Novelean Harris Celebrates 95th Birthday

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin presenting Novelean Harris with a Proclamation as she celebrated her 95th birthday with Councilmember Nat Bates (right). Photo by Ellen Gailing.

Novelean Harris celebrated her 95th at the Independent Community Church in Richmond.
A glowing tribute was written  by Patricia Bolds and throngs of friends, relatives and public officials saluted the woman, the beautician, who for years had helped to beautify so many women on the outside. But Novlean Harris heard how Richmond appreciated her inner beauty as well.
Many of the speakers referred to Novelean’s novel business practices especially how she faithfully stopped her work activity, at her beauty salon, to hold daily prayers at 12:00 daily.
The first Novelean’s Salon was located on 4th street in Richmond. She and George Harris built a home with a shop attached at her second location.
The Harris’ successfully fought Richmond’s redevelopment agency to get a decent price for their property. They chose not to live in the hills with their settlement, but rather to stay in Richmond’s flatland neighborhoods.
Still pausing daily to pray at noon, they began to work to change city hall. They supported the campaigns of black elected officials and held campaign fundraisers in their home, at their own expense.
Harris taught many activists how to fight for what is right. She advised her students to not complain, but rather to become involved and to work to change conditions. She counseled those who wanted to either change the game or the rules of the game to instead focus on “choosing the players” that can relate to you and work to better your community.
Harris helped to transform the soup kitchen at the North Richmond Baptist Church into a place that also served complete meals, gave away groceries and clothes to needy families.
Years before the church’s soup kitchen, Harris regularly prepared huge containers of soup that would be delivered to seniors and those who were or unable to travel to church. Her open-door, all-comers approach that allowed any name to be added, also attracted additional donors, even AC bus drivers, who would come to her beauty shop to deposit their donations to support her feeding deliveries.
Harris’s visions led to accomplishments. Her vision of lights for the church, led to the formation of a committee that ultimately raised the funds. With the new chandeliers, as a result of her vision, her church’s members now say “let there be light”.
And, when the word was given from her about needing a vehicle to pick up donations from stores and food banks, a new van was donated, and, she was presented with the keys.
Members of her church complemented her for teaching them the lessons of leading by example. They thanked her for showing the value of seeking to be a worker bee, not a Queen Bee., because worker bees make sure that tasks are completed.