Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson (Courtesy of NCNW)

The historic National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) will convene in D.C. this weekend for its Biennial Affiliate Assembly and to pay special tribute to two legendary African-Americans.

The Friday, Nov. 3 event, which takes place 6:30 p.m. at the JW Marriott in Northwest, will recognize famed actress Cicely Tyson with the Crystal Stair Award — the council’s highest honor — and present radio host Tom Joyner as Man of the Year, for his dedication to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

“This is a very difficult time in America right now, but as our history shows, prolific women and men continue to push forward to improve the quality of life for all African-Americans,” said Janice Mathis, NCNW executive director. “This year we honor Ms. Cicely Tyson, who throughout out her legendary career, has exhibited roles that have always shown women of color in positive, strong images and Mr. Tom Joyner, who has never wavered in his dedication to empowering HBCUs, raising more than $65 million in their support through the Tom Joyner Foundation.”

Tyson, who has always been heavily involved in the civil rights movement, has since 1996 served as the guiding force of the Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts.

The $143 million institution is geared toward academic and creative expression for more than 1,200 students (K-12), which Ingrid Saunders Jones, national chair of NCNW, said exemplifies why Tyson “is a role model to all.”

On the following day, the NCNW will hold its Biennial Affiliate Assembly, where women leaders from every state in the country will meet to prioritize and discuss the organization’s four target goals: Education, Health, Entrepreneurship and sound Public Policy.

“This weekend is more than just an awards event,” Mathis said. “It’s about the convening of a large body of strong women, passionate about the same issues. We have over 3 million members working together to keep the rich legacy of our institution alive.”

Founded in 1935 by Mary McLeod Bethune, NCNW is a coalition of some the nation’s most powerful and influential women’s groups, with a mission to lead, advocate for and empower women of African descent, their families and communities.

“When the NCNW was founded, it was due to the mass lynchings happening around the country,” Mathis said. “During that time whenever anyone experienced a lynching, members would wear black armbands. In 1935, those armbands were worn 600 times. Many people may wonder why organizations such as these are still important, but it seems that with all the mass killings that are still happening today, that the NCNW is just as relevant now as it was back then.”

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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