Gainesville community celebrate's Vivian Filer's 85th birthday with an enstoolment

Voleer Thomas

Vivian Filer transitioned into Queen Motherhood with a celebration attended by many from the Gainesville community to help celebrate her 85th birthday.

Hosted by the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center and Florida African American Heritage Preservation Network, the enstoolment of Filer was held on Saturday at the Best Western Gateway Grand Hotel at 4200 NW 97th Blvd.

The theme for her birthday was "Life Is Under The Wings of a Mother."

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An enstoolment is an African and African Diaspora tradition of bestowing the title of Queen Mother upon esteemed women as a recognition of past, present and future service to the community.

Filer was given a royal stool and designation with the honorary title of Queen Mother Mangye Naa Amiami Osuowaa Okropong I.

The name bestowed upon her during the enstoolment means the mother who loves and protects all of her children.

Filer was born on June 6, 1938 to her parents Levi Joseph and Lucille Thompson Washington in Trenton.

She graduated with honors from Lincoln High School in 1956 and married Delano Filer Sr. in 1958 and became the mother of two sons, Delano Filer Jr. and Craig Xavier Filer.

She earned an associate of science degree, a bachelor of science degree in nursing and two master degrees.

Her career in health sciences spanned nearly 40 years during which she served as a nursing professor and interim director of health sciences at Santa Fe College.

She continued her lifelong love of history by renovating and bringing to fruition the Cotton Club Museum and Cultural Center to preserve, promote and protect Black history in Gainesville and Alachua County.

Vivian Filer was given a royal stool and designation with the honorary title of Queen Mother Mangye Naa Amiami Osuowaa Okropong I for her 85th birthday celebration on Saturday.
(Photo: Photo by Voleer Thomas/For The Guardian)

“It is a once in a lifetime experience,” Filer said. “I’m honored, speechless and I feel so welcomed and loved.”

Filer said the late Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, Ph.D., wanted the community to host an enstoolment for her.

“It is important to acknowledge my heritage, my African roots and the roots we have here,” Filer said. “Dr. Patricia Hilliard-Nunn wanted me to be enstooled on my 80th birthday. The fact that it is happening is unreal.”

Filer loves the support from the community and her family who came from as far away as New York, California and Georgia.

The ceremony was presided over by Agnes Ngoma Leslie, Ph.D., and Kenneth Nunn, Hilliard-Nunn's husband and associate director of the Center on Children and Families at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

There were greetings from Bensa Nukunya, Ph.D., president of the Ghana Association of Gainesville.

Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward read a proclamation via video presentation that declared June 6, 2023, as Vivian Washington Filer Day.

Filer is one of the founders of the Greater Gainesville Black Nurses Association, a member of Gainesville Women for Equal Rights, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Springhill Neighborhood Association and Mount Olive AME Church. She is also one of the nurses who helped integrate Alachua General Hospital, which no longer exists.

Patsy Jo Hilliard, Hilliard-Nunn's mother, gave the history and the significance of an enstoolment.

There were musical performances from Lanard Perry and the Gospel Meets Jazz Band and from lead drummer Mohammed DaCosta and his fellow drummers.

The enstoolment began with the grand entrance of Filer.

Nii Sowa-La and Ayoka Sowa-La, Ph.D., led the libations and talked about the meaning behind Filer’s new name.

There were tributes from Queen Mothers Nana Nana Benyiwa Horne and Patsy Jo Hilliard, and a celebratory dance by the Caring and Sharing Learning School Dance Troupe.

There were tributes to Filer by several others, including her son Craig Filer and her granddaughter Maya Filer.

“She’s a beacon of light through the city,” her granddaughter said. “She instills in me the beauty of Black excellence. Within me, I carry her legacy. I love you.”

There was a video presentation of Filer that was titled, “The Legacy of A Servant Life.”