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Charyn Sutton, 1947-2004

Today's my mom's birthday.  She would have been 64 today (she passed away from colon cancer in December of '04).  I talk about my mom quite a bit on here... she shaped much of what I believe and how I view the world.  she was almost universally considered brilliant, and certainly universally considred formidable.

While I was remembering her today, I decided to google her again.  I've done this several times since she passed, just to see what was out there.  it never ceases to suprise me.  follow me over the fold for a few examples:

on this latest search, I found an obituary for her that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, for which she once wrote, it appears on and I reprint it in full here:

Charyn Sutton, pioneering journalist
January 13, 2005|By Kristin E. Holmes INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Charyn D. Sutton, 57, of Germantown, a businesswoman, communications consultant, and pioneering African American journalist, died of cancer Dec. 30 at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

Ms. Sutton began her career in the news media at a time when few African American women were working in the field.

She had been a writer since childhood and an activist since she protested with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the turbulent 1960s. As a journalist, Ms. Sutton wrote about social, political and community issues.

"When she started in journalism, there was significant social change in this country," said Acel Moore, associate editor of The Inquirer. "She wanted to write about it. She was committed to seeing that the stories of African Americans that had not been told before appear in the daily newspaper."

Ms. Sutton was the first female African American reporter at The Inquirer, Moore said. She started in 1970, after earning a bachelor's degree in political science from Lincoln University. She remained at the paper for a year and later worked at the Detroit Free Press, the Wilmington News Journal, and the Philadelphia Bulletin.

Claude Lewis, a former Bulletin and current Inquirer columnist, described Ms. Sutton as a confident journalist who combined skill and hard work.

In the late 1970s, Ms. Sutton left journalism for public relations, working for nonprofit groups including the Opportunities Industrialization Centers of America. She then joined the administration of Mayor William J. Green III as head of public information for the city's Office of Employment and Training. In 1984, she started her own Bala Cynwyd-based communications consulting business, the Onyx Group.

As her own boss, Ms. Sutton had more freedom to work on issues that were important to her, said her mother, Martha Sutton. She served on the boards of groups including ActionAIDS and the Philadelphia YWCA. She founded programs and wrote papers that often dealt with minority health issues, including smoking in the African American community.

In addition to her mother, Ms. Sutton is survived by son Kamal Hoagland, one brother, and one grandson.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 5 at Oxford Presbyterian Church, Stenton and Gowen Avenues, Philadelphia.

Memorial contributions may be made to the church for its performing-arts center.

a discussion with an author about the title of his book on Univ. of Michigan's site:

Countryman: “Up South” reflects the ironic experience of the African-American "great migration" to the urban North.  As different as life was for African-Americans in the North--they were relatively free from the terrors of southern lynch law and de jure segregation and they were guaranteed (at least on paper) their rights as citizens—it was clearly not the promised land of the liberal imagination. To live “Up South” was to confront structures of racial inequality and exclusion on a daily basis.  Personally, I can’t remember the first time I heard someone use the phrase as the punch line to a story about the realities of racism in the North.  Still, I wasn’t sure I should use it as the title for the book until I was conducting one of my last interviews with Charyn Sutton, a Philadelphia-based 60s student activist who has since sadly passed away.  She was describing how racial segregation in the South-west Philadelphia neighborhood in which she grew up was enforced not by law, but by the unspoken rules that told you not to walk on that block or go to that public swimming pool, when she suddenly stopped and said, "you know, it was Up South."  I immediately turned off the tape recorder to thank her for validating my title.

an article she wrote, posted on

It is common for persons to talk about the black church as if it were one unified entity. In reality there are many different black churches that serve African-American communities. Generally the most influential churches in many black communities are Baptist, which are independent institutions affiliated with one or more of the major Baptist associations. However, black Methodists are also quite strong. The oldest independent African-American denomination is the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, founded in 1787.

her posthumous award from the APHA, which still appears on thier site:

Sutton served as the media coordinator for the successful community-based effort in 1990 that prevented the introduction of "Uptown," a cigarette brand designed specifically for African Americans. She was a founding member of the Uptown Coalition for Tobacco Control and Public Health and of the National Association of African Americans for Positive Imagery (NAAAPI). She coordinated the Quit Today! media project that focused on smoking cessation for African Americans using radio and was one of the authors of Pathways to Freedom: Winning the Fight against Tobacco, an African American quit smoking and community mobilization guide. She was a contributing author to the 1998 Surgeon General’s Report that looked at smoking and racial/ethnic minorities. Sutton was also the architect and primary author of Breathe Free, a booklet designed to help families and communities deal with the issue of secondhand tobacco smoke – especially in African American households.

hopefully this diary does something to let people know what kind of person she was.  even though to me, she was very simply... my mommy.


thanks for reading.

Originally posted to the royal decree on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 10:31 AM PDT.

Also republished by Personal Storytellers and Genealogy and Family History Community.

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