Rep. Karen Camper (left) and Sen. Raumesh Akbari with keynoter April Ryan. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

by Myron Mays, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Earlier this year, State Rep. Karen Camper (House Minority Leader) and State Sen. Raumesh Akbari successfully sought to celebrate the legacy of Rosa Parks through the successful passing of Tennessee Senate Bill 500, which declared December 1 of each year Rosa L. Parks Day.

The bill, which also drew the support of Gov. Bill Lee and State Reps London Lamar, Barbara Cooper, Antonio Parkinson and G.A. Hardaway, is similar to bills that have become law in other states, the first of which was Alabama.

Last Sunday evening at the National Civil Rights Museum, attendees poured in to salute the civil rights movement icon known for sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott with her refusal to give up her seat in the white-designated section of a segregated bus in 1955.

The Inaugural National Rosa Parks Day Gala also honored three phenomenal women whose lives have impacted their communities, the nation and the world. Those honorees were Democratic National Committee Senior Advisor Waikinya J. S. Clanton, Florida Senator Arthenia Joyner and CNN White House Analyst April Ryan, who also served as keynote speaker.

Gov. Lee was in the house for the event, along with Congressman Steve Cohen (Ninth District) and numerous other elected officials representing the City of Memphis, Shelby County Government and the State of Tennessee.

Clanton, the first honoree, is a nationally sought-after political operative, strategist and thought leader, having spent more than a decade as a trusted advisor to local, state and federal elected officials. Currently, she is the senior advisor to Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. She is the chairman’s chief advisor and strategist on critical matters relevant to the betterment of the Democratic Party.

A civil rights activist, Joyner is a long-time Florida public servant. With a 50-plus year legal background, Joyner is the longest-serving African-American woman lawyer in the history of Florida. Her legacy includes serving on the presidential campaigns of Shirley Chisolm, Jessie Jackson and Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

In her keynote role, Ryan delivered an address appropriately anchored on the importance of inclusion. Familiar to many as a CNN political analyst, Ryan is a Morgan State University graduate and is the only African American female journalist covering urban issues from the White House.

Through her radio program, “Fabric of America,” Ryan offers insight on racial and political issues that affect all Americans. And in keeping with the goal of inclusion, she also serves as a mentor to aspiring journalists and broadcasters.