HOLLYWOOD, FL --- On Saturday, March 19, 2011, in recognition of Women’s History Month, Ford Motor Company Fund, in partnership with a Miami Gardens based non profit mentoring program, The Embrace Girls Foundation, Inc., hosted its South Florida Freedom’s Sisters Luncheon at the Hollywood Beach Marriott recognizing 20 remarkable women. "This was one of our best attended luncheons and the paparazzi were very impressive, said master of ceremonies, Kevin Frazier, co-host of the entertainment show 'The Insider'. He added, "South Florida really has a wealth of talent - these ladies are doing some outstanding work in this community.” Ford selected the honorees after conducting a citywide search for exceptional women who exemplify dedication to social causes and humanitarian efforts - attributes possessed by the 20 phenomenal women who are part of the original Freedom’s Sisters national exhibition.
“We were amazed by the inspirational stories of the extraordinary women who touched the lives of people in the South Florida community,” said Pamela Alexander, Director, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “It was a challenge to select just 20 South Florida Freedom’s Sisters as all of the nominees truly embodied the spirit of the nationally recognized Freedom’s Sisters."
The Marriott's Grand Ballroom on the beautiful Spring afternoon cushioned by waves from the ocean only feet away, was silenced on two occasions. The first, during 10 year-old Rena Ingraham's performance of "The Greatest Love Of All" which garnered her two standing ovations, followed by activist, author and poet, Dr. Sonia Sanchez, a Legendary Freedom's Sister as she offered her sweet and melodic keynote speech about the power of women. "She is truly a legend and to have my daughter be in her company to hear and speak with her is a priceless experience," said Myrna Johnson, mother of Embrace Girls member, Gabrielle Michel-Johnson, who acted as a Junior Freedom's Sisters in training and Honoree escort for the day along with several other program members. "This was a beautiful and empowering day for both us."
A sentiment echoed by the event's organizers and embraced by the honorees and invited guests. "What I love about the selections were that the women truly reflected a wide range of professions said Melba Pearson, Director of Events and Fundraising for The Embrace Girls Foundation, Inc. "I was shocked to not only learn that I was nominated but actually selected said, Armenthia Dozier-Hodge, Teacher and Kindergarten Department Head at Beacon Hill Preparatory School where she has taught toddlers for 30 years.
Recognition, Dr. Sonia Sanchez expressed deep appreciation for, "It is an honor to be here today everything is so beautiful and its always so special to me when I am in the presence of children and they are inspired, it brings joy to my heart," said Sanchez as she signed autographs and took pictures with the more than 100 guests in attendance who patiently waited for their moment with her and the true Queens of the Day, the official 2011, South Florida Freedom's Sisters: Nichole Anderson, Police Chief of South Broward County; Alison D. Austin, CEO TACOLCY Center; Marleine Bastien, CEO FANM - Haitian Women of Miami; Armenthia Dozier-Hodge, Educator, Beacon Hill Preparatory School; Dorothy Jenkins Fields, CEO, The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, Inc.; Karen Andre, Attorney and Legislative Consultant; Georgia Jones Ayers, Director, The Alternative Programs, Inc.; Felicia M. Brunson, Vice Mayor, City of West Park; Audrey M. Edmonson, Vice Chair, Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners; Persephone Taylor Gary, Facilitator, Youth Advisory Council; Shirley Gibson, Mayor, City of Miami Gardens; Rosie Gordon-Wallace, Director, Diaspora Vibe and Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator; Barbara J. Jordan, Miami-Dade County Commissioner, District 1; Dr. Sonjia Kenya, Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Miami; Frederica S. Wilson, Congresswoman, CEO, 5000 Role Models; Thelma Gibson, CEO, Theodore R. Gibson Memorial Fund; Camille Jones, Director, Hands 2 Help, Inc.; Sharon Kendrick-Johnson, Founder, Pumps, Pearls and Portfolios (PP&P); Saliha Nelson, Vice President, URGENT, INC. and Kathleen Woods-Richardson, Director, Miami-Dade County Department of Solid Waste Management.
The Freedom's Sisters national exhibit features 20 black women who fought for justice and freedom during the civil rights movement. The South Florida Freedom's Sisters enhances their contributions internationally. South Florida is the fifth celebration to honor local women for their service in their respective communities.
Embracing Girl Power! Freedom's Sisters Honorees
Top Row Left To Right: Armenthia Dozier-Hodge; Saliha Nelson; Marleine Bastien; Karen Andre; Rosie Gordon-Wallace; Pamela Alexander, Ford Fund Director; Kathleen Woods-Richardson; Persephone Taylor Gary; Dr. Sonjia Kenya and Alison D. Austin.
Middle Row Left To Right: Camille Jones; Felicia M. Brunson; Barbara J. Jordan; Dr. Sonia Sanchez; Shirley Gibson; Georgia Jones Ayers; Audrey M. Edmonson and Thelma Gibson. Not pictured: Frederica S. Wilson and Dorothy Jenkins Fields.
Bottom Left To Right: Embrace Girls Representatives: Sharon Jackson; Miesha Darrough; Alicia Brown; Velma R. Lawrence; Francheca Wright and Phalencia Louisy. Not pictured: Melba Pearson
Freedom's Sister Honoree Armenthia Dozier-Hodge shares a moment with Embrace members and Junior Freedom's Sisters for the day: Jeanette Dawson; Gabrielle Michel-Johnson; Dahlia and Camelia Miles.
Embrace member Gabrielle Michel-Johnson poses with Freedom's Sister Honoree Karen Andre.
Embrace member Gabrielle Michel-Johnson posses with legendary, poet, author and activist, Dr. Sonia Sanchez.