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Closing out Women’s History Month in a big way, the National Women’s History Museum honored sheroes who continue to fight for equity and justice with an awards gala at the Schuyler Hamilton Hotel in northwest D.C.
Recognizing them as living history-makers, the “Women Making History Awards Gala 2023,” honored barrier-breaking supermodel and entrepreneur Ashley Graham, civil rights activist Willie Pearl Mackey King, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), and actresses, philanthropists and human rights advocates Sharon Stone and Uma Thurman, all of whom were in attendance for the evening of celebration.
“Women have been at the bottom of the ladder for many, many years. And to now see women getting credit for what they’re doing, or what they’ve been doing all along, is amazing. I love it,” said King, who from February 1962 to February 1966, worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She is also credited, along with Dr. Wyatt Tee, for transcribing Dr. King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” originally written by the late activist on table napkins, toilet paper, newspaper edges and other torn scraps he could find.
Celebrated for typing one of the most famous documents of the civil rights movement, King and many of the honorees, emphasized that the honor is both humbling and activating. As the honorees expressed gratitude for the award, many offered reminders to continue sharing and elevating herstories and persist in the fight for women’s rights.
Inaugural Exhibition Serves as Education and Inspiration
The awards gala followed an exciting week for the National Women’s History Museum, which since its inception in 1996, never had a physical exhibit until March 2023. “We Who Believe in Freedom: Black Feminist DC,” the museum’s inaugural exhibition, located at Martin Luther King Jr. Library in northwest D.C., proved as not only a source of entertainment but also education and inspiration for many of the gala guests and honorees.
Susan Whiting, chair of the museum’s board, told The Informer the exhibit is a perfect outing for the whole family.
“It’s for everybody — for young and old. You’ll learn something about Washington, D.C., and the incredible impact Black women had in D.C. and the history of the city,” she said. “So put that on your list to do.”
After taking in the exhibit — located in a library in the nation’s capital — Stone shared with the Informer the importance of elevating women and other marginalized groups, particularly in relation to current political and social happenings in the United States.
“We just came from the Black women’s history exhibit and it was beautiful and really a long time coming and very important. And it just made me think, particularly on this moment of Trump’s indictment, that I really hope we can also remember, that it’s time to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, because this was yet another one of Trump’s crimes, to disenfranchise the history of Black women,” Stone said, referencing the former president, who in 2016 suggested Tubman be placed on the no-longer-printed $2 bill. “We cannot disenfranchise, Black people, brown people, LGBT people, women — this is more than half of our nation, it’s more than half of the world.”
Women’s Herstory Matters
Closing out Women’s History Month with a bang, the event underscored the incredible value women and their stories have on the nation and world.
Chaired by Cheri Kaufman, the awards gala included video greetings from honorary co-chairs Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. Throughout the evening, comedian Zarna Garg kept the audience entertained, sharing hilarious, critical jokes that offered social commentary and simultaneously uplifted women.
As the event raised funds through its silent auction, guests were also treated to an open bar, a three-course meal, entertainment from an all-women band and performances from Tony-nominated Broadway actress and recording artist Laura Bell Bundy, singer and songwriter PatriceLIVE, and vocalist Shayna Steele.
Celebrating women’s history, as model and honoree Graham stressed in a red carpet interview, helps generations to come.
“I think about the other generations and I think about how they are the ones who are going to continue our legacy, and I want them to feel confident, I want them to know where they came from. I want them to know their worth isn’t wrapped up in their body and that is something that I am constantly, every day, trying to achieve,” Graham told The Informer.
The model and mother also relayed an empowering message.
“Keep going, your story is worth it. Your story matters!”