20th Anniversary of The Black Women’s Expo’s Phenomenal Woman Awards Features Rev. Al Sharpton

In 1993, Joycelyn Elders became the first African American and the first woman United States Surgeon General and Toni Morrison was the first African American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. That same year the Black Women’s Expo opened in Chicago to meet the informational, educational, and entertainment needs of African American women. And now, more than a generation later, the Black Women’s Expo celebrated its 20th anniversary and remains one of Chicago’s most anticipated annual events. The event was held March 28 – 30, 2014 at McCormick Place and just as it did when it debuted in 1993, kicked off with the Phenomenal Woman Awards Gala paying tribute to 20 outstanding Chicago area women. Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network – a not-for-profit civil rights organization -- keynoted the event honoring these outstanding women.

The Phenomenal Woman Awards Gala pays tribute to women who have led exemplary lives full of community service, mentorship, entrepreneurship, and professionalism demonstrating tremendous leadership in a wide variety of fields. The event was co-hosted by Cheryl Burton, award-winning news anchor at ABC7, and popular comedian Damon Williams, a Chicago native.

The Phenomenal Woman awardees were nominated by community leaders and voted on by members of The Black Women’s Expo Advisory Panel based on their qualifications and service. These talented women continue to successfully multi-task by serving in professional capacities in corporations, foundations, institutions of higher learning, non-profits, political settings, churches and religious organizations, entrepreneurial businesses, healthcare, community service, and philanthropy.

The 2014 - 20th Anniversary Phenomenal Women were:

Maria M. Ashley DDS – Dentist, Dental Educator & Entrepreneur
Michelle T. Boone – Commissioner, City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events
Cynthia E. Boyd, M.D. – Associate Vice President/Chief Compliance & Privacy Officer, Rush University Medical Center
Jeanna Bridges – Head of Diversity and Inclusion, BMO Harris Bank U.S.
Julia Brown – Chief Procurement Officer & Senior Vice President of Global Procurement, Mondelez International
Dr. Wynetta Frazier – Assistant Pastor, The Life Center of God in Christ & Assistant Jurisdictional Supervisor of Women,
Church of God in Christ
Connie Lindsay – Executive Vice President, Northern Trust and National President, Girl Scouts of the USA
Ameena Matthews – Senior Violence Interrupter, Ceasefire
Brittney Payton – Spokesperson, Walter & Connie Payton Foundation & Host, Chicago’s Best on WGN-TV
Mable Buckner-Payton – President & CEO, Streeterville Chamber of Commerce
Ayoka Noelle Samuels – Senior Program Director, Gary Comer Youth Center
Carolyn House Stewart – International President, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority & Attorney, MacFarlane Ferguson & McMullen
Regina Taylor – Award-winning Actress, Playwright & Director and Artistic Associate, Goodman Theatre
Roxanne Ward – Consultant & Project Manager, National Minority Supplier Development Council
Joyce Washington – President and CEO, The Washington Group
Debra Wesley – President, Sinai Community Institute & Executive VP of Community Outreach, Sinai Health System
Marilyn Ross Wiley – First Lady, Rock of Ages Baptist Church
Carol H. Williams – President, CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Carol H. Williams Advertising
Karen Freeman-Wilson – Mayor of Gary, Indiana

Charmaine Rickette, president and CEO of Uncle Remus Saucy Fried Chicken, received the Launa T. Thompson Spirit Award,
a special honor reserved for a woman who exhibits many of the characteristics of the late Launa T. Thompson who was a giant in the radio industry and a humanitarian dedicated to helping others. Since 1999, Rickette has served as CEO of her family business and spearheaded the opening of a second restaurant in 2004. She made history for the business as Uncle Remus became the first non-national chain restaurant to operate inside the first urban location of a Wal-Mart. Rickette’s leadership and commitment to human capital have resulted in the business taking an active role in providing opportunities for former gang members, substance abusers, and homeless citizens. The Uncle Remus brand also does community outreach through donations to and involvement in community block clubs, events, and organizations.

Sharpton shared stories from his career in civil rights and lauded the achievements of African American women to the delight of the audience, even pointing out that today a Black women and her two daughters are the occupants of the White House. Throughout his illustrious career, Sharpton has challenged the American political establishment to include all people regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, or beliefs. Sharpton’s oratorical skills have served as a platform for making changes in the American social and political status quo. He is the host of a daily talk show on MSNBC that features many of the country’s leading newsmakers, as well as a nationally syndicated radio show.

Entertainment for the Phenomenal Woman Awards Gala was provided by Smokie Norful, Grammy-award-winning recording artist.

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