can say goodnight.

Women like Clare bring great vitality to our society.

—Leon Rodrigues

Tyreca Maxwell

I would like to nominate Tyreca Maxwell because ever since the day she found out she was pregnant she has put her son first. She moved away from Minnesota after completing her medical assistant training to live her dream in the South.

She had to leave the South and come home to get the support she would need to be a successful single parent. She made a plan for her and her son’s future and she stuck with it, working part-time before and after pregnancy to support them while going to nursing school full-time.

She made a lot of sacrifices and struggled through her studies with little time for almost anything else. I am the proud mom of this Herzing University 2017 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

—Stacy London

DeVon Nolen

I worked with DeVon for a few years — she is one of the most brilliant, passionate, and kindest people I know. I always admired her parenting style, because she is very patient and took time to understand and cultivate her children’s

individual assets. She is very passionate about her work and a real community changemaker, but she always puts her children first.

She’s a role model for all mothers.

—Erin Heelan

 Valerie Bolden

I would like to put my mother’s name in. Her name is Valerie Bolden of Val’dess designs.

She is an amazing woman who has accomplished so much while having five children and finishing her B.A. degree at the Art Institute.

She would be an amazing asset to your show.

—Kristopher Belfry

Brenda Ewing

Brenda Ewing is a daily reminder of God’s love for me. She is the epitome of what a mother should be. She puts her needs, wants, desires, goals, and aspirations second, so her children can shine. She prays for her children daily, she inspires us, she loves us unconditionally, and she’s absolutely my angel, my heaven on earth.

Every time I’m in her presence or hear her voice, it’s a daily reminder that God loved me so much that He blessed me with this gift that keeps on giving — my mom. The world is such a better place because of her. What would this world be like if there were more Brenda Ewings? Mom, you are loved so much!

—Katina Lane-Fomby

Alfreda Flowers

Birth mother to eight adult children and spiritual mother to many, my mother has a heart that never stops caring and never stops giving. During her years as a stay-at-home mother and wife, she modeled the skill of nurturing her children and managing daily household obligations while simultaneously serving in various leadership and support roles within her church and multiple community organizations.

Along with the partnership of my father, my mother opened up our home as a temporary refuge for young families who were experiencing homelessness. After raising her children, my mother reentered the workforce within the nonprofit sector, providing emergency support to families in crisis.

She later transitioned her work into higher education and led capacity building training programs for faith leaders within the urban community. After several years, and an eventual retirement from higher education, my mother founded a local nonprofit organization, Family Values for Life (FVFL).

Built upon the four guiding principles of being physically fit, financially secure, mentally alert and spiritually empowered, FVFL is committed to creating a support system that provides tools to strengthen families living within St. Paul’s Eastside community.

In addition to offering several core programs, FVFL hosts one of the largest back-to-school partnership events, providing a one-stop resource hub and backpack giveaway to over 2,500 low-income families. As a daughter, mother/grandmother, sister and spiritual leader, my mother has committed her entire life to her Christian values of being the hands and feet of Jesus by serving and loving her neighbor.

—Juanita Flowers

Annette Lee

Annette is a single parent of twins. She works two jobs and got her master’s degree in education. She got her degree from Howard University, but returned to school to qualify to teach special education for her boys.

She is now married and is giving back to the community as an all-volunteer youth choir director for her church. She also started a book club for African American students and coordinates a Progressive Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) tour and is a part of Thinking College Early.

I’m proud to nominate my daughter, Annette Lee.

—Clark Parkridge

Virgie McGregor

Mother Virgie McGregor started Crocheting for A Cause five-six years ago at Living Word Church & World Outreach Ministries in St. Paul. She and her group crochet blankets for veterans, children and cancer survivors.

She has given hundreds of blankets to comfort and express love to our service men and women. Her pastor and church bless the blankets before they are taken to the Veterans Administration and Hospital.

Mother McGregor is a mother to her own children and a community and church mother to many men and women. She raised her awesome purpose-driven children in North Minneapolis and they are professionals, leaders, business extraordinaire and philanthropists.

—Dr. Mary Winston

Rosie Samuel

My mother, Rosie Samuel, has never stopped being my mom. I am 43 years old and never would have thought, at this age, I would need my mom, but I do every day!

She is and has always been the backbone of this family, making sure everything and everyone is ok. Still today I wake her up every day to babysit my two-year-old son, who is full of energy. She greets him with open arms, and a warm hug, doing it all with a smile on her face.

