36th Annual BWA Symposium Luncheon


Four U.S. Congresswomen Inducted into Organization as Honorary Members

WASHINGTON, DC — September 20, 2013 — One month after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s momentous address, The Black Women's Agenda, Inc. (BWA) celebrated five inspirational women for their efforts to advance the dream in the fields of health, education, the arts, community service and economic development. The women were recognized at the BWA's 36th Annual Symposium and Awards Luncheon held today at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington.

Founded and headquartered in the nation's capital, The Black Women's Agenda is a national non-profit organization that generates support and awareness for issues that secure, advance and protect the rights and well-being of Black women and their families. It is comprised of 19 collaborating women's organizations - sororities, civic, service and faith-based - representing millions of women worldwide. Over the past year, the organization has raised its voice and mobilized support around numerous issues affecting its constituency, including, voter registration and voting rights, gun control, breast cancer awareness and prevention, balanced deficit reduction and STEM training for Black girls.

"To realize the world we want to live in and leave for our children, women are going to have to pick up our communities and carry them on our backs to the Promised Land," said BWA President, Gwainevere Hess. "The women we honor with our awards are goal-focused, results-driven change agents who are taking the lead in helping to reshape our reality."

In a candlelight ceremony the night before the Awards Luncheon, BWA inducted several U.S. Congresswomen into the organization as honorary members. They included: The Honorable Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio); The Honorable Donna Edwards (D-Maryland); The Honorable Barbara Lee (D-California), and The Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas).

"The Black Women's Agenda is a vibrant, action-oriented organization that is dedicated to ensuring that Black women have a seat at the tables where decisions are being made that affect their lives and those of their families and communities," said U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty. "I am delighted to be counted among their honorary members."

In addition, BWA partnered with the AARP Foundation to host a workshop designed to raise awareness about the impact of caregiving on African-American women and their families. Statistics indicate that, among the U.S. adult population, 65.7 million provide care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged.1 Industry leaders and medical experts helped participants understand the stresses associated with caring for individuals living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, and provided information, resources and tools to help participants prepare for family caregiving.

This year, The Black Women's Agenda presented the following awards:

  • President's Award
    Ingrid Saunders Jones

    As a Senior Vice President of External Relations and Global Community Connections for The Coca-Cola Company, and as Chairperson of The Coca-Cola Foundation, Ms. Jones was instrumental in helping to establish Coca-Cola as a global leader in community, philanthropic and civic affairs. She is currently the chairperson of the National Council of Negro Women.

  • Education Award
    Melissa V. Harris-Perry

    Harris-Perry is a professor of political science at Tulane University, where she is founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. Professor Harris-Perry is also host of the MSNBC show "Melissa Harris-Perry."

  • Health Award
    Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA

    As President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey leads one of America's largest philanthropic organizations devoted to health and health care. Under her leadership, the Foundation is focusing on several "high-impact" priorities, including: designing a more effective, performance-driven, patient-centered health system; improving the quality and safety of patient care, and reversing childhood obesity by 2015.

  • Economic and Business Award
    Jo Ann Jenkins

    Ms. Jenkins is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of AARP. She also serves as President of the AARP Foundation, the organization's affiliated charity. Since joining the Foundation in 2010, she has revitalized the organization, creating a new structural framework that has advanced its work in assisting more than five million older vulnerable, low-income people each year.

  • Bright Future Award
    Ronnise Denitra Owens

    A magna cum laude graduate of Heritage High School in Conyers, GA, Miss Owens served as president of DECA, an organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. She placed second in DECA's state competition for high school students in "Professional Selling," and competed in the organization's international competition in "Principles Business Management and Administration." Miss Owens has also initiated numerous toy and blanket drives and helped to feed the homeless and families of children suffering with illnesses. A freshman at Spelman College, she is majoring in psychology and hopes to pursue a career in neuropsychology.

For additional information about The Black Women's Agenda, please visit


Photo's from the 36th Annual Symposium Luncheon

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1 The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP (2009), Caregiving in the U.S. National Alliance for Caregiving. Washington, DC.

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