By Shirley Hawkins
WESTCHESTER — The Black Women’s Network honored three woman from South Los Angeles who have made their mark on their community at the 38th annual Black Women’s Network’s Business Career and Networking Breakfast Forum Oct. 27 at the Proud Bird restaurant.
More than 400 women gathered to pay homage to three community leaders and their life of service.
This year’s honorees were U. S. Rep. Maxine Waters, who received the Political Giant Lifetime Social Justice Advocate and Community Builder Award; legendary blues and jazz singer Barbara Morrison, who received the Lifetime Achievement Music and the Arts Award; and Areva Martin, author, civil rights attorney, CNN analyst, founder of the law firm Martin and Martin LLP and “Face the Truth” television co-host, who received the Community and Social Issues Advocate and Media Power Broker Award.
Serving as mistress of ceremonies for the event was Judge Mablean Ephriam, television host of the court show “Justice with Judge Mablean.”
Ephriam paid homage to the enduring historical resilience of black women by observing, “Life throws us curves, but we dodge the curves and keep on moving.”
Waters received a standing ovation as she ascended the podium.
“I am honored and pleased to be here today and I want to thank you so very much for this award,” Waters told the capacity crowd, thanking the awards committee and her late friend, Marva Smith Battle-Bey, who founded the Black Women’s Network.
Waters addressed the recent incident where a suspect shipped explosive packages in the mail addressed to her and several other prominent politicians.
“I know that you have been inundated with all of the information about the bombs,” she said. “The suspect’s fingerprints were on the bombs and he was arrested. I told him not to mess with me,” said Waters, whose quip was greeted with thunderous applause.
The congresswoman, the fifth of 13 children who grew up in St. Louis, revealed that she drew her indomitable strength from her mother, Beverly Moore.
“My mother taught me to be responsible and that we are our brother’s keeper,” Waters said. “She kept us in church and she prayed on Sunday that Monday would be better.” Pausing, she added, “There are a lot of Beverly Moore’s all over the country and all over the world who make do with whatever they have.
“I’m blessed that my mother gave me the strength and fortitude to run for Congress and to serve the people. Do you think I’m going to let number 45 mess with that?” Waters said, referring to President Donald Trump. “I don’t think so.”
Waters criticized the president for his previous unflattering comments about women and the disabled.
“Trump talked about grabbing women’s private parts and made fun of handicapped people. I say ‘no’ to Donald Trump,” Waters said. “As long as I’m on the [congressional] floor, I will not kneel for one second.”
Waters then recognized and paid homage to the centuries of African-American ancestors who had sacrificed their lives striving for freedom.
“Our foremothers and forefathers died to make democracy stronger and to make this country better,” she said.
Referring to the upcoming elections, Waters said, “These midterm elections are absolutely important. I want you to vote like your life depended on it. I want you to get up early or flock to the polling booth during your lunch hour and vote.
“I want to continue to fight for justice and equality to make the United States of America better,” Waters concluded.
Morrison, who has performed throughout the country and abroad, slowly approached the stage and said she was humbled to receive her award.
“When my leg was amputated, I said, ‘What can I do?’ she recalled. “I thought about it and said, ‘I know. I’ll start a center where people can congregate and come together.’ I opened the California Jazz and Blues Museum and the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles’ Leimert Park district,” Morrison said proudly.
A huge supporter of the arts, Morrison said that the California Jazz and Blues Museum is the home of the nonprofit Harmony Project, where inner-city youth receive tuition-free music education.
“They have educated 2,200 kids who regularly rehearse at the museum with their musical instruments,” she said.
“I grew up in the housing projects in East St. Louis,” said the next honoree Areva Martin. “My grandmother and my godmother taught me the value of hard work, so I stand on some really broad shoulders.”
Martin graduated from Harvard Law School with honors and after working for several large corporate law firms ventured out and started her own law firm, Martin & Martin LLP.
“I wanted to help people in my own community,” she said.
But the growing pains of starting a new law firm eventually took its toll.
“I almost gave up, but my grandparent wouldn’t let me. She encouraged me to keep going,” Martin said.
Today, Martin & Martin is the largest African-American female-owned law firm in Los Angeles. Martin is also the founder of the nonprofit Special Needs Network which provides resources for special needs children and their families.
Martin thanked Black Women’s Network for her award and said that she is a big believer in integrity.
“Being true to what I believe in then and now is the only option,” she said.
Other speakers dispensing words of advice during the breakfast were financial advisor Patrice Washington, communication expert Sarita Maybin, authenticity expert Norma Hollis, motivational speaker Jewel Diamond Taylor and psychologist Thema Bryant-Davis.