freedom sisters_cc_fc_web.jpgThe wisdom, resiliency and brilliance of women were celebrated at two luncheons last weekend.

Celebrating the contributions of African-American women was the theme of one event Saturday. The Freedom’s Sisters Luncheon took place at the Hollywood Marriott and featured renowned poet and activist Sonia Sanchez.

The Ford Motor Company sponsored that event, which is a continuation of a three-year-old exhibit that originally honored 20 African-American women, including historical figures such as Harriett Tubman and Mary McLeod Bethune, as well as more contemporary heroines in the struggle, such as Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Myrlie Evers-Williams.

The original exhibit is an interactive, multimedia experience that was launched in 2008. As the exhibit travels the country, each destination city selects 20 of its own Freedom’s Sisters to be honored. As the fifth stop on the tour, South Florida’s Freedom’s Sisters included 20 women known for their strong community involvement and advocacy for equality and justice.

The honorees were Nichole Anderson, Karen Andre, Alison Austin, Georgia Jones Ayers, Marleine Bastien, Felicia M. Brunson, Armenthia Dozier-Hodge, Audrey M. Edmonson, Dorothy Jenkins Fields, Persephone Taylor Gary, Shirley Gibson, Thelma Gibson.

Also, Rosie Gordon-Wallace, Camille Jones, Barbara J. Jordan, Sharon Kendrick-Johnson, Sonjia Kenya, Saliha Nelson, Frederica S. Wilson and Kathleen Woods-Richardson.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson hosted her annual Women’s Empowerment Luncheon, a precursor to the city’s “Jazz in the Gardens” music festival. Held at the Westin Diplomat, also in Hollywood, the standing-room-only luncheon featured a couple of speakers who may be known more because of their significant others than for their own accomplishments.

Steadman Graham, long-time beau of Oprah Winfrey, has managed to carve out a life as a best-selling author, businessman and motivational speaker over more than 20 years. Mary Harvey, ex-wife of comedian, radio personality and author Steve Harvey, is still apparently grieving from her failed marriage and would probably be in a better position to offer advice once that process is complete.

Rounding out the panel was Sandra Yancey, founder and CEO of eWomensNetwork. She has been married for 34 years but is not in the shadows of a famous partner. Instead, she has become a partner of sorts to nearly half a million women who are members of her online network for female entrepreneurs.

Former NBC6 news anchor Julia Yarbough served as mistress of ceremonies for the event that provided motivation and techniques for success for the predominantly black female audience.

At the Freedom’s Sisters Luncheon, Sonia Sanchez, one of the nationally recognized Freedom’s Sisters, was on hand to congratulate the local sisters and inspire the audience with a poem especially composed for the occasion.

In a recent interview, Sanchez said she learned she had been named a Freedom’s Sister in a telephone call at home that she had intended to ignore.

“Oh, my goodness, what an honor! But I can give you 100 other women’s names who probably should be included in this. I am humbled by this and I am blessed by it also,” she said.

The recognition of sisterhood is special to Sanchez.

“In the freedom movement, you see mostly male figure heads. There were extraordinary women who also helped in the fight for freedom and justice,” she said as she lavished praise about the event on everyone involved.

“Brother Kevin Frazier, from Entertainment Tonight serves as the emcee of the traveling exhibit,” she said and he was also on hand for the South Florida affair.

“Sister Pamela Alexander, director of community development from Ford Motor Company, she’s the one who was responsible for implementing this exhibit,” said Sanchez.

The mother and grandmother said she is thrilled to see the impact of the exhibit on children.

“That is the joy of being a part of this exhibit,” she said. “You see children coming in and I stand back and watch them go to each individual. They push a button and they hear a voice or someone imitating their voice. You see that beauty in their eyes and that joy in their walk as they go from woman to woman.”

At Saturday’s event, Sanchez recited the poem that she penned to honor her sisters. As she ended the piece, she modified the typical masculine prayer ending to the feminine: “Amen, Amen, Awomen, Awomen, Awomen.”

Renee Michelle Harris may be reached at