On October 7, more than 300 men, women and children from diverse backgrounds and cultures came together for a night filled with eclectic music, humor, historical reflection, and movement-building during the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s (NCBCP) 17th Annual Spirit of Democracy Awards Red Carpet Affair held at the Sphinx Club in Washington, DC.
“We successfully brought together an intergenerational audience with common interests focused on the theme, Celebrate the Diversity of Our Democracy,” said Melanie L. Campbell, NCBCP’s President and CEO and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR). “In addition to having fun, everyone in the room learned something from our impressive line-up of honorees who epitomize diversity, servant leaders and coalition builders. Their stories underscore the importance of encouraging young people to become politically engaged and a voice for the voiceless.”
After brief remarks by Heather J. Foster of The White House Office of Public Engagement, and a reminder about open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act; each honoree shared riveting life stories that shed light on their personal missions to fight for opportunity for underserved people.
“Everywhere I go I try to lift somebody else because it doesn’t make sense to be there by yourself. You have to help as you climb,” said Charles Ogletree Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, founding executive director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, Harvard University Law School, as he accepted the NCBCP’s highest honor, the Chairman’s Circle Leadership Award presented by NCBCP chair, Richard Womack, Sr. “You have to open up doors of opportunity and do something to make a difference,” adds Ogletree.
Elsie Scott, PhD, founding director, Ron Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center, Howard University, spoke about the importance of voting. “My parents were denied the right to vote even though they were born in this country and paid taxes in this country. The voter ID law back then was they had to be identified by two registered voters. All voters were white so they could not pass the voter ID requirements.” The NCBCP Board Member of the Year continued, ” I witnessed my parents taking civil rights activists underground. Civic participation is a cultural responsibility and tradition that I inherited. I am trying to pass it on to the next generation.”
Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and founder of the LoveLife Foundation, Raheem DeVaughn, was presented with the Ruby Campbell Pulliam “Love You More” Servant Leadership and Community Service Award by the Campbell family. DeVaughn said “As a recording artist who makes socially conscious music, my foundation is my attempt to lead by example. Not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”
“We together have the power to create change, ” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director, CEO, MomsRising.org and recipient of the Community Empowerment and Social Innovation Leadership Award. “Working together we can pass public policy on issues like lowering the wage gap. It is an absolute honor to work with all of you in this fight.
Accepting his Community Empowerment and Social Justice Leadership Award, Hector Sanchez, chair, National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and executive director, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, talked about the similar issues African American and Latino brothers and sisters have to deal with daily. “Our struggles are so common, I am happy we’ve been creating African American and Latino coalitions fighting for common issues.”
Birmingham, Alabama Mayor William Bell, president, African American Mayors Association, received the Public Service Leadership Award and Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science, was awarded for Technology and Educational Excellence. Birmingham City Councilwoman Sheila Tyson, convener, Alabama Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and Helen Butler, executive director, Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda, were the NCBCP Affiliates of the Year.
The energetic and hilarious actor/comedian, Jonathan Slocumb, kept the humor rolling in his role as master of ceremonies, while NAACP Image Award-nominated jazz keyboardist, Marcus Johnson, and soulful songstress, LaTosha “Love” Brown, provided the entertainment for the evening.
Sponsored by Verizon and Comcast NBC Universal, among others, the Spirit of Democracy Awards is the NCBCP’s annual fundraiser that helps support the work of the organization during the year, including their current Vote for Justice Campaign mobilizing voters for the upcoming 2014 Midterm Election.
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ABOUT THE NATIONAL COALITION:
Founded in 1976, the NCBCP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to increasing African American participation in civil society. The current programs and initiatives of the organization include Black Youth Vote!, Black Women’s Roundtable, and a Black Men & Boys Initiative. The National Coalition has trained and engaged African American leaders and community activists in overcoming institutional barriers that have hindered the growth of Black communities politically, socially and economically.