woe James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, once recorded a song titled “It’s a Man’s World.” The hook of the lyrics was, “This is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.” On Friday, March 28, the Michigan Chronicle further validated Brown’s lyrics by recognizing the worth and contributions of women at its Women of Excellence 2014 Awards ceremony. Held at MGM Grand Casino and Hotel in downtown Detroit, the gala saluted 51 African-American women who have exemplified brilliance and excellence in a multiplicity of fields in metro Detroit. The event was made possible by lead sponsor St. John Providence Health System. Other sponsors were MGM Grand Detroit, State Farm, Comcast, UAW-Ford, and the Michigan Chronicle. National journalist, radio show host and native Detroiter Ed Gordon served as the event’s master of ceremonies as almost 1,000 people showed appreciation of the honorees’ leadership and empowerment acumen in such sectors as religion, education, communications, banking, business, politics, finances, community and civic engagement, health services, and cultural enrichment. “We started Women of Excellence eight years ago,” said Hiram E. Jackson, CEO of Real Times Media, publisher of the Michigan Chronicle and other African-African publications in more than 30 national markets. “The Michigan Chronicle started it because we wanted to celebrate local African-American women who inspire others through their vision and leadership. These are special women. They are nominated by prior winners, so they deserve to be honored. This afternoon, we celebrate these women for their personal code of ethics, exceptional courage, unwavering conviction and extraordinary grace.” To help drive home the essence of women and excellence, national Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile was the event’s keynote speaker. In her eloquent, straightforward, southern style of speaking, filled with timely humor, Brazile talked about her background and experiences, but she mainly praised the honorees. “As I was flying here for this event, I was reading the bios of all of you exceptional women who we are honoring today,” said Brazile. “I was amazed, I was in awe, with the backgrounds and characters and how you have succeeded in your respective fields. You are amazing, you are talented, and you are tenacious. Some of you need to be on television so that I can take a Sunday off and go to church.” Brazile spoke about how one can be successful, even when life’s early circumstances said otherwise. “I was one of nine children born in poverty to two working poor parents,” said Brazile, who is also an author, university professor and frequent television guest on national news programs. “My father worked every day as a janitor, my mother worked every day as a maid. Yet, they put eight of their nine children through college.” Brazile issued a challenge to the honorees: “Stand tall without standing on someone and be a victor without having victims. Continue to use your power to open doors so that no young girl or young boy will ever be left behind. It is your time to stand up. to encourage, to show up, march on, believe and to endure.” As the Women of Excellence honorees walked across the stage to receive beautiful plaques, the ladies were all smiles. Several of the honorees reflected on being a chosen one of excellence. “I thank my mother and father for helping to propel me to believe and understand that I had a purpose in life,” said Sheilah P. Clay, president and CEO of Neighborhood Service Organization. “I’ve been blessed to be able to do great things to help others.” Lisa L. Howze, chief of staff, Mayor’s Office, City of Detroit, was humbled by the award. “Receiving this award is a great honor,” said Howze. “It is a culmination of being recognized for all of the achievements that I’ve made. However, I keep in mind that it’s not about me because my focus has always been about delivering, uplifting and empowering others, just as these other incredible women today have done.” Alice G. Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc., added, “I ask myself, ‘Why was I selected?’ It was not about my name, my title, or my position. It was about the work that I am doing. I realize that this work is making a difference. So I’m excited to have received this honor, along with so many other women who are also working to make a positive difference.” As the event concluded, the words of Brazile still resonated in describing the honorees: “You are phenomenal women. I’m proud of you and I’m proud to be in your company. You are the leaders that we have been waiting for.”

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