Shades Spotlight™

Shades Spotlight (courtesy of ShadesOfGreatness.com) is an online-monthly feature aimed at highlighting outstanding people! Excelling students (of all ages), aspiring inventors, and profound individuals will be recognized through interviews, editorials, or self-written accounts. Each month, our Shades Spotlight section will display a new feature. If you know of someone whom you think would qualify as a Shades Spotlight feature, or if you want to elect yourself, please send all submissions to spotlight@shadesofgreatness.com

Interview Date:   July 8, 2006

Rita Hubbard, President Of Get-It-In-Writing Press Just as fascinating as the lives of the people sprinkled throughout the Shades Of Greatness calendar series, Rita L. Hubbard, the brand’s creator and chief officer, also has a story that should be told. On a Saturday afternoon, the “Shades Chronicler” herself took time out of her busy schedule to chat with Shades Online. The result was Hubbard’s first official Shades Online interview, and a story nothing less than phenomenal.

While she is known for her work in research, education, and historical literature, to actually talk with Ms. Hubbard is like a journey into brilliance. The woman is simply amazing, holding several copyrights and trademarks, as well as being a published author of several children’s stories. To top it off, she’s the founder of Get-It-In-Writing Press (home of the Shades Of Greatness calendars), and is also a patented inventor just as the predecessors she honors in her Shades publications. After hearing her story, it’s inevitable that many will opt for a special edition calendar paying homage to her. This interview serves as the prologue to that proposed calendar, gallantly titled “Shades Of Rita.”

Shades Online:   Okay, how are you today Ms. Rita Hubbard?

Rita Hubbard:   I’m doing just great! How about you?

Shades Online:   Fine! I know you’re a very busy lady, but we really appreciate you coming by and giving us this interview.

Rita Hubbard:   Oh yeah, anytime, I’m really excited!

Shades Online:   Let’s talk about the Shades Of Greatness Calendars. The first calendar, excuse me, the first Shades Of Greatness Calendar was published in 2003. But there’s also documentation of you winning a local calendar contest in 1984. Would you say that your interest in black history calendars started then?

Rita Hubbard:   Actually, I would have to say it started before that. I’ve always been very interested in African American history. You know, as you and everyone else knows, there’s not a lot of it out there in the history books or in the school systems. And I’ve always been a writer from the time I could hold a pencil. So, when a contest came up in the Tennessee area in 1984, it was coming up for the Bicentennial. I went ahead and entered the contest and I won. But I was really interested in Black History years before that.

Shades Online:   So, what inspired you to publish the first Shades Of Greatness Calendar, and to cover subjects that have seen little-to-no-light?

Rita Hubbard:   Well, back in 1995, I was teaching in the Chattanooga City School System, and there was a grant available called “Just Outside Your Back Door.” And I applied for the grant, and it was about a thousand dollars, and it enabled me to travel anywhere I wanted and to study anything I wanted. So I traveled to Washington, D.C. and studied the National Archives. Of course, there was a lot of information there, but when I saw the wealth of information on African Americans, the things that they had done, and the items they had invented, I wanted to share that with everybody. So that’s really what got me interested—the grant that I won in 1995 and my trip to Washington, D.C.

Shades Online:   Okay, great! What’s your favorite Shades Calendar to date, and why?

Rita Hubbard:   Well, actually it would be a tie. My two favorite calendars—they’re running neck and neck, would be Shades Of Women and The Midas Touch. Let’s start with Shades Of Women. I really love that because it really highlights the versatility that women have. Most of the women that were featured in that calendar were all housewives living modest lives, but, they also came up with very, very intricate and detailed inventions, and I wanted the world to know about that. The Midas Touch was one of my favorite calendars, too, and that’s because I wanted the world to see the genius of these two African American inventors, who everything they touched literally turned to gold, even if they didn’t get any of the gold.

Shades Online:   Okay, let’s talk about the Rita L. Hubbard that little is known about. You were born and raised in Chattanooga, correct?

Rita Hubbard:   Yes, I was!

Shades Online:   What was it like growing up in Chattanooga?

Rita Hubbard:   Let’s see, I…oh, that’s a good question (laughs)! Okay, growing up in Chattanooga (was) always…I guess (it was) like living in a small city. Of course, I don’t have a lot to compare it with. I only went to a few schools, maybe two or three elementary schools. I went to one high school. I didn’t travel around a lot. In my day, there were not very many African Americans graduating, not even from high school. I think in our class there might have been 300 graduates, and out of those there might have been 20 or 25 African Americans.

Shades Online:   Did you begin writing as child?

Rita Hubbard:   Yes, I began writing…probably as soon as I could hold a pencil.

Shades Online:   How long would you say that you’ve been writing, (as in years)?

