By: Rashida Ashley
As black women, it is important for each and every one of us to feel and be respected, protected, seen, heard, and uplifted, and the media can be used as either a tool to build or a weapon to deconstruct these desires. The most predominant thing we’ve seen as a nation, particularly as of late, is the importance of representation in media. It is a crucial element towards the betterment of our society. It opens up possibilities for the future generation and the future of our civilization.
The voices and leaders behind the media hold a power not to be taken lightly, especially as we begin to see more and more female minority leaders, those women who have made it their mission to ensure that every underrepresented voice is heard in today’s media. They have paved the way for others, like themselves, who are brave enough to also carry the weight of that same mission; to tirelessly bring up the volume for the voices that are often left on mute.
On November 17, 2021, black female leaders and change agents in media, entertainment, communications and tech from around the world came together to celebrate their triumphs in unity at the 6th Annual Black Women in Media Awards founded by Judith Jacques-Laguerre. With award-winning experience in the communications industry, Jacques-Laguerre has made it her mission to hold this empowering event as a testament to our strength, resilience, and power in our community. The star-studded awards ceremony closed out a five day virtual conference filled with more than 100 experiences, including panels, fireside chats, masterclasses and keynote speakers, along with an Entertainment Lounge, a Beauty Lounge, and a Virtual Mall, which featured small, black-owned businesses.
Hosted by Black Enterprise digital editor and award-winning multi-media journalist Selena Hill, seasoned media and crisis communications expert, writer, and highly sought-after political analyst Rochelle Richie, and writer, journalist, entrepreneur and founder of As She Rises Kiara Tolliver, the BWIM Awards gave the space for outstanding women to have their voices and stories heard. Music for the evening was provided by DJ Nelly and DJ Rhonda Rox.
“This room is filled with excellence. It’s filled with genius, power, and magic. We constantly hear it, that there’s something different when you actually see it. There’s something different when you’re in the room and you see women, and men, who look like you and who you basically can see and touch the magic and genius. When we decided to create this space, it was because I wanted to do my small part in representing, celebrating, and recognizing black women,” says Jacques- Laguerre.
Here are some of the Black joy moments as Honorees graciously accept their awards.
Honorees in News & Journalism
“I understand the value of having a black woman document black people in Hollywood, or Hollywood generally speaking, but this last year and a half has taught all of us to really understand the significance of the power of voice. For me as a journalist, I have learned to double down in the responsibility I have to report out stories that can help a change agent. I’ve always aimed to do this as an entertainment journalist, but this last year, I’ve been able to comfortably talk with the world’s most famous people and have what I believe are very non-shallow and wholly important conversations. Because my subjects stepped their games up, became unafraid to utilize their voices, I was able to effectively bring their stories to the masses.” – Kelley L. Carter
“My platform ended up showing how multifaceted black people, black women are. And every facet of us is authentic, to us, right? It’s not us being fake. It’s not us being inauthentic. I found myself being vulnerable and transparent which was really, really hard for me to do. Talking about imposter syndrome, one thing I didn’t want to do was give the impression that I’m perfect, that I’m really confident, that I don’t have insecurities. It was through essentially other people sharing themselves with me that I ended up sharing more of myself and learning more of myself. There’s power in vulnerability. There’s power in transparency. There’s power in helping people feel seen. There’s power in lifting other people up.” – Jeannette Reyes
