It began in 1950 as a grass-roots effort to strengthen African American families, and 45 years later, the Lullaby Guild still strives to do just that.
When the guild hosts its annual fashion show in conjunction with Ebony magazine early next month, the thousands of dollars it expects to raise will go toward accomplishing that goal, but in ways far different than in the group's fledgling days.
"Issues surrounding the black family have changed drastically," said Linda Beale, one of the guild's younger members. "But what I appreciate about the Lullaby Guild ladies is that they're diverse, they're resourceful and they keep on doing."
Composed of 40 women who largely reside in Windsor Hills, Baldwin Hills and View Park, the guild is an auxiliary of the Children's Home Society, a statewide organization offering a variety of adoptive and family services.
The guild grew out of an effort to help the society locate adoptive homes for black children, something it found so difficult to do at the time that it was on the verge of canceling the program. Now, however, the guild functions solely as a fund-raising arm for the society, and since 1958 has annually sponsored the Ebony Fashion Show, its primary fund-raising event. The nationally touring show will be held April 9 at the Palladium in Hollywood.
Since its inception, the guild has raised over $600,000 for the society. Though the focus of the group has shifted over the years from adoption to teen pregnancy prevention and other issues, its internal emphasis on family remains the same. There are several mother-daughter pairs in the guild, the result of senior members passing the generational torch. Other members have adopted children themselves.
"I've been in the guild since I was 7 years old," said guild member Linda Beale, a television producer whose mother, Louise, has been a member since 1958. "I went to all the fashion shows, I sold tickets. I grew up around it. I'm in it now because I like the history. . . . I like the fact that these black women came together on their own to assist black adoptions."
The guild has had to expand its concerns beyond adoptions. In the late 1970s, with the aid of member Dr. Floraline Stevens, it compiled an educational manual on teen-age sexuality and pregnancy that was first adopted at Edison Jr. High in South-Central, then later throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Guild members have watched the Children's Home Society develop and emphasize such aspects of its program as teaching parenting skills, developing child-care programs and short-term shelter and foster care placement for children enduring family crises. But members say their ultimate goal of addressing the family needs of children, particularly black children, is what keeps--and will continue to keep--the guild going.
"I feel like I still give something back, especially to children," said Louise Beale, a retired medical worker for the county. "I'm not as agile as I once was, but as long as I have the ability, I'll stay involved."
Eugenia Boykin said much has changed since she joined the guild in 1967.
"A lot of teen-age girls aren't giving their babies up for adoption anymore, for one thing," said Boykin, whose daughter, Patricia, is a fellow member. "But I still see the need for a lot of services in the home. As long as what we do helps children, we'll continue to do it."