Rosa Akins Wright wrote songs and played guitar for her children, who sang in churches, nursing homes and hospitals as the Wright Spiritual Singers, later the Echoes of Joy. They recorded their first album in 1956, and found careers in secular music - the kind that Rosa Wright wouldn't allow in her home.
Rosa Wright was a deeply devout woman who always cared for others, first as a domestic worker, then as registered nurse. But whatever else she did, she spent most of her 85 years in prayer and song.
Gospel music by groups like the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Soul Stirrers and Shirley Caesar filled her homes in the James E. Scott housing projects, later in El Portal. ``Her entire life was in church until she couldn't get there anymore,'' said Betty --
Born Bessie Regina Norris -- Wright's seventh child.
``Even in her room in rehab, she had gospel on the radio. . . She'd hold onto her walker and do her little shout and step.''
After Rosa Wright died of diabetic complications on Sept. 5 at North Shore Medical Center, loved ones -- including most of her 41 grand and great-grandchildren held ``a giant celebration, full of music and life'' at Bethel Apostolic Church, Betty Wright said. ``We sang her into glory. She was going home to her Father,'' as the last of nine siblings.
Born Rosa Lee Akins on Oct. 3, 1924, in Cairo, Georgia, she came to South Florida after a racial incident involving her brothers drove her extended family out of town in 1936. They were well off, and had to leave their farms and possessions to start over at the bottom in Perrine, then Overtown.
She was married three times: to Milton Wright Sr., whom she divorced; to McArthur Norris then to Jimmy Braddy, who both died.
After Rosa graduated from Miami's segregated George Washington Carver High School, she traveled by three buses daily to care for families in Miami Beach - where black people could only go to work, and only if they carried a police permit. ``She once had an incident on the bus like Rosa Parks, when I was a baby in her arms,'' said daughter Jeanette Wright of Miami, formerly with KC and the Sunshine Band. ``It was 1949 or '50,'' added her older brother, retired Boston Municipal Judge Milton Wright, a choir leader and playwright. ``My mother told us where to sit, on the side. The bus driver turned around and said, `Why you sittin' on the white people's chair? You got to move to the back.' He pulled the bus over and got up to move her.'' Rosa Wright would not be moved. ``She stood up with her little umbrella. We all stood up. Somebody white yelled: `Can't you see her with all them children?' We never sat in the back of the bus.''
While she worked, Rosa Wright studied nursing at what was then Miami-Dade Junior College, Betty Wright said. By the mid-1960s.
Rosa was working in pediatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
The family's spiritual home base was the Pentecostal Firstborn Church of the Living God, demolished by Interstate 95 construction.
She ushered at Bethel Apostolic, where she worked with children, Jeanette said.
She was also a nurse in the Miami-Dade public schools, in pediatrics at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and at the Douglas Gardens Jewish Home.
After she retired from nursing, Rosa Wright went on the road with Betty, doing whatever she could to be helpful.
In her last days, she told her children to stop all treatment, because she was ready to go.
In addition to Betty, Jeanette and Milton, Rosa Wright is survived by sons Phillip and Charles Wright of Miami, former calypso musicians who played with the Afro-Beats. She was predeceased by son Michael and daughter Barbara. Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/03/1997833/nurse-mother-f...