WASHINGTON/PRNewswire/ -- The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. (BWA) celebrated its 40th anniversary, Thursday, September 21, 2017, hosting its Annual Symposium Workshop & Awards Luncheon in the nation's capital and encouraging the more than 1,200 elected officials, journalists, corporate and community leaders and members of its National Collaborating Organizations who attended the event to help chart a path for the future.
"For 40 years, The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. has protected, secured, and advanced, the issues and rights of African-American women and their families," explained BWA President Gwainevere Catchings Hess. "Today we pay tribute to our founders. In these anxious and uncertain times, we also reaffirm our commitment to speaking truth to power and securing for Black women all of the opportunities and privileges America promises its citizens."
During its Awards Luncheon, BWA continued the tradition of recognizing the achievements of phenomenal women. This year's award recipients included:
The Honorable Kamala D. Harris – Dynamic U.S. Senator representing the State of California and a lifelong public safety and civil rights leader. Serving as California's Attorney General, Harris prosecuted transnational gangs exploiting women and children and trafficking in guns and drugs. As a member of the Senate, she co-introduced a bipartisan bill which encourages states to reform or replace the practice of money bail. She spoke out against President Donald Trump's decision to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military and called upon him to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides immigrant students who arrived in the U.S. as children with temporary relief from deportation. Senator Harris was presented with BWA's President's Award.
April Ryan – White House Correspondent and Washington Bureau Chief for American Urban Radio Network and a political analyst for CNN, accepted BWA's Education Award. A member of the White House press corps for more than 20 years, Ryan has distinguished herself by conducting one-on-one interviews with Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama, as well as key members of their administration. She has also kept issues of interest and importance to minorities front and center by posing tough questions to President Donald Trump and his staff during press conferences and White House briefings.
Cadet Simone Askew – The first African-American woman to lead the 4,400 Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point received BWA's Pinnacle Award. An international history major from Fairfax, VA, Askew assumed the highest position in the cadet chain of command last month. As first captain, she is responsible for the overall performance of the Corps of Cadets as well as serving as a liaison between the cadets and the military school's administration.
Patricia A. Maryland, Dr.PH – Executive Vice President Ascension and President and Chief Executive Officer Ascension Health Care, was the recipient of BWA's Health Award. Ascension is a faith-based healthcare organization dedicated to transformation through innovation across the continuum of care. Dr. Maryland has responsibility for the strategic and operational aspects of Ascension Healthcare, with more than 141 hospitals and 2500 sites of care in 24 states and Washington, DC.
Dr. Hazel N. Dukes – President, NAACP New York State Conference, was introduced as the organization's Economic and Business Awardee. Dr. Dukes has a long and devoted record of helping to improve the quality of life in New York State, promoting equality and human rights, and linking business, government, and social causes. Dr. Dukes also serves on the NAACP National Board of Directors and the organization's Executive Committee.
Briana Richardson – a freshman at Spelman College, majoring in political science received BWA's Bright Future Award, which recognizes a student or group of students whose academic achievements and service to school and community distinguish them as future leaders and success stories. The co-founder and president of her high school's "The Activist Among Us Club," Richardson was named by former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick as one of the state's "Outstanding Young People."
This year, BWA's perennially popular workshop invited women to focus on themselves by "Living Your Best Life at Every Age." Moderated by lawyer and television personality Star Jones, the interactive forum encouraged the nearly 700 participants to broaden horizons, welcome challenges and agitate norms. Panelists included: Michelle Ebanks, President, Essence Communications, Inc.; Linda Goler Blount, President and CEO, Black Women's Health Imperative; Tashni-Ann Dubroy, Ph.D., Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer, Howard University and former president of Shaw University; Cadet Simone Askew, First Captain, Corps of Cadets, United States Military Academy; Nikki Giovanni, Distinguished Professor, Virginia Tech University and a celebrated poet, writer, and activist, and Claudia Jones, Senior VP, Public Affairs and Communications, AT&T.
BWA also hosted an Inform & Inspire workshop for middle-school age girls enrolled in a Washington, DC chapter of Girls, Inc. The program featured Kara McCullough, a physical scientist at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the reigning Miss USA who, in a lively, candid discussion, reminded the girls that pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, setting goals and working hard to realize them can be a beautiful thing.
In the United States these days, the word "out" is popping up with disturbing frequency," said BWA's Hess. "There are people who want to kick LGBTQ service people 'out' of the military. There are those who are in favor of building a wall to keep immigrants 'out' of our country. Officials are redrawing districts in various cities to keep some citizens 'out' of the voting booths. That's not who we are as a nation, and it can't be what we allow America to become. Today, I ask you to reject the politics of fear, hatred, and division and focus instead on the word 'in.' Invite, inform, inspire, initiate, instruct, invest, innovate, include. We must take an active role in reclaiming this nation's conscience, and we must begin this work today."