ATLANTA — Atlanta’s first lady, Sarah Reed, was among an illustrious group of women who were paid homage for the Georgia Coalition of Black Women’s (GCBW) Women’s History Month celebration.
Epitomized via the words of President Obama’s presidential proclamation, “Whether serving in elected positions across America, leading groundbreaking civil rights movements, venturing into unknown frontiers, or programming revolutionary technologies, generations of women that knew their gender was no obstacle to what they could accomplish have long stirred new ideas and opened new doors, having a profound and positive impact on our Nation.”
Held at The Carter Center in Atlanta and sponsored by Delta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the annual awards luncheon saluted women in government along with an unplanned tribute to the founder of GCBW, Rita Jackson Samuels. Honorees were: DeKalb Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, Esq; Atlanta First Lady, Sarah E. Langford Reed, Esq; Eloisa Y. Kementich, PhD, president and CEO of Invest Atlanta; and State Senator Nan Orrock.
“We are proud to have these women represent us,” said Samuels. “We still need to get more women elected to office, especially in places where women are the majority voters. We have to remind people of the power women have at the ballot box.”
One-by-one prominent Atlanta women stepped to the podium and underscored the importance of advocating for women in leading roles. Each speaker also offered a story about Samuels and applauded her for her candid advice and consistent leadership since her days working alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; Xernona Clayton, founder of the Trumpet Awards; Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Winn Dixon; and Cathelean Steele, First Lady of SCLC, were among those bringing greetings.
“It’s not easy to get this many women leaders together – especially during Women’s History Month. Thank you for taking time out to recognize our esteemed honorees. We appreciate the men coming out as well, a special thanks to Hank Stewart and Dr. Joseph Lowery,” adds Samuels.
Ambassador Andrew Young was out of the country but sent a video message congratulating the honorees and included his own humorous Rita Samuels story.
Reflecting on the accomplishments of women since the organization was founded 35 years ago and the work ahead, Felicia Davis, vice president of GCBW and director of the Building Green Initiative said, “Thirty-five years ago, women made 59 cents to a man’s dollar. Today it’s 63 cents for Black women and 79 cents for women overall. And 35, years ago the first woman was appointed to the US Supreme Court, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Today, we are trying to get the first Black woman appointed.”
The subject of electing more women to office and the first Black woman Supreme Court Justice was discussed in detail during the Ballot Power of Women Voters Conversation that followed the award ceremony. Facilitated by Helen Butler, executive director of Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, panelists included Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Meredith Lilly, a Senior Advisor at the U.S. General Service Administration (GSA).
The GCBW is a unique women’s advocacy organization with a special focus on Black women and girls with the understanding that their empowerment benefits all women, families and the broader community. Credited with helping to elect Black women to offices throughout the State, the organization has worked to educate the public about the status of women including the fact that women are the majority registered voters in Georgia.