GWUL CEO George H. Lambert Jr. was surprise recipient of the Legacy Award

The Greater Washington Urban League (GWUL) held its annual Courage Under Fire Awards on Monday, Oct. 24 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The awards ceremony recognized courageous leaders in the Black community who fight for civil rights. 

GWUL board members and Courage Under Fire awardees

Our democracy is being challenged at every level. The federal courts have become partisan and grown apathetic or even hostile to civil rights. The Washington Post reports that 65% of Black Americans say it is a “bad time” to be a Black person in America. In contrast, an astounding 77% of Black Americans believe it is a great time to be white. These numbers attest to the pain and inequity in our nation.

C. Blow, B. Sellers and M. Bernard Discuss implications of current political climate

The GWUL has fought for the right to a decent life and equitable representation for 84 years. The Courage Under Fire Awards celebrates victories in that fight, hard-won by social justice champions. Previous awardees include attorney Benjamin Crump, U.S. District Court judge nominee Jerry Blackwell, and renowned immunologist Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett.

Friends of GWUL

This year’s event was hosted by the nationally acclaimed attorney and social critic, Michelle Denise Bernard. Bernard is a political and social justice journalist, pundit and opinion maker, social critic, author, columnist, and public speaker. As the president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy, she focuses on domestic and foreign policy. In particular, she takes interest in the human rights of women and ethnic and religious minorities globally.


The recipients and awards for 2022 include: 

Bakari Sellers, recipient of the Black Brilliance Impact Award.

Black Brilliance Awardees Charles Blow and Bakari Sellers; Special Host, Michelle D. Barnard

Sellers, a political analyst for CNN, rose to national fame as the youngest African American to serve in the South Carolina House of Representatives. At the tender age of 22, Sellers was elected to represent the 90th District, where he fought for voters’ rights. Now, the Howard graduate continues the fight on the world stage.


Charles Blow, recipient of the Black Brilliance Impact Award.

Blow, the esteemed New York Times Opinion columnist, is known for his insightful writing on the soul of America. The talented creative is also an award-winning graphic designer whose images of 9-11 and the war in Iraq garnered international fame. This Grambling State University graduate is the author of the riveting book and play, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones.”


Virginia Ali, recipient of the Humanitarian Award.

GWUL BOD Member, Michelle Hagan Presents Humanitarian Award to Virginia Ali

Ali, owner of the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl, has provided invaluable service to the people of the District of Columbia for over 50 years. This Virginia-born beauty is lovingly known as the “Matriarch of U Street.” She serves on the boards of For Love of Children and the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage.


Denise Rolark Barnes, recipient of the Legacy Award.

GWUL BOD Member, President Wrighton Presents Legacy Award to Denise Rolark Barnes

Barnes, owner of The Washington Informer, has devoted over 50 years of dedicated service in journalism. This African American, woman-owned business is a unique outlet that gives voice to the African American experience. This tenacious Howard University graduate also leads by example through her Washington Informer Charities, which promotes literacy through writing contests and scholarships.


George H. Lambert Jr., recipient of the Legacy Leader Award.

Strong Representation by Thursday Network Young Professionals

Lambert was the surprise recipient of this final award. Before stepping into the shoes of president of the Greater Washington Urban League, this native Washingtonian was a devoted leader of the GWUL. Under his leadership as president, the League has grown from a $25 million asset under management to a $100 million asset under management agency, making the GWUL one of the largest Urban League affiliates in the nation.

This year’s prestigious award winners fight in the realms of racial equity, social justice, civil liberties, economic parity, and/or politics and have taken crucial steps toward restoring wholeness to our community and nation.

Friends of GWUL

At this year’s seminal event, the GWUL upheld its commitment to holding authentic conversations regarding social justice. The GWUL invited rising and seasoned advocates to participate in the topic for the 2022 awards, “Continuing the Equity Conversation.” These advocates called on the nation to make diversity, equity, and inclusion the benchmarks of success for companies and local communities. 

The GWUL designed donation tiers for attendees of the Courage Under Fire Awards and was overwhelmed by the generosity of supporters. These contributions are crucial to the League’s efforts. With the funds raised at this and other events, the GWUL provides the community with housing services, financial therapy, emergency assistance, entrepreneurship development, educational assistance, and family wellness.

Friends of GWUL

Since 1938, the Greater Washington Urban League has touched more than five million lives, serving as both a safety net and facilitator of opportunity in Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County, Maryland. As one of the region’s longest-standing civil rights organizations, GWUL continues to carve a path towards justice.

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1 Comment

  1. I pray that someone will investigate the
    silent Assassination of black and Brown generational wealth in our communities

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