Thursday, April 27, 2006

Truth, Courage, and Leadership

Novella Smith Arnold has lived in Memphis for over 33 years. She came here after a distinguished and pioneering radio career in Houston, to join Stax Records as production chief. She has continued to be heard on numerous radio stations here in Memphis, including a show for senior citizens called, “The Golden Years.” She and Rufus Thomas were inducted into the Smithsonian’s Black Radio Hall of Fame.

At Stax Records, she coordinated the relationships, communications, and interactions between song writers, musicians, engineers, producers, and the artists. The mission of this responsibility or goal was to ensure that Stax Records Productions produced unique hit recorded music on its artists.

An event in her life compelled her to promise, some 20-odd years ago, to devote herself to community service. Novella has directed, and in some cases founded, a number of outreach ministries under the auspices of local churches. She became a minister to the imprisoned for the Criminal Justice Ministry, volunteer chaplain to the downtown jail, interim chaplain at the Mark Luttrell State Prison, and during seminary training, a volunteer at the Med.

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Awards and Recognition

Ministry and Advocacy

  • Citation “In Recognition of Your Tireless Dedication to the Mark H. Luttrell Correctional Center”, 2001.
  • Citation “In Appreciation for Services Rendered in Our 2001 Graduation Ceremony” by Supervisior of Education and the Warden of Federal Correctional Institution at Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Woman of Achievement: Courage, “For a woman who, facing active opposition, backed an unpopular cause in which she deeply believed, Women of Achievement, Inc., Memphis, TN, 1997.
  • Silver Award, “In Recognition Of Your Faith & Spiritual Contributions”, by Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. – Memphis Chapter, 1996.
  • Citation “To Honor Novella D. Arnold for Dedicated Service as Executive Director, 1981 to 1984," by the Criminal Justice Ministry.

Broadcasting and Recording

  • Jack Gibson Living Legend Award, by the National Black Programmers Coalition. November 20, 1999.
  • Pacesetters of Radio & Records, by the Black Radio Programmers Coalition & BMG Distribution, November 19, 1999.
  • Black Radio Hall of Fame, Novella Smith [a.k.a.] “Dizzie Lizzie,” August 23, 1991
  • Outstanding Media Award, presented by Texas Black Media Coalition, February 26, 1977
  • Jack Walker Distinguished Service Award, 1971.
  • Meritorious Citation for Outstanding Past Contributions to NATRA, by the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers, August 1970
  • Citation “For Your Relentless and Successful Negotiation of Our Strike Concering Our Legitimate Grievances”, from the Blacks at KCOH, March 1970.
  • Revolutionary D.J. ’70, by Souls Unlimited.

Woman of Achievement: Courage

Photo by Women of Achievement, Inc.
For 22 years, Women of Achievement, Inc., has every year honored seven Memphis women for their achievements, each representing one of these seven qualities: initiative, determination, courage, steadfastness, vision, heroism, and heritage (women from the past).

In 1997, Novella was recognized for her courage in exposing the ignorance and mismanagement of the HIV/AIDS problem in the County Jail. Here is the full text of the essay that was delivered in her honor:
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Video: "Is my Momma ever coming back?"

Note: Links to download the iPod and other versions of the video are at the bottom of the page.

Nine Thirteen years ago as prison chaplain Novella Smith Arnold recognized a serious problem. Not only was AIDS and the HIV virus that causes it spreading throughout the County jails, it was rapidly migrating from the jails into the Memphis community. Because of widespread homophobia and denial, the wives and lovers of former inmates were not aware of the danger, and were not taking steps to protect themselves.

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Storyboard for Novella's PSA

For vistors who have dial-up or other slow connection and do not want to download the video, here are the storyboards and script for the HIV/AIDS public service announcemnt:
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Novella's top concerns

S.H.E. Public safety, public health, and public education. They're the most important missions of county government. They're core and they’re sacred. They cannot be sacrificed to fix the budget.

County debt. When both the county’s and the city's finances start flashing red at the same time, you know there are real problems. Patching a bald tire isn't going to be good enough. The truth is that the root causes run deep.

"Smart" growth and revitalization. Absolutely! We haven't been smart, so let's start yesterday. But the truth is this: Shelby County isn't growing. We need to fix that, too.

Economic growth. Ask companies what will encourage them to come here and they’ll say, "Happy employees." Ask the employees, and they’ll say they want the same things as you do: Low crime, superior health care, and a top quality school system.

PILOT reforms. These programs are costing us over $140 million. We have to make up the lost revenue. Let’s have standards, measurements, and accountability to be sure we are getting our money’s worth. What do we want most? Jobs!

Privatization. Let's call it what it really is: outsourcing...on steroids. Applied to a core mission it's a very bad idea. It's also a disturbing admission that our County administrators are unable to do the very jobs we hired them for.

Smart justice. Want to manage our jails more efficiently? One way is to stop filling the jails with the wrong people: the homeless, the sick, and the mentally ill.

Ethics in government. There's a draft County ethics policy circulating around. It's a start, but it has two problems. It's weak, and it's only a policy. Hello, can you spell C-R-I-M-E?

Government realignment. If you were a dairy farmer, would you want a cow with two heads or two udders? Then why do we accept a "duel"-government system? The City's looking at their charter. Let's work with them to realign both charters.

Education. Before the end of my initial term, I want to see the first major result of this realignment: A uniform, county-wide school system, guaranteeing every young resident the best education we can possibly offer.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Novella in the news

If you Google "Novella Smith Arnold" or search the archives of the Commercial Appeal, you'll turn up a lot of mentions. That's to be expected for an activist and an advocate for prison inmates, the mentally ill, people with AIDS, the homeless, and the poor -- not to mention a noteworthy career in the broadcast and recording industries.

We've pulled together some of the more interesting articles and links from the past 15 years. They are in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent. Click the headlines (or the [Link]) to read the full text.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Pledge of Allegiance


"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."


God: Sent to jail

The Commercial Appeal, February 17, 1995
by Michael Donahue

Don't cry in jail.

That's part of what R. Michael Cunningham has learned after more than a year as a volunteer lay prison minister for juvenile offenders at the Criminal Justice Center.

Cunningham recalled an inmate who did cry. "It was touching because he was in there for a serious crime. He said, 'I come to a jail cell. We're all from the same ethnic group. Because I wouldn't give somebody a pack of cookies, he took it. And when I said something about it, he threatened to kill me.' "

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