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‘In character, in manner, and in style we salute you’

The Memphis Botanic Garden was all lit up in a bloom of flowers, and the Tri-State Defender Women of Excellence “High Tea” Awards Reception was awash in spring colors. by Julia Griggs
Special to the Tri-State Defender

The Memphis Botanic Garden was all lit up in a bloom of flowers, and the Tri-State Defender Women of Excellence “High Tea” Awards Reception was awash in spring colors.

The 4th annual premier spring event held last Friday (April 29) honored 50 ladies of distinction for their civic contributions and career achievements. The gala was artistry and poetry – figuratively and literally.

Happy people who looked beautiful.

Elegant. Finely dressed. Big hats.

Lots of smiles.

Great entertainment: jazz, dancers, spoken word, and harpists.

A really, excellent display of food.

Extremely inviting.

The 2011 honorees joined 150 previous honorees – professional women and leaders whose lives, works and deeds speak volumes in Greater Memphis.

“I am very humbled to be in a class of such phenomenal women,” said LaDonna R. Young, Ed.D., an associate professor at Southwest Tennessee Community College.

“It is so important to recognize women and this honor says a lot about the Tri-State Defender and their dedication to the community,” said Jean “Jae” Henderson, president of Put it in Writing Professional Writing Service. “I am greatly honored that the Tri-State Defender decided to bestow upon me this honor.”

Tri-State Defender President and Publisher Bernal E. Smith II set the program tone with his welcome.

“I am so elated that the Tri- State Defender can take a lead role in the community for acknowledging and recognizing women who are often overlooked,” he said. “We have an opportunity and responsibility to recognize all that they do.”

Eileen Collier – Clear Channel, program director, WHAL, KJMS – was the mistress of ceremony.

“Anytime we can uplift women and the things that we do and the women that we are in our homes, on our jobs, and in our community, I am all for it,” said Collier. “And for the Tri-State Defender to have done this four years running is just a phenomenal event.”

The afternoon began with the “Meet and Greet/ Tea and Refreshment” as the smooth sounds of the Prime Cut Jazz Band provided the musical backdrop. Local artist Jamond Bullock already was at work creating the 2011 Women of Excellence Celebratory Portrait that was auctioned near the end of the gala.

Spoken word artist Florence “Flo” Roach quickened the pace with a message-laced salute that featured the refrain “calling all women.”

The “High Tea” Awards Reception also featured congratulatory remarks by Janas Jackson of FedEx, the honoree’s acceptance by Sarah Flowers-Dent, Esq., of AutoZone, and a special performance by songstress and harpist Lyrika Holmes. The Dillard’s Wolfchase fashion show put the focus on hats, with the catering provided by Felicia Bean Catering.

In delivering the event’s “purpose,” Executive Editor Karanja A. Ajanaku said saluting the honorees was a move that registered deep within as “ the right thing to do.” He linked the honorees and the event to the need to generate a movement to address the African-American community’s myriad challenges.

Noting that all movement is not progress, he said quality-decision making was essential and that paying attention was critical to success. The Tri-State Defender, he said, was committed to being a vehicle to help people get – and stay – on point.

Smith capped the afternoon with a glimpse of the Tri-State Defender’s future. He emphasized that the multi-media outlet will celebrate 60 years of continuous publication of its weekly newspaper with a gala later this year. And he said several innovations crafted to build upon a record of service to the community soon will be rolled out.

View photos from the Women of Excellence High Tea

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