They came by the hundreds on Saturday, July 14 to celebrate and honor the empowerment of African American women. The inaugural Black Women’s Empowerment Brunch was held at the City Winery and was a cooperative venture of the new Black Women for Tennessee and their parent group The Equity Alliance. The purpose of the program was to both honor three specific notable women leaders and to raise funds so as to carry forth the mission of the organizations.
The three honorees on the day were (alphabetically): Senator Thelma Harper, Dr. Lois Jordan, and Monique N. Odum. Their recognition came at the end of a long luncheon program and was preceded by several speeches and presentations, including a keynote address by Dr. Shanna Jackson, President of Nashville State Community College.
At the top of the program, Charlane Oliver, Board President of The Equity Alliance welcomed the audience and honorees. Mariah Cole, a Board member of The Equity Alliance, introduced the Mistress of Ceremonies for the day, Yolonda Beech, radio personality of WQQK 92.1 FM. Yolonda then proceeded to give the Roll Call, answered by dozens of local civic and political leaders, past and present.
Answering the Call were, among others, Congressman Jim Cooper, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, Honoree State Senator Thelma Harper, State Senator Jeff Yarbro, State Representative Harold Love, State Representative Raumesh Akbari, State Representative Brenda Gilmore, State Representative Craig Fitzhugh, Honoree former Metro Councilwoman Dr. Lois Jordan, Metro Councilwoman At-Large Sharon Hurt, Metro Councilwoman At-Large Erica Gilmore, Metro Councilman At-Large Jim Shulman, Metro Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher, Metro Councilwoman Jacobia Dowell, Metro Councilwoman Brenda Haywood, Metro Councilwoman Sheri Weiner, Metro school board member Christiane Buggs, Metro school board member Sharon Gentry, Criminal Court Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton, General Sessions Judge Allegra Walker, Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry, Register of Deeds- Elect Karen Johnson, and Public Defender- Elect Martesha Johnson. Also recognized were Honoree Metro Parks Director Monique Odum; Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini; and Ashford Hughes, Emily Passini, and Hershell Warren from the Mayor’s Office.
Yolonda also noted that the Alliance had reached out to include guests from Free Hearts (which works with formerly incarcerated mothers); Oasis Center (which focuses on teen crisis intervention); and The YWCA of Middle Tennessee (who works with domestic violence survivors). Also specially invited guests were two mothers of Waffle House victims (who received a standing ovation).
She thanked the sponsors for the event: Jim Cooper for Congress, Craig Fitzhugh for Governor, Karl Dean for Governor, BAM! Social Business firm, Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi, Tee Wilson Marketing and Consulting, and the R.H. Boyd Publishing Company.
She acknowledged the Black Women for Tennessee Coalition Partners: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. – Pi Nu Omega (Murfreesboro); Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. – Upsilon Psi Omega (Nashville); Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. – Nashville Alumnae Chapter; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. – Nashville Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter; Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. – Pi Zeta Chapter (Nashville); Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. – Upsilon Sigma Chapter (Nashville); Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. – Kappa Tau Sigma Alumnae Chapter (Murfreesboro); Healthy and Free Tennessee; Parthenon Links, Inc.; Nashville Chapter The Links, Inc.; Music City Chapter The Links, Inc.; National Association of University Women – Middle TN Branch; National Council of Negro Women – Middle Tennessee; National Coalition of 100 Black Women; National Hook-Up of Black Women; Les Gemmes, Inc.; Napier-Looby Bar Association; Lawyer’s Association for Women; Emerge Tennessee; Urban League Young Professionals; Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood; Clerisy Circle; Top Ladies of Distinction – Nashville Capitol City Chapter; National Consortium of Black Women in Ministry (NCBWIM) Nashville Chapter; and the Women’s Political Collaborative of Tennessee.
Tia Smedley gave a stirring Spoken Word Performance and was followed by Special Guest Remarks by former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. Bredesen recalled moving to Nashville with his wife Andrea decades ago when she got a job in Nashville, and how he eventually came to form is own company, find success, get elected mayor of the city and afterward governor of the state. He elucidated his reasons for being the best choice now to serve Tennesseans in the U.S. Senate. State Senator Thelma Harper later noted the contributions of former Nashville Mayor and later Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen in her acceptance speech.
Also Sharon Hurt, who introduced Lois Jordan, commented that “Voting is power,” She also noted the distinction between career politicians and former Governor Bredesen: “Career politicians are those who take taxpayers money and pay their bills. You have a job!”
Councilwoman Tanaka Vercher introduced Parks Director Monique N. Odum, as an organized, multifaceted and fearless, empowered, confident, accomplished, courageous, bold, ambitious, and strong woman. Odum responded, noting that “much of what you do and all of what I do is service.”
Martesha Johnson closed the event by giving The Charge, stating that attendees had heard the messages, and now it’s time to go to work on the four main issues: economic equality, criminal justice reform, voting rights, and education.