National NCNW News




Bernadine Stallings, NCNW,
Whitney Guilford, NCNW.
Tonita Perry, APR, Eaddy Perry & Associates, Inc.,, 704-965-6956



November 1, 2023



18th BIENNIAL UnCommon Height Award Gala

WASHINGTON, D.C. – National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) is pleased to announce Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, president/general secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC), will be the recipient of the Crystal Stair Award at the signature fundraiser, Uncommon Height Awards Gala, on Dec. 8, at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort in Oxon Hill, Md.  The Crystal Stair Award is presented to an individual who demonstrates a lifetime devoted to the protection of freedom, the pursuit of excellence in their career and personal dedication to humanity as did Dr. Dorothy I. Height, President Emerita of NCNW. The 2021 recipients were Kenneth and Kathryn Chenault.

“Class, elegance, strength, power, and success are all characteristics of recipients of the Crystal Stair Award. The recipients have journeyed to reach the pinnacle of service. It takes dedication, endurance, and determination to climb the winding staircase of life, and Bishop McKenzie embodies what this award is with her accomplishments,” said NCNW National Board Chair Dr. A. Lois Keith. “She is very deserving. Bishop McKenzie represents strength and endurance being the first Black female Bishop in the AME church among others. She did not reach it by just saying, ‘I will just follow the powers that be;’ she kept going and endured.”

Full of firsts for women in the faith community, Bishop McKenzie is the first African American woman to hold both the president and general secretary positions at the National Council of Churches. She provides executive leadership to 37 communions (denominations) representing 100,000 churches and 30 million people. In addition, she also was the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first female elected to Episcopal office in the more than the two-century-old AME Church. Bishop McKenzie is the first female to serve as President of the Council of Bishops and President of the General Board.

An advocate for the community, she has been active in social justice issues for more than three decades. Bishop McKenzie was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama to be on the inaugural White House Commission of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnership. This group worked on behalf of Americans committed to improving their communities, no matter their religious or political beliefs. She was named by Huffington Post in 2014 as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women Religious Leaders in the World.

Characterized as “an electrifying preacher,” Bishop McKenzie continues to preach and teach globally as well as serve as a workshop/seminar instructor for congregations, corporations, and a variety of organizations on the topics of advocacy, women, and leadership.

NCNW President and CEO Shavon Arline-Bradley said, “Whenever I think of a person who has braved breaking the glass ceiling for not just Black women, but women in the faith community, I think of Bishop Murphy McKenzie. Breaking glass ceilings, all while making a commitment and doing the work to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves tells us she is selfless. She is about community, and you can see it in all her endeavors.  We are honored to give her her flowers by awarding her the Crystal Stair Award. Dr. Height would be so pleased, as she too knew of the ongoing work of the Bishop.”

From the signature fundraiser, NCNW is hoping to raise $1M to bolster programs coming out of the new era that make a difference and touch lives, not only here in the US, but also abroad. Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor and President of the Dorothy I. Height Education Foundation Alexis Herman and President and CEO of The Memorial Foundation and Chair of the NCNW Charles L. Franklin Associates Harry E. Johnson, Sr., Esq. are co-chairs of this year’s event. Toyota Motor Company of North America will once again be the presenting sponsor.

NCNW is an “organization of organizations,” comprised of 330 campus and community-based sections and 33 national women’s organizations that enlighten, inspire, and connect more than 2,000,000 women and men. Its mission is to lead, advocate for, and empower women of African descent, their families, and communities. It was founded in 1935 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, an influential educator and activist.

To attend and for more information, visit or

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