NCNW Board Chair Looks Back to Look Forward for Upcoming
UNCOMMON HEIGHT AWARDS GALA
(WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 26, 2023) — National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) signature fundraiser, Uncommon Height Awards Gala, will return on Dec. 8 for the 18th year. The biennial event will be held at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort in Oxon Hill, Md. For 2023, it marks a new era that not only is rooted in glitz and glamor of yesteryear, but technology and inclusion in this new era. This is exactly what Dr. A. Lois Keith, board chair of NCNW, envisioned.
“The Uncommon Height Galas were almost like you were stepping into a fantasy land. They were so beautiful and magical. Invitations were hand signed personally and mailed. This year is where tradition meets technology,” said Dr. Keith. “In our new era, the year’s event will be just as memorable and magical with technology to allow everyone near and far the wonderful experience.”
The gala is named in honor of NCNW President Emerita, Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, who led the organization for over 50 years and achieved notoriety due to her immense contributions to economic justice, civil rights, and education, and honors, with the Crystal Stair Award, an individual who demonstrates a lifetime devoted to the protection of freedom and pursuit of excellence in career and personal dedication to humanity as did Dr. Height. The 2021 recipients were Kenneth and Kathryn Chenault.
Dr. Keith, the first NCNW membership chair appointed by Dr. Height, recalls the excitement was always about who was going to be awarded the Crystal Stair Award. Dr. Keith recalled that the event was so ceremonial, and it was absolutely honor be able to present someone with the award for the work they had done. Her most memorable honoree was Sidney Poiter. She said, “Every one of the recipients was very important, but this one was special. This one stands out the most because the board members were on the stage during the event and somehow, I stood by Sidney. He put his arm around me. I would not move at all. I just happen to be at the right place at the right time. Alexis [Herman] and Dr. [Thelma T.] Daley still laugh about it right now. The picture still hangs in the hallway of my home.”
This extravaganza started as a birthday celebration that brought out the who is who of Black America and quickly turned to an event to raise funds for the building, programs, and operational costs, which continues to this day. Past attendees were the late greats as poet, Dr. Maya Angelou, and critically acclaimed actress, Cicely Tyson, former Essence editor, Susan Taylor, the incomparable Oprah Winfrey, singer-songwriter Kenny Lattimore, and many more. While the glitz and glamor will continue, technology will be incorporated into the event to allow those who always wanted the gala experience to attend.
Dr. Keith reminisces on how, to Dr. Height, it was the icing on the cake to invite hundreds and hundreds of people to come to a black-tie event to recognize or pay homage to people who have done well and have been contributors in their own way to the community. Giving back in every way.
“This year we will not be short on celebrating contributions of so many, as well as having many gathered as Dr. Height did to celebrate with us. With there being a digital option, everyone will be able to attend. I want everyone to experience the same magic that I experienced over the years. With streaming, everyone will be able to participate where they are, live and in living color, dressed in their finest. Everyone feel they are in the ballroom.”
From the event, 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 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 sponsors.
NCNW is an “organization of organizations,” comprised of 330 campus and community-based sections and 33 national women’s organizations that enlightens, inspires, and connects 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.
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