by LaShawna Fant
From the Editor: Lashawna is well-known to many readers, and one of her many talents is interviewing others so we may get to know them. Here is her latest and appreciated contribution to our becoming a closer family:
LaShawna Fant: Hello, Ms. Barbara. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Let’s start with you introducing yourself to this publication’s audience.
Barbara Hadnott: My name is Barbara Ann White Hadnott. I was born and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. My hobbies are singing, reading, and public speaking. I find fulfillment in encouraging and inspiring others. My fun time is spent shopping by way of TV, the internet, and delivery services.
LF: Please tell us about your family.
BH: I am the fourth child of the crew. Two of my sisters are also blind. We are very close-knit to our two other sisters and three brothers. My mother and father were great parents. They knew nothing about blindness, so they chose to bring us up by treating us just as they did the other siblings. They had high expectations of what we would do, how we would do it, and what we would become. For example, we were expected to say Bible verses before meals and before putting money in the offering plate. We were expected to bring home good grades and to participate in school, church, and community activities. We learned to roller skate, ride a bicycle, and twirl the baton while marching through the neighborhood along with the other kids.
LF: It’s wonderful that you grew up in a close-knit family. What has been your journey of being a member of the National Federation of the Blind?
BH: My journey with the Federation began one evening while watching the CBS evening news. It showed clips of the national convention, which was held in Baltimore, Maryland, in July 1981. Shortly after that, I listened to Dr. Jernigan as he was being interviewed on the Tonight Show. Closer to home, my long-time friend and adopted sister, Gwen Stokes Byrd, asked me to go to the national convention held in Phoenix, Arizona. This was in 1984. Of course, my sister, Patricia White Montgomery, and I went and had a great time. It was at this convention that I met Wilbert L. Hadnott Sr., who became my husband in August the following year. Also, that same year, my sister and I attended our first state convention which was held in Meridian, Mississippi. Fast-forwarding to 1994, while living in Shreveport, Louisiana, my husband and I joined the Jackson Chapter of the Mississippi affiliate. After his death on November 9, 1996, I returned home to Mississippi and continued to grow and serve in the Jackson Chapter and the state affiliate under the administration of President Sam Gleese. Some of the offices I held were affiliate 1st and 2nd vice president, secretary of the Jackson Chapter, and chapter and affiliate board member.
Chairing our annual walkathon and coordinating registration for our state convention were times of excitement, enjoyment, and fulfillment for me. My sister, Rhonda White, and I also became responsible for producing materials in Braille. I had a lot of help with everything that I did because most of my family and some of my friends were very active members and became involved and supportive of all of my endeavors. I still currently serve on the membership committee of the Jackson Chapter.
LF: What do you like to do for fun or hobbies?
BH: I am an avid reader of both audio and Braille books. I enjoy spiritual and inspirational books. I also like reading religious fiction, historical fiction, mystery and suspense, and books and short stories by African-American authors. I have always sung in various choirs, including church, school, and in the community. I will never forget being a member of the chorus of Porgy and Bess performed by the Shreveport Opera. I also sang in the Congress Choir during the National Congress of Christian Education of the National Baptist USA, held in Houston, Texas, in 1999. I will always remember this because I was only a few feet away from Rev. Jesse L. Jackson as he delivered the message that night. I also enjoy traveling, especially before the pandemic. I often tell people that I am still sheltered in place.
LF: I enjoy reading and singing, as well. Ms. Barbara, please let us know about your education and your vocational experiences.
BH: I received my early education at the Mississippi School for the Blind, where Mrs. Martha Louise Morrow Foxx served as its first principal, teacher, and house mother. The school had its beginning for black boys and girls on the campus of Piney Woods Country Life School, founded by Dr. Lawrence C. Jones. Actually, I attended the school while it was located on Capers Avenue in Jackson, Mississippi, and was valedictorian of the class of 1971. Four years later, I graduated from “Thee I Love,” Jackson State University in 1975. In fact, two of my sisters and I received our undergraduate degrees between 1974 and 1975. My field of study was Mass Communications. After graduation, I enrolled in graduate courses at Jackson State University in the same field of study. During the years that followed, I completed several correspondence courses through Hadley School for the Blind.
With regard to work, my places of employment include Mississippi Industries for the Blind, Mississippi Disability Determination Services, the Advocacy Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, Goodwill Industries of Mississippi, and Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, where I retired in 2016. Specifically, I worked at the Addie McBryde Rehabilitation Center for the Blind as an instructor of various assistive technology software and devices, interacted with the clients through various group-oriented programs, and was one of the faces and voices who provided outreach for the Center. After two years, I returned to the Center, where I continue to work part-time in retirement.
LF: Mentorship is important. Why have you mentored many people, especially those who are blind?
BH: Each of us has the ability to persuade others. I have always wanted to influence others in a good way. I wanted to encourage others to maintain a positive attitude and to be all they could be by reaching their fullest potential. I also wanted to keep others from making some of the same mistakes as I did and to help them avoid some of the obstacles and barriers that are still out there, especially for those who are blind. What better way is there to serve others than through counseling and teaching individuals to navigate through parts of their life journey?
LF: Who have been some of your inspirations and why?
BH: Time does not permit me to really answer that question, so I will mention a few groups of people. First of all, I would have to say, my family. They have always been supportive and have been there for me. Next would be the church. Through ministry and other experiences, I have learned a lot and have been able to share that knowledge and experience with others. The friends I have made through school and college have been a blessing for a lifetime. The Federation family, local and national, has been a life-changer for me. It has helped me to be more independent, grow personally, and bravely meet and overcome the challenges of life. My work experience has afforded me the best training possible in leadership and staff development and has enabled me to work with others successfully. Through Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., I have gratefully served the community by working with various projects and programs.
LF: Ms. Barbara, you have inspired so many along the way, too. How do you want people to remember you?
BH: I want people to remember me as one who believed in the almighty God and strived to live by His Word. I want my life to speak for itself. As an old gospel song says, “May the Work That I’ve Done Speak for Me.” Additionally, I want to be remembered as one who liked sharing with others by helping to meet their needs and providing some of their wants.
LF: Thanks again for sharing segments of your life in this interview. Do you have any final words?
BH: I would just like to say that life is precious, and for me, as a person who is blind, life is challenging, but it has been oh so rewarding and very fulfilling. I challenge others to live their life purposefully, intentionally, and Godly.