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Inspiration abounds at TSD 2012 WOE gala

“…This reminds me of those elegant high-tea affairs that the black sororities and social clubs used to host back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.”

Women of Excellence

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“…This reminds me of those elegant high-tea affairs that the black sororities and social clubs used to host back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. The hats, the dresses and just the whole of this occasion calls back the grace and sophistication of days gone by….These are the standards of taste and refinement we must pass on to our daughters and granddaughters. I feel blessed to witness this occasion. What an inspiring moment in time. It was epic….”

Rhonda Lambert Treadwell, Attendee Women of Elegance Champagne Brunch & Awards Presentation

Sharon K. Richmond, human resources manager at Kirby Pines Retirement Community, searched for words to convey what the 2012 Women of Excellence Champagne Brunch & Awards Presentation meant to her.

Linda Chism-Leaks, director of Training and Development at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, had family, friends and co-workers as part of her support crew. (Photo by Tyrone P. Easley)

“I felt honored and humbled to be named among the caliber of women who were also honored,” said Richmond, one of 50 women honored (April 28) amid the rustic beauty of Memphis Botanic Gardens.

“Our city is filled with caring, talented, and awesome ladies who are making a difference every day of their lives. This will be one of my fondest memories. It was a day of dreams.”

The easy-listening tunes of Prosody set a stylized, artistic tone for the morning’s well-scripted agenda. TSD President and Publisher, Bernal E. Smith II, welcomed the distinguished gathering, declaring that the Women of Excellence Awards “does not begin to scratch the surface” of the talent and giftedness of African-American women in this community.

Executive Editor Karanja A. Ajanaku framed the event’s purpose as being right and good and a thing of great import. It was, he said, a matter of giving honor to a group that did not include a single person who would have asked for the honor or required it to keep doing what they do.

Then came the centerpiece of the splendid affair – a moving keynote address by TSD columnist and 2010 Women of Excellence honoree, Lucy Shaw.

Friends and enemies are all within, according to Shaw, an author, entrepreneur, minister and former head of the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

“Friends and enemies are not the people around you,” she said. “Your friends are positive, empowering thoughts, what we say about ourselves. That voice within that talks to us…You received this award because you are deserving. You earned this honor.”

Enemies are not our haters, said Shaw. “(Enemies) are those fears and doubts, those beliefs that cause us to distrust ourselves and our abilities. But you are capable and gifted…you should have your eyes set on your own promised land. Your friends and enemies are all inside of you. There are no limits to what you can achieve…”

The keynote ushered in the main attraction – awards dispensed to deserving honorees amidst cheering and applauding supporters.

In their words

“I was sitting there at the table with my two daughters. One of them turned to me and said, ‘Mother, we are so proud of you. This is the kind of thing we will tell our children about – how you were honored today.’ They will tell their children because this was a historic day in our family.’ That time we shared together meant so much. I appreciate Mr. Smith and the Tri-State Defender for this experience.”

Anna R. Bradford, Kirby Pines Manor Director of Nursing

“It was one thing to read about all the things these women are achieving. But it’s quite another to hear some of those things read aloud. And to think I was among them. I loved the camaraderie I felt with the other nominees, very much like my experience at Leadership Memphis last year. I kept jumping up, enjoying every minute and just taking it all in. I said, ‘Let me sit down and stop acting like a third-grader.’ But everything was so awesome. I’m so grateful and so inspired. I left there thinking about what else I can do. That experience made me want to do more. I want the Lord to give me greater vision for touching more lives.”

Stephanie Jones-White, Director of Communications, Memphis/Shelby County Public Library

“I’m only 22 years old, and for me to get this award was huge. I mean, Ms. Ruby Wharton is being honored – the mayor’s wife. It was such a wonderful surprise to be nominated and then accepted into the 2012 Women of Excellence group means so much. My mother came here with me. I was so proud to receive this honor publicly, and I know she was proud of me. I will never forget this day.”

– Yolanda N. Gates, Creative Director of Epiphany Firm

“It’s always nice to be recognized. When someone takes the time to just say, ‘I appreciate what you are doing, giving of yourself each day and trying to make a difference’ – it just makes me so appreciative of the Tri-State Defender and this great honor. I had two tables full of screaming supporters. It was phenomenal. I am so grateful, and I know my fellow honorees feel the same.”

– Linda Chism-Leaks, Director of Training and Development, The MED

“I don’t even know where to start. I was so happy and excited when I first received the call from the Tri-State Defender informing me that I had been nominated to this year’s Women of Excellence. My work with individuals and families affected by HIV and AIDS in Shelby County is so rewarding within itself. It is so humbling when someone recognizes all you’re trying to do to improve the quality of life for others. My mother and father came here with me. What an awesome experience. We’ll never forget what we shared here today.”

– Dorcas Young, Memphis Ryan White Program, Shelby County Government



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