By Bernal E. Smith, II

Ten years ago, The New Tri-State Defender (TSD) proclaimed to Greater Memphis that the contributions and achievements of black women in our community had for too long gone under recognized and celebrated. We declared that we would take the lead in remedying that problem. TSD introduced a platform, our Women of Excellence (WOE) Awards Celebration, to solicit input from our readership and the community-at-large to identify, aggregate and celebrate the individual and collective contributions of black women, 50 at a time.

With the addition of this year’s class, 500 women are now part of a unique assembly of high achievers and bold contributors to the well being of our community.

The members of the 2017 WOE Class join the ranks of previous honorees that have left indelible marks of accomplishment, contribution, service and sacrifice upon our city. They possess character, unselfish valor, commitment and purpose of deed and effort. They are intentional in their daily walk doing the right things because they’re simply the right things to do.

Each year the response from our readership and the community-at-large has gotten more robust. This year we fielded nearly 70 nominations and had the arduous task of narrowing down to the deserving group of women in the 2017 WOE class. We are excited about this year’s honorees and that we already have a great pool of candidates for 2018.

I extend my personal appreciation and thanks to all who submitted nominations. With your help, we have identified another incredible group of dynamic women. Each honoree in her own way has contributed to making our community a better place.

What are the criteria for the TSD Women of Excellence?

In character, action and approach these women portray virtues of excellence, self-confidence, respect and dignity. They are bound by faith and perseverance and when faced with life obstacles and challenges they remain steadfast in the work and values that call them to service.

TSD Women of Excellence demonstrate personal strength, possessing influence as well as elegance and generosity with the gifts that have been bestowed upon them. They intrinsically understand, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

We are extremely excited about this opportunity to recognize and honor such a distinguished and deserving group of women. This annual spring celebration gives us the chance to say thank you to those who have been consistently committed to the highest principles of servant leadership and positively touching the lives of others. This is a testament to the abundance of talented, committed and visionary African-American women here in the Greater Memphis community. This rich pool of talent and commitment is one of the unique treasures that make Memphis a great city. I am glad that we at The New Tri-State Defender can take the lead in acknowledging their contributions to the growth and betterment of our community.

On behalf of our board of directors and the entire team at TSD, I say thanks to our sponsors – Macy’s, FedEx and AT&T. Your generous support helps make our publication and this awards brunch more dynamic and engaging each year.

Thanks also to those who purchased tickets, tables and ads. Your support is greatly appreciated. And to each person who is not yet a subscriber to The New Tri-State Defender, I invite you to join our family of subscribed readers. Your purchase will support us in meeting our mission to inform, inspire and elevate the quality of life for those audiences we serve.

Join me in congratulating the Class of 2017 Women of Excellence! I am confident that after reading the individual biographies you will be more motivated and excited about the future of our community and inspired to join us and our honorees in taking The New Tri-State Defender, Greater Memphis and the entire surrounding area to new heights.