Ford Freedom Awards in Michigan Celebrate Black Female Achievement

The 20th Annual Ford Freedom Awards ceremony was recently held May 22nd at the Michigan Opera Theater in the Detroit Opera House. Collaborating with The Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, the Ford Freedom Awards honor individuals throughout history who have made a positive impact for the African-American community. This year’s theme, “Black Girl Magic,” in particular highlighted the legacy of female leaders and the growing achievements of emerging female activists and entrepreneurs.

The Ford Freedom Award was posthumously presented to honoree Dr. Dorothy Irene Height. Remarked by many - including former President Barack Obama - as the “godmother of the civil rights movement,” Height was a prominent leader and educator who among other things helped organized the celebrated March on Washington in August 1963, and served on the National Council of Negro Women for nearly 50 years. Raising awareness for issues such as unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness, she ended up receiving both the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal a decade later. She is also the only individual to be awarded twice with a Ford Freedom Award, having previously been honored as a Scholar in 2008. Her award was accepted by former U.S Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman, and current chair of the National Council of Negro Women, Ingrid Saunders Jones.

Other nominees honored this year include recipient of the Scholar Award Jessica O. Matthews. A graduate from Harvard Business School, CEO, and inventor listed on over 10 patents and/or patents pending, she generated her first invention, the the SOCCKET (an energy-generating soccer ball), at age 19. Recently she founded Uncharted Power, a renewable power company specializing in harnessing motion energy in order to create sustainable ecosystems around the world.

The Ford Freedom Rising Star Award was received by Detroit teenager Asia Newson. Manufacturing her own hand-made candles since age 5, she now runs a successful business while also helping educate and train her salesperson peers. Having earned more than $100,000 in sales (with a portion of those proceeds donated to the homeless), the entrepreneur has also been spotlighted on national media programs including ABC News 20/20 and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

The invitation-only ceremony included an audience of 2,000 middle school students from around the state. Having submitted a two-page essay describing their personal experiences with black female excellence, the top five winners were announced along with a variety of speakers in many fields (including technological innovation, business development, education, and entertainment) and a special performance by renowned tap-dancing group the Syncopated Ladies. Following the performance, the attendants relocated to the Wright Museum for a honorees luncheon and nameplate installation ceremony.

Categories: People
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