“I’d like to make the matriarchs of my family proud; my grandmother, and my mom. Mommy, I told you many times that I am who I am and I am where I am because you braided dreams into my hair and gave me an example of the drive that it would take to bring those dreams to fruition. I love you. Thank you will never be enough. Thank you, everyone.” – Virginia Lowman
Performance by FIKI
Honorees in Literature & Publishing
“Make sure you not only receive your flowers, but let your flowers be the petals that the next generation walks on into their world of being media moguls.” – Eden Bridgeman Sklenar
“I started life as a teacher. I was a black woman in front of black kids who didn’t feel like they had anything to read. They didn’t feel like they saw themselves in books. I wanted to be part of changing that. I’m really grateful to have found a publishing home at Penguin Random House. I hope that the books I have put out in the world over the last 20 years have done well for my students from all those years ago. I’m proud to be a part of showing them that their stories in their lives matter and will continue to matter.” – Stacey Barney
“What can be said of a soul that bears her story untold? For she is caged like a bird and trapped like a prisoner. Bound and broken and wrapped in chains. Her thoughts and experiences get cast into an endless sea, no land in sight. Oh, but the soul who dares to set her story free. Against all odds come hell or come high water, she discovers herself. The reflection of the fire she escaped and those she refused to be consumed by. Fueled purpose and burned the substance of hope and resilience. She who dares to set her story free dances in the moonlight with visions of shackles no more. She who dares to set her story free is God’s greatest masterpiece. If you remember nothing else that I’ve said to you tonight, do remember this. If you stand in your story, you will never cease to be crowned in glory.” – Ardre Orie
“I believe that Trailblazers go first so that others can go far. And if no one else understands what it’s like to embrace a path that is dark, when it’s you who has to be the light. I want to celebrate you guys for being bold and courageous enough to pursue your dreams despite not having a template or a guide.” – Sierra Rainge-Jones
Performance by The Uniondale HS Show Choir
Honorees in Entertainment
“This is really a dream personified. I’ve always wanted to make an impact on the world through music. I’ve always felt a great sense of responsibility, and having the platform to do so…There’s so much weight and levity in this fight and I just can’t even believe that I’m standing here and I’m in the room with all of you.” – Deborah Cox
Performance by NEZI
Honorees in Activism
“The truth be told, the movement that catapulted my father into leadership started because a group of women, The Women’s Political Council (WPC) of Montgomery, had been looking for an opportunity to boycott the buses in Montgomery because of all the harassment and mistreatment and lack of dignity that so many black citizens had been victim to.
So it was us black women who said that this was the time. When a black woman refused to give up her seat on that bus, there were black women in the strategy sessions with my father, including the one who was the reason why we even celebrate.
Remember a man who shifted the paradigm in this nation, my father. It was my mother who really is the architect of the King legacy, who built the largest social change brand in the world that people are continuing to draw from. So tonight I honor her, and she is looking down with my father and my sister at this moment.
God has an amazing sense of humor, because this is no accident what is happening here tonight- receiving the Black Woman In Media [Award], and the Harriet Tubman award, firstly. When I received this invitation, it was on the heels of a conversation that I was having with an older gentleman who today turned ninety years of age, and who lives in Rhinebeck, New York. This gentleman happened to be the person who my mother brought us to when my father was assassinated, to kind of check on us mentally.
I’m going to put a plug there; there’s nothing wrong in the African American community, with us seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist. It does not mean you are crazy. So this gentleman, Dr. Albert Crum was telling me, two days before I got the invitation from Judith, that my mother had a fascination for Harriet Tubman. I didn’t even know. She never shared that. It was a private fascination.
