"The National" is what we call the African-American funeral directors convention, held yearly. The organization sponsoring the convention, the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, Inc., was founded in 1937. Earlier this month the 75th Diamond Jubilee Annual Convention was held at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Gregory Burrell, from Philadelphia, PA, the organization's President, presided over the event. More than 1000 funeral directors, embalmers, affiliates and family members were in attendance.
Funeral service businesses are enterprises that African-Americans have a long history of successfully operating. Black mortuaries have flourished since the early 1900s and are found in most major cities in the country. Each year hundreds of African-American owners, managers, staff persons and suppliers, flock to the national convention. Educational workshops and award ceremonies are held, exhibits are plentiful, and there are ample social events. Among this year's workshop topics were "Effective Funeral Event Planning", "Success Secrets for Funeral Directors", "Embalming and Restorative Art Techniques", and "Information Technology in Funeral Service."
This year, Ted Felder was crowned "Funeral Director of the Year." Mr. Felder is the owner of Ted's Affordable Mortuary and Cremation Services, Inc. in Los Angeles. He has served as a funeral director and embalmer for more than 30 years. He has volunteered in many capacities in funeral service organizations and is truly an asset to the profession.
The "100 Black Women of Funeral Service" sponsored an awards breakfast at the convention. They honored senior funeral directors who had served their communities well for decades. These recipients were bestowed the title of "Living Legends." My parents, Fred and Arzella Valentine, were among those honored. It was a beautiful celebration of longevity and work ethic. In addition, my father was recognized as the oldest male in the organization, at age 93.
Another highlight of the convention was the "Undertaker's Ball." Three specialty pallbearer units displayed their skills in a way similar to a college fraternity step show. Trained pallbearers dressed in tuxedos, marched in synchronized fashion to the rhythm of good music. They lifted caskets in unison upon their shoulders and stepped the aisles with precision. Anyone who saw Whitney Houston's funeral saw such a pallbearer detail in action. These pallbearers are on increased demand, by those who want more pomp and circumstance and added flare to their funeral.
The "National" was truly an informative and inspiring event. It fostered communication and connection among funeral service professionals. The convention equipped us and motivated all who attended, to better serve.