The first street dedicated to an African-American woman in Topeka was unveiled in a ceremony Sunday afternoon.
Two signs, at S.E. 23rd and 25th at Bellview Avenue, mark the Bishop Dr. Aletha J. Cushinberry Memorial Parkway.
Minister Tracy Raye described Cushinberry as a “woman of God” to those gathered Sunday at the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. Cushinberry was a minister of the church for 49 years. She died in December 2015 at the age of 79.
In 1967, Cushinberry was ordained as a Pentecostal pastor and also was a nurse for several years. She rose through the ranks in the Indianapolis-based Pentecostal Assemblies of the World denomination, breaking new ground for female clergy. She became the first female-bishop in the denomination and preceding that, was the first woman to become general secretary and the first woman to be named a suffragan bishop in the denomination.
Raye said Cushinberry possessed “dynamic leadership skills” in her many capacities throughout the community. In addition to her religious role, she taught in Washburn University’s nursing school and volunteered with several local organizations. Raye also noted that Cushinberry was an avid reader with “a thirst for knowledge.”
Topeka city councilman Tony Emerson, who represents the area, said the signs memorialize Cushinberry’s work and are a lasting tribute. The ordinance for the memorial designation was introduced by interim city manager Doug Gerber, who attended the event, and was passed by the city council on Oct. 11. Emerson also called for healing and unity in the wake of the “divisive, hate-filled campaigns” of the presidential election.
Cushinberry was a “powerhouse” who gave a voice to the voiceless, according to her friend Monique Glaude’, division director of Neighborhood Relations.
“It’s a wonderful thing to have this take place,” said Larry Cushinberry, Aletha’s husband. He said her life embodied the adage “Do what you love and love what you do.”
Aletha Cushinberry’s nephew, James Tibbs, said that when he thought of his aunt, the phrase “visible virtue” came to mind.
Terry Canaday, Dale Cushinberry, John Hymon, Morris Brown, Beulah Carrington and Jan Carpenter also gave remarks at the ceremony.