By: Rebecca S. Jones
HOUSTON- A lover of all youth, mother, business owner, professional photographer, Common Sense Public Speaker, fundraiser coordinator, Special Events and Community Outreach Consultant, historian, journalist, educator and life-long volunteer; all serve to exemplify the attributes of Mrs. Georgia Provost. However, her role and entitlement to these positions did not come easy and definitely were not met without a cost. Her journey along the road to success began many decades ago in the city of “Cajun cuisine” (Lafayette, Louisiana).
Born the eldest daughter to Melvin and Lena Doyle of two sons and four daughters, young Georgia learned the sense of responsibility at an early age. In her adolescent years, her parents relocated the family to Barrett Station, Texas. Upon arriving there, they built the first brick home in the area. She remembers how she had to cut the yard, fix lights and change out the electrical switches. Her mother taught her to cook and being the oldest child of the family Georgia was responsible for overseeing her brothers and sisters.
She vividly recalls her role of ringing, plucking and cooking the chickens on the farmland she was reared on. She would awake at four o’clock in the morning and was obligated to share in on cooking for the family. “We raised our own chicken, pigs, cows, vegetables and crops, and our parents shared the production with members of the community – that’s just the way it was back then” Georgia stated during an interview. She continued, “we had five deep freezers and a smoke house, those were the good ole’ days.”
Her father worked at Humble Oil and Refinery, owned a mechanic and body shop, nightclub, was a business owner and very active in various rodeos. He was very instrumental in molding her into the successful woman that she would later become. She reminisced of how he told her to go to Baytown one day because they were building a clubhouse for the White children. He informed her that once she got there, she was to inquire about securing a space for the Black youth. Ultimately, an agreement was reached where Blacks were allowed to utilize the clubhouse on certain Saturdays. From this experience she formed the Barrett Station Top Team Club. They would host record hops, dances and workshops at the clubhouse. She would go on to graduate from Charles R. Drew High School in Barrett Station. During this segregated era, all grade levels were combined under one school. Students would receive ‘hand-me-down books’ and resources from the White schools. But Georgia has always remained appreciative of her humble beginnings. In terms of speaking on the effects of integration, she suggested that it crippled the Black community in many ways. During an interview she stated that, “Our preacher, doctor, nurse and teachers were our next door neighbors – life was much better then.”
As time went on, she would go on to receive her Bachelor of Science degree at the School of Technology at Texas Southern University. Armed with the concept that mediocrity is not an option; she pursued advanced studies at the University of Houston and is a graduate of the Winona National School of Photographers and Intercollegiate Press (Graphic/Arts/Marketing/Sales).
After meeting and marrying Mr. Herbert J. Provost, a Professional Photographer and TSU’s International Championship Collegiate Tennis Coach; they begin a family business. As such Provost Studios, Professional Photographers was birthed. Mrs. Provost recalled how integration not only affected the schools and community, but their family business as well. “Before integration we maintained 85% of the Black school’s business as it relates to photography.” “When integration came, as business owners we had to start over from scratch”, Provost added. As a result, she assumed a position within Gulf Oil Leasing Office to assist with supplementing the family income that had suffered a loss from the effects of integration. Although, she began employment in another industry, she and her husband gradually began to secure contracts with other schools and universities. Through much hard work, dedication and extensive travelling around the state of Texas and neighbouring states; the Provost’s begin to expand their professional photography business. An additional feature was then incorporated into the services that they provided which consisted of producing commemorative items such as: cap and gowns, invitations and graduation rings. Since that time, Provost Studios, Professional Photographers has serviced generations of people in photography and commemorative items: ranging from elementary, high school, universities, weddings amidst a gallery of other individuals, events and occasions. Southern University System, Prairie View A & M, Texas Southern, Dillard and Xavier Universities as well as Wiley, Bishop, Texas and Austin Colleges are amongst only a few of the entities that Provost Studios has had the opportunity to do business with.
While the Provost family has built an admirable reputation of supporting the inner-city youth; Provost revealed that, “the Provost’s only invest in things that grow – children, schools, churches and the community.” She explained how all of their life, they have been geared toward helping young people. Provost stated that, “It’s sad, that so many of our youth have been failed by family, the educational system, society and our religious institutions.” She continued, “For years, they have been reaching out to us, but it is never seen because so many are used to criticizing them.” However, she believes that if every adult was to take one child under their wings and mentor them, then our communities would be a lot better off.
Continuing, being a strong believer in the philosophy that, “if you do not utilize your God-given talents and help somebody, you will lose them.” While Provost has been blessed with many skills and abilities, she has always been insistent upon contributing back to her community in a variety of ways. As an alumna at Texas Southern University, she has implemented various programs and still serves as Director of a couple of them today; inclusive with the TSU Community campaign awareness Program (CAP) and TSU Do the Math campaign. The TSU Do the Math campaign was created to raise funds for scholarships and student services. She is also a life member of the TSU National Alumni Association as well as the Executive Director of TSU Bayou Bend Alumni/Ex-Students Association, Inc. In her role as Executive Director of the TSU Bayou Bend alumni & Ex-Students Association Inc., she organized the T.F. Freeman Ministers & Laity Summit and the Male Chorus Gospel Extravaganza known as “A Gathering of Black Men.” The proceeds raised by this project, secured funding for the TSU International Championship Debate Team led by Dr. T.F. Freeman. Due to her outstanding contributions to the TSU community, she has been inducted into the “Wall of Honors” at the TSU School of Technology. Another milestone in Provost’s career is the fact that she along with Dr. James Robinson sued the government and the state of Texas. The suit was one that was initiated securement of OCR money for Prairie View A & M and Texas Southern Universities. Together the both of them went to court in Austin and were successful in winning millions of dollars for the universities.
