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GREENBELT — County Executive Angela Alsobrooks hosted the 34th annual Women’s History Month Luncheon on March 24 celebrating visionary women in Prince George’s County.
Opening her speech with Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” as she stepped onto the stage in front of a sold out crowd at Martin’s Crosswinds in Greenbelt, the audience burst into applause at the fitting introduction that described the women being celebrated at the event.
“I’m a woman, phenomenally,” she said. “Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”
The luncheon, hosted for the first time by a woman, continued as the hundreds of county and state leaders and members of the community came together for food, speeches, performances by county native chart-topping singer Raheem Devaughn, awards and more led by award-winning WUSA9 anchor and master of ceremonies for the event Leslie Foster.
“We are intelligent, and we are strong, we are beautiful, we are phenomenal. And so many of those women are right here in this room in Prince George’s County. Women are the backbone and the fabric of this world, this nation, this state, in Prince George’s County,” Alsobrooks said.
“It’s through women that life comes into this world, through women the social issues are highlighted and then addressed. It’s our unique perspective and our keen eye that gives light to the rich culture, values and principles that we all enjoy.”
U.S. Congressman Anthony Brown (D-Md.) acknowledged the amount of female leaders in Prince George’s County right now such as Prince George’s County Public School Interim CEO Monica Goldson, State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy and Clerk of the Circuit Court Mahasin El Amin. Brown said he is excited to see so much talent and commitment to the county.
“I’m excited about the leadership in Prince George’s County,” he said. “I’m excited that we have the first woman to serve as county executive and Angela Alsobrooks is just doing an outstanding job.”
Keynote speaker April Ryan spoke about her childhood growing up in a lower class environment in Baltimore and the strength of her mother who raised her. She fondly remembered her mother’s words of encouragement that she “would be great if I worked hard.”
Now the only black female reporter covering urban issues from the White House as a White House Correspondent, a political analyst on CNN and an author, Ryan said she still falls back on those moments from her childhood.
Despite her success and the accomplishments of many of the women at the luncheon and beyond, she said there is still a problem having to do with women today.
“It’s not easy being a woman in 2019,” she said. “Yes, we have a woman county executive and her mom here, a lot of women who were elected into office, as congressman Brown said, we have more women in Congress now than ever before…in the workplace, we are still discounted and not making as much as our male counterparts.”
Ryan described how women have been the backbone of the community’s progress, particularly the progress of African American people. During the Civil Rights movement, she said, women encouraged marches, provided food, helped raise funds and took people into their homes. Yet women are still discounted.
The luncheon as a whole encouraged women to keep working hard, to keep working towards progress and to keep striving towards their best despite the obstacles they still need to overcome.
As part of that, several Pride Awards were given out at the end of the luncheon.
One of those was the Gladys Noon Spellman Award. Its namesake was a public servant in Prince George’s County serving as an educator in the public school system, the president of the Prince George’s County Council of PTA’s and chairwoman of the National Mental Health Study Center.
Additionally, she was the first woman elected to the Board of Commissioners of Prince George’s County, served on the county council and served as a member of the U.S. Congress.
Gloria Brown Burnett, director of the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services (DSS), took home the award this year.
Having worked 28 years in the development, administration and evaluation of human service and child welfare programs, she has brought innovative strategies to the DSS to help them be more responsive to residents needs. She serves on other community boards such as the Prince George’s County Workforce Investment Board and the Hillside Work-Scholarship.
Five other Pride Awards were given out during the luncheon; Prince George’s Community College President Charlene Dukes received the Education Pride Award; the Business Pride Award was given to McDonald’s franchise owner Mary Hopkins-Navies, and Economic Development Corporation Latino Small Business Liaison Rocio Tremino-Lopez; and the Nonprofit Pride Award was given to President and CEO of the Latin American Youth Center Lupi-Quinteros-Grady and Executive Director of The Training Source Inc. Evelyn Kim Rhim.
Finally, the Gladys Noon Spellman Scholarship Award was given to Dr. Henry A. Wise High School student Tamara Bethea, Oxon Hill High School student Kristen Briscoe and Ezinne Oguguo, who attends the Academy of Health Sciences at Prince George’s Community College.
“So let it be said that the visionary women are here, they are accounted for and Women’s History Month can continue because of each and every woman in this room, the visionary women of Prince George’s County,” Alsobrooks said.