As an adult, I have come to realize what an amazing woman my mother is. Anyone who knows her can be a witness to her love for life and that she will keep going for as long as she can.

My mother lost her home and husband in the same year; not one time did she stop to ask, “Why me?” Instead, she picked up and kept going all with a smile on her face.

My mother deserves the world and I would love to give her a small piece of it to enjoy for a few days. I love that lady with everything in me.

—Danielle Hatcher

 Brienda Sanders

My mother, Brienda Sanders, is the best mother a woman could ever ask for! Growing up, she always wanted me to understand she is a mother first and a friend second. I definitely understood the many times she needed to bring that back to my remembrance.

However, I just want to say that I am blessed to not only call her mother but my best friend; I have the best of both worlds! My mother has pushed me to be the best I can be academically and in life in general. She encourages me with the truth that I can do whatever I put my mind to.

Due to her care, compassion, sacrifice, and love for both my sister and me, it is incumbent upon me to celebrate my mother as she so rightly deserves. My mom has gone above and beyond for my sister and me not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. We were held up and covered by the prayers and support of this strong Black woman. I honor her this day and will continue to do so. Thank you.

—Alexyis Nelson

Kesha Taylor

I would like to nominate my mother, Kesha Taylor, as a phenomenal mother. Let’s just say our mother-daughter relationship has not been a fairytale and I don’t know if it ever will be. I have learned many important things from my mother. My mother has always been present when times have been devastating.

She didn’t come from the best family; I’ve learned some of her story and it’s dawned on me that my mother is an overcomer!

When I was 17 and pregnant and felt like I let my whole family down, my mother’s response was, “It’s okay, I’m going to help you.” Not only did my mother help me with my son, she pushed me to still achieve my goals and to continue to gain my independence.

Years later, after becoming a successful hairstylist, I made a huge life-changing mistake. While out on bail, my then-6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer (leukemia). My phenomenal mother, again, came to the rescue, caring for my daughter through a bone marrow transplant, which has left my daughter with a 50-60 percent chance of survival (feeding tubes, health training, ports, chemotherapy, radiation, hair loss, mood swings, many daily oral meds, hospital stays and apts, and visits to prison to help keep me and my children connected).

My phenomenal mother, Kesha Taylor, had taken a leave from work to care for both of my children; she has had courage and unexplainable strength through it all.

I am truly blessed to have no worries because of the woman my mother is and how she has supported me through unimaginable circumstance, which, in fact, could have been completely devastating for my mother, as well.

The most important thing I’ve learned from my mother is how to keep going when life gives you tornadoes. Kesha Taylor is a phenomenal mother!

—Jasmine Jones

Kathy White

I’m nominating Kathy White, my mother-in-law. She has been there in ways that are more than my birth mother has for me. She’s always supportive of everything I’m working on or doing such as helping me with my fundraising goals to support research to stop diabetes.

She goes above and beyond every request, we ask her to help us with, whether it’s looking for a replacement jadeite plate/bowl, sweatshirts or princess dresses for our daughter; she does it without wanting a refund and she drives all the way from Rochester to drop it off for us in Minneapolis.

She even washes the clothes for the girls beforehand so we don’t have to worry about it. She’s there and willing to drive up from Rochester to help give my husband and me a break from our daughters so we can have some adult time. She sends a card for every special occasion. I’m very blessed to have her for a mother-in-law.

—Hoa Nguyen

Juan “Jo” Witherspoon Turner

I would love to nominate my mom for “Celebrating Moms.” My mom grew up in North Minneapolis and graduated from North High.

She went on to become a registered nurse, married the love of her life, Donald Turner, and raised seven children, including one through adoption.

She has worked tirelessly in Minneapolis as a nurse and nursing instructor. She mentored many people and created a feeling of love through the caring way she taught and lived her life. She became a licensed evangelist and minister in 2006. Her name is Minister Juan L. Turner. Many know her as Juan “Jo” Witherspoon Turner.

—Yvonne Turner

 Sierra Williams

Sierra Williams is a mother of five children; she is resilient in many ways. She acquired significant passion for children over the past 18 years. This year, her firstborn son will turn 18 and graduate from high school.

This year she has committed her career toward being a doula, breastfeeding coach, community coach in juvenile services, and parent her five children.

Sierra is strategically balancing all of her roles and championing single parenting. She never gives up; she is full of faith and relies on God for her better tomorrows.

I am proud to be her mother!

—Paula Haywood