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The Voice of the Black Community


Women honored for achievements in medicine, education, business, service
Published Tuesday, March 5, 2019
by Freda Freeman, Correspondent

DURHAM – If I can fly, any little black girl can fly, Jaki Shelton Green said during Aura Galleria’s third annual Our Minds, Our Voices women’s awards luncheon Saturday.

The event, held in observance of National Women’s History Month, honored women for their achievements in medicine, mental health, education, business, technology, social justice, civil service, public service, humanities and fashion. In a packed banquet room at the JB Duke Hotel, the women shared their stories of scaling new heights despite the odds.

Recognized for her work in the humanities, Green, the current North Carolina poet laureate, recalled the day the governor called to tell her he had named her the first African-American and third woman to hold the honor.

“And, on that day, I truly understood what it meant to be held on the breath and the wings of our ancestors. There is an African proverb that states ‘where we stand in our youth will determine where we sit as elders,’ ” she said. “I don’t just represent Jaki Shelton Green, I represent all of us, and I know it is the prayers, the light, the good stuff that folk send me in the middle of the night that keeps me going, keeps me flying, so I’m grateful.”

Cathy Hughes, founder of Urban One, Inc. (formerly Radio One), the largest black-owned broadcast company in the country, was honored as the 2019 Woman of Influence. Hughes founded Radio One in 1980, and, in Jan. 2004, she launched TV One, a national cable and satellite television network.

Hughes talked about being the general manager of WHUR-FM, Howard University’s radio station, and turning it into a million-dollar business. She is credited with revolutionizing urban radio when she created the programming format for Quiet Storm, which was aired on more than 480 stations nationwide.

Hughes (above, right) regaled the attendees with wit and humor as she shared her story as a radio and television personality and business executive. She discussed everything from her start in radio, to what it was like to work with her son, to how she handled critics, to losing all she had and gaining it back.

Hughes said while starting her business during lean times, she lived in her office, sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor and washing up in a public bathroom. She said her mother – her biggest but most loving critic – begged her to get a “good government job” and asked if she knew how crazy she looked sleeping on the floor. Joking, Hughes said she still throws that up in her mother’s face to this day, saying, “You see how crazy I look now.” Hughes said very often challenges turn out to be blessings, adding that she’s glad her mother, who’s 95, lived to see where she is today.

Hughes encouraged the audience to become entrepreneurs and to leave a legacy of generational businesses. Sharing words of wisdom from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Hughes said two things you should never aspire to need is a resume and a business card; instead, your life should speak for you.

“If you really do the will of God, if you really are living your life to your full potential, you should never need a resume. They’ll come get you, they will find you,” she said.

The 2019 Women of Distinction are Green – humanities; Tonya Armstrong – mental health; Shirley Arrington – education; Omisade Burney-Scott – social justice; Brenda Howerton – public service; Sandra Johnson – technology; Kristi Jones – civil service; Chelsea Kithcart – fashion; Lesleigh Mausi – business; and Desiree Palmer – medical.

  • Armstrong, a licensed psychologist, is the founder and CEO of The Armstrong Center for Hope, which works to cultivate psychological and spiritual wellness for all ages.
  • Arrington has over 34 years of service to public education as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. In 2006, she was appointed executive director of the N.C. Model Teacher Education Consortium.
  • Burney-Scott is the director of strategic partnerships and advocacy for SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice collective. SisterSong’s End Shackling NC campaign works to end the practice of shackling pregnant women who are incarcerated.
  • Howerton serves on the Durham County Board of Commissioners. As president of the N.C. Association of Counties, she is the first county commissioner to be elected to a statewide senior leadership office.
  • Johnson is the founder and CEO of Global Mobile Finance, Inc., a financial technology startup company in Research Triangle Park.
  • In 2017, Jones was appointed chief of staff for the governor’s office, making her the first black woman to hold the position.
  • Working in the beauty and fashion industry, Kithcart has been a model for more than seven years.
  • Mausi is co-owner and vice president of Durham-based Art of Cool Music Festival, one of the country’s largest weekend music festivals.
  • Palmer is a dentist who owns two practices in Durham.



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