Although Mrs. Provost has had her hand in a plethora of organizations, activities, sponsorships and associations; she has never allowed her maternal obligation to go undone. As such when her son Jerome Kevin, became of age to enroll in school, Provost was a very active, concerned and involved parent. Her roles as: a former six-year Den Mother at Lockhart Elementary School, former six-year Den Mother of Boy Scouts of America, former six-year PTA President of Ryan Middle School and Yates High School, provides validity to this claim. For it was during her administration as PTA President, along with Superintendent Billy Reagan and Principal Osbey Mitchell, that a new three-story building was added to the campus of Yates High School.
Having made up in her mind many years ago that one must “lead by example”, Provost has been a warrior and leader for The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), “Standing for Families.” With a high regard for TMO and all that it stands for, Provost described that it, “trains leaders to go out and fight for what they need for their organizations.” It was through this organization that the agenda set in place by the governor to raise tax rates from the current rate of 8.25% was eliminated. Governor Perry had sent out a committee with the mission to raise tax rates in the state of Texas. One of the final destinations being the School of Education at TSU, Provost along with TMO was able to kill the initiative. A feat that undoubtedly is much appreciated by Texans throughout the state until this day.
Over the years Mrs. Provost has remained sted-fast and grounded in her motto which states, “Faith combined with hard work equals success, doing all things with love and love one another.” Her resume is one that is quite extensive and elaborate, complete with her advanced studies, political/civic activities and various occupations. A snippet of her civic activities include being: a former board member of the Houston Area Urban League, YMCA, Julia C. Hester House and the Youth Freedom Institute just to name a few. She is also a member of the Acres Home Chamber for Business & Economic Development. Provost has been affiliated and very instrumental on the Harris County Appraisal District (Appraisal Review Board) for six years.
Continuing, through her tireless efforts she has raised an enormous amount of funds for youth, fallen law enforcement officers and charitable organizations. Much of this work has been accomplished through the Helfman/Provost Fundraising Team, a group that has been in existence since 1980’s. She is also a former Grand Jury member and a Grand Jury Commissioner. Provost serves as the Director of Marketing & Media for the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, Inc., Annual Harambee Golf Classic (Elder Eugene Floyd, General Chair, Elder Lillie Starks, Coordinator). Furthermore, she is the Coordinator for the Annual F.N. Williams, Sr. Golf Classic.
In conversing with Mrs. Provost she revealed how she despises the way that Black people mistreat one another. “There is more hatred, envy and jealousy in the Black race than there is more Cancer patients at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center”, she added. “What we need is unity and love, and that needs to start with our ministers, pastors and churches.” Nevertheless, Provost has decided that regardless of what others do, she will remain grounded and rooted in one of her key cores, “I love you and there is nothing, you can do about it!”
Mrs. Provost has been regarded as, “a community activist who has participated in the culture, educational, humanitarian, political and religious/spiritual sectors of Houston life.” Accordingly, she has been honoured with an assortment of awards including: four “Living Legend,” twelve “Business Woman of the Year,” ten “Youth Leadership,” ten “Exemplary Community Service” and fifty-six “Leadership and Community Volunteer” awards. Such honours highlight the very essence of the beautiful face that so many have come to love and adore, myself included.
Just recently, Mrs. Provost received the prestigious Mary McLeod Bethune Impact award, which was presented by The Houston Metropolitan Area Chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, Inc.. Considering that Mary McLeod Bethune was one who demonstrated the value of education, a philosophy of universal love, and the wise and consistent use of political power; such an award serves to compliment all that Mrs. Provost stands for and has exemplified throughout the years.
Today she serves as Community Relations Director for the Forward Times Newspaper, a position that she has occupied for some time. Provost is the organizer and Director of Youth for Christ Foundation and Women for Christ; both programs were established to promote Christian values, leadership, love and unity. She encourages the youth of her program, “to not fall victim to the stigma that society has placed on our race.” She also admonishes that the church should take a stand, and she made a decision within herself many years ago that she would let it start with her. Provost is an advocate of intergenerational commitment, believing that the youth of the community should convene together with the elders to receive pertinent knowledge and resourceful information about their.
Mrs. Georgia Provost rests assured that her volition is fueled by her faith in the Almighty God. She is a faithful member of the Our Mother of Mercy Parish under the spiritual guidance of Rev. Brian Fox, SSJ. Provost is grateful for her son, Jerome Kevin Provost (professional photographer) who has been ever so faithful in continuing on with the business engineered by his parents. At the conclusion of an interview, Provost informed that individuals such as: Don King, Dr. T.F. Freeman, Mr. Singletary (Liberty Rd.), Mr. Rousseau, Don Robey and John B. Coleman all played a very significant and influential role in her life.
African-American News&Issues salutes Mrs. Georgia Provost for being a “servant to the people” and for the numerous man hours that she has extended to the advancement of the African-American community throughout the state of Texas. We also recognize Provost Studios, Professional Photographers for being one of the leading BLACK OWNED photography companies in the Houston area. For more information or details regarding the services offered by Provost Studios, Professional Photographers stop by 3821 N. Macgregor Way, 77004; or contact Mrs. Georgia Provost at (713) 527-9488.