Prominent women from across the Southeast donned their trademark emerald and white and flocked to the Twin City last weekend for the 63rd Annual Conclave of The Moles, Inc.
More than 500 Moles and their significant others, known as Mules, convened in Winston-Salem June 20–23 for the Conclave, which, true to the social organization’s mission, was chock full of galas, luncheons and outings.
“It’s all about having fun,” said Conclave Co-Chair Lisa Caldwell, who has been a Mole for the past two decades. “Our motto is ‘Enjoy yourself… it’s later than you think,’ and that’s basically what we do – we enjoy each other and just socialize.”
As its motto suggests, The Moles, Inc. is a historically African American social club with chapters throughout the nation. Moles and Mules meet monthly to share a meal and socialize.
The conclave only comes to town once every 30 years, and the local affair has been 10 years in the making, organizers said.
“It’s kind of like delivering a baby,” commented Caldwell, who co-chaired the Conclave along with Mole Pat Hickman. “We’ve been working on this for 10 years and now it’s here.”
Themed “Arts with an Attitude” to highlight the city’s Arts and Innovation motif, the conclave featured a full slate of events, including a trip to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, a Mules golf outing and shopping excursions to Hanes Mall and Thruway Shopping Center. Each day was punctuated with meetings, receptions and luncheons and culminated with opulent dinner/dances. Featured performers included national recording artist Marsha Ambrosius (a former member of Floetry), The Moles Choir and Winston-Salem’s own Otesha Creative Arts Ensemble. The North Carolina Black Repertory Company even presented an excerpt from the play, “Crowns,” because Moles are known for their ornate hats.
“Winston-Salem has a legacy of offering the national organization the best conclave ever, and this one will not disappoint,” declared Moles Chapter President RaVonda Dalton-Rann. “…We’re looking forward to giving our Mole sisters the ultimate experience in Moledom, sisterhood and having a good time.”
In addition to celebrating the tradition of the Moles, chapter members worked to showcase the unique attributes of the city they call home through the Conclave, through events like the art exhibition and sale featuring local artists that was held at the Embassy Suites Friday. Among them was Barbara Eure, whose favorite mediums include wood, clay and fiber. Eure, the pottery specialist at Summit School, brought along a collection of her sculptures and bowls, coated in her signature copper and blue toned glaze, and an array of vibrant hand painted scarves for sale.
“It’s wonderful,” said the Pfafftown resident. “…I’ve enjoyed seeing how organized they are, how colorful they are and how accepting they are of the arts.”
The local chapter, which is home to nearly 30 members, was founded in 1953 by Elva James, who was an English professor at Winston-Salem Teachers College (now Winston-Salem State University). The university maintains a strong presence in the local contingent. In addition to Dalton-Rann, who serves as executive assistant to WSSU Chancellor Donald Reaves, the chapter is also home to D’Walla Simmons-Burke, founder of the famed Burke Singers and director of Choral and Vocal Studies and Campus Police Chief Patricia “Pat” Norris. Other organizations represented in the chapter include Wake Forest University, Wake Forest School of Medicine and Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice. Dalton-Rann, who joined the group seven years ago, said the club has taught her “the real meaning of sisterhood.”
“These are some of our community leaders and they come together to support one another and enjoy one another’s company,” she remarked. “It’s one of the warmest groups of women I have ever been associated with.”
Since its inception, the Moles has welcomed women who represent the best in their chosen fields, said Caldwell, the executive vice president and Chief Human Resources Officer at Reynolds American and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company. Although Moles gatherings continue to attract business and community leaders, the group’s most important objective is to adhere to the club’s mantra of living life to the fullest, Caldwell said.
“It’s a great way to have fun and fellowship with people you enjoy being around. That’s the bottom line for this group, and then it broadens even more when you bring in people from all these other sites,” she remarked. “It’s good networking, but it’s all around fun, no bones about it.”
Mole Rita Taliaferro made the trip from Petersburg, Va. to be in the number at the 2013 Conclave. Taliaferro, the CEO of a behavioral health corporation, joined the Moles in 2008 and says she hasn’t missed a Conclave yet.
“I think everything’s beautiful,” the New Jersey native said of the local event on Friday. “The Friday night and Saturday night events are always events that you look forward to. You have an opportunity to meet and see those friends that you haven’t seen in a year. It’s just the ambiance of being in the presence of all these beautiful women.”
Taliaferro, a member of the Moles Choir, says she looks forward to attending the conclave every year.
“Our motto is ‘Enjoy… it’s later than you think’ – all of the ladies I have met live by that motto,” she commented. “Being that a lot of us are professionals, we need these few days once a year to do just that.”
For more information about the Moles, visit www.wsmoles.com.