She journeyed here on a few occasions, and with Dr. Crum was able to visit Harriet Tubman’s tomb. I remember so often when I would speak around this nation lifting up the name of Harriet Tubman, in particular because I’ve always felt that we’re living beneath what God created us to be in this world. That if we only knew who we are, kings, queens and in biblical terms, kings and priests. If we would walk in the authority that God has given us, there’s no weapon no evil, and no injustice that can overtake and diminish us.” – Dr. Bernice A. King
Honorees in Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
“30 years ago, when I came to New York, I was told I would never work in magazines. I hadn’t done magazines. I didn’t know anything about fashion or beauty. I wasn’t white and I didn’t know anybody. I did not know one person. I know God, and He knows everybody. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t make it. You have to be fearless. I’m a bad*** woman. Black Lives Matter!” – Delora Jones-Blake
“You all are queens. You have power. You have strength. You have grace. You have carried so much. We carry so much. So to be honored here tonight to receive our flowers every single one of you deserves, whether you’re an honoree or not.” – Michele Meyer-Shipp
“We are both Creators and Wealth Generators for our families. We are those future Wealth Architects….we are talking about purpose in that assignment. When I left my advisor practice, it wasn’t an easy decision but it was an easy decision because it was something that God pushed me to and I leaned fully into it.” – Dana Wilson
Performance by Agyakoma
Honorees in Television & Film
“I am excited to be a black woman in the media at this time because there’s so many, many, many stories of ours that have not been told. Now the doors are definitely spreading wide open. The opportunities are there for us to be able to really forge our way into this space and control the narrative and share stories from our voice and our perspective.” – Tracey Baker Simmons
“We work in a very tough industry. Sometimes God just sends us, not sometimes, a lot of times, a glimmer of hope. Tonight, this is that glimmer of hope for me that pushes us to just keep going baby girl you’re doing the right thing. ” – Tia D. Rudd
Performance by Ryan Atkins
Honorees in Digital & Tech
“I feel like in terms of technology, you’re always going from putting out one fire to another. I hope to see a time when our vision for the future, a black women’s vision, for how we should build the future will be implemented. Instead of constantly having to fix technology that others build that harms our community.” – Timnit Gebru
“I believe God uses me as a vessel to create this work and I’m not probably your typical Honoree, but I really feel like it’s important for me to say this. I really want everyone to understand that my sole purpose and duty with Real Mood, and who I am as a person, is to really open doors and put the same people that look like me in powerful rooms and positions.” – Shantal Anderson
Honorees in Communications
“We’re all here sharing our shines with others as we continue our time. It is not about any one of us individually. It’s about us all collectively. When I see you, you see me, we’re supposed to pour into each other’s energy. It’s about sharing energized vibes. It is not about the negative, it is not about the drama.” – Andrea Holmes Thompson
“I’m inspired to level up and that’s what we do. We help each other. We raise the bar for each other so they go a little further.” – Wendy Washington
“My father has always expressed to me that there is no glory in being at the top by yourself. That it is my obligation and my assignment, to make sure that I reach back as long as I’m going up.” – Denise L. Bennett
“I want to leave you by saying that you have the power to manifest the life of your dreams. So it is up to you to move forward each and every day. By believing by serving and being intentional and showing kindness.” – Cheryl Polote Williamson
“If you guys have something on your heart and God gives you the vision, don’t question it. You may not be able to see the light at the end of the road but just know that if He gave it to you, the money is going to come and that there’s something out there bigger than you and it’s not about you at the end of the day. It’s about serving other people. If you lead with that, everything else will fall into place.” – Leah Frazier
“As much as the world tries, they truly can’t erase the most precious gift on earth; when you were designed. Never forget that the world owes you. If no one thanks you now, you’re going to tell them to thank you later because if tonight and this room is any testament, it’s that us black women, we got this.” – Courtney Richardson
Performance by SaLil Wynette
Honorees in Radio & Broadcast
“We need to be inspired. These are the times when we need to inspire one another. There’s one thing that is consistent, and that is that we’ve been blessed. My mother always said, “When you’ve been blessed, it’s your chance to be a blessing to others.” – Sheila Eldridge
“It’s more important than ever for us to stand together, band together. As women in the media, we need to own our stories, tell our stories, claim our stories, claim the truth and continue to stand up and fight for our right to be heard. Together we can and we will change the trajectory for women and girls worldwide. It does start with us being in control behind the scenes – more women telling the stories as directors, filmmakers, writers, authors choosing the images that are being put out for little girls, so that one day little black girls and little white girls, but especially little black girls like all of us in this room, can grow up really proud of the skin that they were born in, as opposed to being ashamed and feeling like it was a curse to be born in black skin like I did.” – Cathleen Trigg Jones
Additional Recognized Honorees included:
Highlights from the recent 5th Annual Black Women in Media Conference and AwardsDecember 9, 2020
Founder of media and communications BLACK STREET Judith Jacques discusses her passion for storytelling,…November 6, 2020