Activism and social movement in politics are in my DNA from my Nana Elsie Harry. Founding member of WESPAC and so much more....she was my Nana.
In Celebration of Black History Month, remembering a White Plains Community Activist -
Elsie L. "Mother" Harry.
ELSIE L “Mother” HARRY born November 16, 1918 in Tuskegee, Alabama, daughter of a sharecropper and third of ten children to James Crawley and Grace Ellis Crawley. At an early age, Elsie learned to care and share with others through the strong image of her mother. She married early and moved to New York in 1942. Mrs. Harry was the mother of seven.
The impact of Mrs. Harry’s struggle to establish self-determination has been one which she had championed since the early sixties, through the establishment of a local chapter of Welfare Rights Organization, known to many in Westchester as TUM (Tell Us More). Through her involvement with TUM, she helped to coordinate a county-wide Welfare Rights Organization. She was also one of the founding members of WESPAC and later served as chairperson. In 1980 she was given a CETA grant to set up a welfare advocacy program. During the short duration of the program, it had a very positive impact in making a difference in the indigenous population she served.
A member of Allen AME Church, Mrs. Harry’s other distinguishing feature includes the role she played in the White Plains Community. To many she was known as “Mother Harry”, or “Mrs. Elsie”; to others as a fair, caring and concerned person who was always willing to help anyone in need; to the professionals working in social service areas of the community, she was one who gave little tips on how to be successful in carrying out their mission, to which she held them accountable.
Her involvement took her into the streets and alleys of her community to talk to the downtrodden individuals who gave up all hope and resorted to abusing themselves with drugs, prostitution and physical abuse.
It was those acts that drove Mother Harry to help organize the White Plains Community Committee to Combat Drugs. Through this body and her chairmanship of the Winbrook Tenants' Council, she encouraged more communication in the form of community forums, theatre parties, summer festivals, conferences and direct treatment of individuals abusing drugs. Mother Harry was recognized for her services by many organizations.