Versie Mae Richardson was one of The Pasadena Journal's 2012 Women of Achievement honorees. She was born in Okemah, Oklahoma, March 13, 1920. She passed away on Monday, April 15, 2013. Below is the bio The Journal published when she was honored:
To describe who Versie Mae Richardson is, would be to describe a businesswoman, a crusading realtor who opened up segregated neighborhoods to blacks, a musical performer, a world traveler with multiple trips to Africa and Europe, Cultural Center founder (Alkebu-Lan) founder, mentor and role model to many.
At the age of 13, young Versie Mae had developed her business negotiation skills to the point that she convinced her parents to allow her to come to Claremont, California to live with her brother who preceded her to California. Her Brother's family moved to Pasadena and Versie Mae attended and graduated from Pasadena High School before moving on to the University of Southern California where she earned degrees in Business and Music.
Ms. Richardson is an accomplished and trained performer. Her talents have taken her across the world, performing in places as far away as Moscow, Vienna, and Zurich, and as close as Washington, D.C. where she sung for the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter at the Lincoln Memorial.
As a businesswoman and realtor, she opened her own real estate firm in 1951. In 1974, Richardson Realty purchased a Century 21 franchise and became Century 21 Richardson Realty. Her firm was one of the largest black firms in the city and developed a reputation for opening up the city to African Americans into blocks and neighborhoods where the city fathers never intended blacks to live.
Ms. Richardson had other ideas and through her business acumen and creativity she made it happen. Her success earned her the nick name of "Block Buster" because she would bust up the segregated housing patterns of Pasadena.
At one point she joined with another black realtor and bought five parcels of land in the city and developed and rented the property to blacks even though they had been warned to "don't make trouble." Another tactic used by Richardson Realty was to sometime make a quick sale over the telephone, never letting the white seller see the black buyer until it was time to turn over the keys to the property. Richardson retired from real estate in 1982 and became more active in community affairs.
After a few trips to Africa, she joined with two friends in 1989 to develop an African American Cultural Center, Alkebu-Lan. Her friends, Dr. D. Marie Battle and Emerson Terry, opened the center with the goals of teaching African American children to be proud of their African heritage and getting a good education.
Out of Alkebulan grew the very popular Alkebulan Boys Choir. The choir, following in the foot steps of their mentor, traveled throughout America and Europe, performing. She retired from Alkebu-Lan in 2011.
Memorial services will be held at First A.M.E. Church on Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.