I AM THE CHANGE: THE BLACK WOMEN’S AGENDA, INC. 41ST ANNUAL SYMPOSIUM TOWN HALL & AWARDS LUNCHEON
Weeks away from one of the most hotly contested midterm elections on record, The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. (BWA) recently hosted its 41st Annual Symposium Town Hall and Awards Luncheon, underscoring the importance of action and activism and encouraging civic engagement.
The Town Hall challenged more than 800 participants to be catalysts for change – change for themselves, their families, and communities. The forum featured a panel of journalists, politicos, and educators who reminded attendees that maintaining a democracy is every citizen’s responsibility. Panelists included: moderator Sheinelle Jones, NBC News Co-Anchor and MSNBC Host; Michael Steele, Maryland Lieutenant Governor from 2003-2007 and former Chair of the Republican National Committee; CNN Political Commentators Symone Sanders and Tara Setmayer, and Cornell Belcher, progressive pollster and political strategist and Founder and President, Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies. Jones also presided over a second workshop that offered advice on living your best life at every age. Among the featured speakers were Sharon Epperson, CNBC Senior Personal Finance Correspondent; Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, President and CEO, Global Policy Solutions, LLC, and Dr. Glenda Glover, President, Tennessee State University and International President, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
“History has its eyes on us, to borrow a phrase, and it’s not just about what our elected officials do in terms of steering the course of this country. It’s what we do,” said Gwainevere Catchings Hess, President, The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. “Inspiring women to live their best lives requires that we remind them that they not only have a stake in this society but a moral imperative to try to leave this world better than they found it.”
During the Annual Awards Luncheon, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,700 elected officials, journalists, corporate and community leaders and members of BWA’s 21 National Collaborating Organizations honored eight women as the personification of action, activism and civic engagement.
Recipients of this year’s BWA awards included:
The Democratic Party’s nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. A lawyer, author, and businesswoman, she is the first Black woman to be a major party’s gubernatorial candidate in the United States
Dr. Helene D. Gayle
President and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s leading community foundations. The Trust works with donors, nonprofits, community leaders and residents to lead and inspire philanthropic efforts that improve the quality of life in the Chicago area. Dr. Gayle serves on public company and non-profit boards including Colgate-Palmolive Company,The Coca-Cola Company, the Rockefeller Foundation, Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, New America and the ONE Campaign.
Entrepreneur, designer and managing partner of the House of Deréon and Miss Tina fashion brands. Ms. Knowles-Lawson is also an author, philanthropist, and the mother of Grammy award-winning recording artists Beyoncé and Solange.
Tanya L. Lombard
Head of Multicultural Engagement and Strategic Alliances, AT&T. Lombard’s responsibilities focus on creating, promoting, and managing AT&T’s brand-messaging to minority communities through the development and stewardship of strategic community-based relations and projects.
The Honorable Sheila Y. Oliver
Lieutenant Governor, State of New Jersey – A former member and Speaker of the New Jersey State Assembly, Oliver is one of only three African-American women to hold statewide office.
Dr. Sandye Poitier Johnson
A renowned educator and retired principal widely credited with raising the academic standards and stature of the Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change in Harlem and helping it earn the prestigious designation as an International Baccalaureate World School.
The Honorable Karen W. Weaver
Mayor, City of Flint, Michigan – As mayor, Dr. Weaver declared a state of emergency in connection with the discovery of unsafe levels of lead in the water residents used for cooking, drinking, and bathing. She became a prominent figure as the resulting crisis and ongoing recovery captured national attention.
An Indianapolis, IN resident and matriculating freshman at Gustavus Adolphus College, a liberal arts college in St. Peter, MN, King was honored as the recipient of BWA’s Bright Futures Award and scholarship.
“What happens next in America is not anyone’s guess, it’s everyone’s business,” BWA President Hess told the gathering. ” As Black women, Black communities, we can vote, make our voices heard and hold elected officials accountable for addressing our interests, or we can stay home, sit on the sidelines and watch the train pass us by. Voting may not change everything, but it enables us to keep the change we seek within our grasp.”
Founded in 1977 in Washington, DC, The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(C)3 organization that generates awareness and support for issues that secure, protect and advance the rights of Black women and their families. BWA is comprised of 22 collaborating organizations — sororities, civic, service and faith-based — representing millions of women worldwide.
According to The American Cancer Society, “Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. The cervical cancer death rate dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test for screening. But the death rate has not changed much over the last 15 years.” And several studies show that a disproportionate number of women that die each year from cervical cancer are Black women.
The American Cancer Society also stresses the importance of regular screening for the disease, emphasizing that, “Screening tests offer the best chance to have cervical cancer found early when successful treatment is likely.
If you are looking for the Top Ladies of Distinction, go into Black communities. You’ll find them planting fruit and vegetable gardens, tidying up historic cemeteries, and removing graffiti. They will be mentoring local teens, hosting workshops and seminars that prepare them for future success, and teaching youth the importance of giving back. They will be providing companionship, conversation and valuable information to the elderly. They will be improving the quality of life in neighborhoods across the United States.
The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. is taking its “Living Your Best Life At Every Age: I Am The Change” town hall on the road! Introduced with support from AARP at its 41st Annual Symposium in September 2018, the forum encourages participants to consider where they are and want to be from a financial, educational and health perspective, and to be a catalyst for change for themselves, their families, and communities.