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Women Bisnow
February 26, 2008

Phenomenal Women

This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business

Thurgood Marshall once said, "In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the greatest tribute."  Last Friday, the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage followed through on that sentiment by holding its first annual Phenomenal Women Awards in conjunction with Black History Month. Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Barbara Lee, former DC Council chair Linda Cropp, Venture Philanthropy Partners CEO Carol Thompson Cole, and DC Chamber CEO Barbara Lang were honored for their contributions to the city and nation.



Barbara Lang, left, with Thelma Jones, who opened the evening with a reading of Maya Angelou's poem "Phenomenal Woman." When Lang accepted her award, she spoke of growing up in Jacksonville, Florida during segregation: "I used to take the bus to school and there was a sign that said white seat from front, colored seat from rear. One day I sat on the bench behind the driver as the bus was full. A white man came and said I was supposed to sit in the back. I said, 'I'm not moving, I was here first.' And he sat on me. Luckily I had just sharpened a bunch of pencils that day to do my homework and they went directly you know where. The driver was scared there would be a race riot and called the police. I just knew that I was doing what I was supposed to do." That girl on the bus is now leading the largest business organization in the region.


Linda Cropp and husband Dwight Cropp.  Linda, who started her public service in the classrooms of DC, noted that her husband went to summer camp in the very same building where she was being recognized. Teddy Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for the historic building, the country's first African-American YMCA, which at various times served as a living quarters for Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, and Thurgood Marshall himself.  "We must follow the legacy that Thurgood Marshall left for us," said Cropp. "No matter who we are or who we think we are, someone helped us along the way."


Carol Thompson Cole thanked her husband Curtis Cole, Jr., whom she called a "phenomenal man."  Carol said, "I have always gained strength and inspiration from the incredible women around me.  The challenges for young women today are different and greater."  She asked everyone present to help out the next generation.


JC Hayward, second from right, served as the evening's Mistress of Ceremonies after celebrating her 36th anniversary with Channel 9 the day before. "Many African-American women will forever remain nameless," she said. "Some have legacies who will stand the test of time."  She noted Sojourner Truth who took on the problem of black female invisibility with her "Ain't I a Woman?" speech.


Cecilia Marshall, right, wife of the late Thurgood Marshall and honorary Chair of the Board of Directors of the Center, with attorney Theresa Watson. JC Hayward said, "Anyone who has the opportunity to be in the presence of Cecilia Marshall, you don't turn that down. It's like being in the presence of royalty."

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