Rita Hubbard:   Probably, um…I don’t really want to tell my age (laughter in the room)! But probably, for over 40 years, and I can say that with a very clear memory because I can remember my sister, who is a year older than me, going off to school. She started school when she was five; there was no kindergarten back then. So, she should have been six, but she started school at five, and I would wait for her to come home, and she would tell me what letters and words she had learned, and then I would write those letters and words on the wall. So, I started writing—I know it had to be at the age of four because my sister was five.

Shades Online:   You have a new book that you’re currently negotiating with an outside publishing company about. And it’s called “Chattanooga On The Map,” and it was co-written by Pastor W.C. Hunter. Did you draw from your personal experiences for this book?

Rita Hubbard:   Yes, in a lot of ways I did (and) in a lot of ways I didn’t because this is an African American pictorial and written history, and there isn’t one in Chattanooga. So there wasn’t much personal history that I could draw from. But I did remember what it was like growing up in the segregation (era)—even though we had integrated, everything was still segregated. And I wanted to find out about African Americans, because most of the stuff, it’s there. But it just was never talked about. So, the experience that I went by was ‘I’m going to have to dig and its up to me find it because nobody else is talking about it.’

Shades Online:   You were a schoolteacher, right?

Rita Hubbard:   Yes.

Shades Online:   How long were you a schoolteacher, and what classes did you teach?

Rita Hubbard:   I was a teacher for over 11 years…as far as subjects went, I taught all of them. English, Math, Science, Social Studies—you name it, I taught it.

Shades Online:   Wasn’t Usher Raymond one of your students?

Rita Hubbard:   Oh yes, he was!

Shades Online:   What was he like as one of your students, and what do you remember about him?

Rita Hubbard:   He was one of the most polite people, and clean-cut young men that I had in my whole class. Very, very sweet young man! He never had a bad word to say about anybody. He was always smiling, but he just never did his homework! His excuse always was “I’m going to be singer,” and I see he made good on that promise. But what I remember about him was (that) he was very sweet, very obedient—in everything except homework, he was obedient.

Shades Online:   How does it make you feel when one of your students is successful in life, and vice-versa?

Rita Hubbard:   It makes me feel, just extremely happy! It makes me feel happy for him (Usher). Not all of my students had good odds working for them. Some of them—many of them came from broken families, and a lot of them were living below the poverty line, and when I see students like Usher who make it, and not only make it but retain their personalities, and the sweetness and the politeness that they had when they were younger, it just makes me feel good. Now, you said “vice-versa.” When I hear about one or two—and I’ve heard, that make a mistake or end up in jail, it really hurts me. And it makes me wish I could have said something when I still had them in my class that might have made a difference in their life.

Shades Online:   When did you retire from the school system?

Rita Hubbard:   In 1997.

Shades Online:   Was your retirement forced or voluntary?

Rita Hubbard:   Well, it was a little bit of both. I suffered an injury in 1997, and although the school system did not force me to retire, they could not keep me on because I was unable to work within the same…under the same circumstances and conditions that I used to be able to work under. So, I had to accept retirement. So in a way it was forced and in a way it was voluntary.

Shades Online:   Can you provide us with details about the accident?

Rita Hubbard:   Yes, actually it was in 1997, and the accident was at a K-Mart store. It was a Saturday morning; I still remember the day very clearly. I had recently bought a house, and we were going to do some yard work. We had one rake, and I had two sons, and neither one of them wanted to be first using the rake. So I went to a K-Mart to buy another rake, so nobody had any excuses. And while I was there a door—a rolling door that they had came off the track and hit me on the head. And I suffered a severe concussion, balance problems, memory problems, inability to sleep, headaches…you name it, I suffered it.

Shades Online:   So it’s a lot like a brain injury.

Rita Hubbard:   Oh yeah, and in fact, it was classified as a brain injury.

Shades Online:   That must have been a struggle for you! And you said you do you have children. How old were they when this happened, and how were they affected by this?

Rita Hubbard:   Yes, I do have children; I have two sons. They were 16 and 15 when this happened. It happened at the end of February, so my oldest son had not yet turned 17. They were affected because they were so used to me being, not only a strong person, but they were used to me being very active. At one time in their lives, I was going to grad school three nights a week, and teaching full-time five days a week, and working part-time on the weekend. And from there—after the accident, I was reduced to being in bed all day complaining that my head hurt, or unable to cook, unable to hold conversations with them. So they were deeply affected by this.

(Editorial Comment: At the time of Ms. Hubbard’s accident at K-Mart, she had received her Masters of Science degree in School Psychology just three weeks earlier. A year and a half later, she would be forced to retire due to her physical and health condition.)

Stay tuned next month for the conclusion of the interview with Rita Hubbard.

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