Honorees, board, staff, affiliates, sponsors and supporters at The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation Spirit of Democracy Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Paulette Shipman-Singleton)

*The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation recently celebrated its 35th anniversary during the 14th annual Spirit of Democracy Awards Black & White gala Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at the Renaissance Hotel, Washington, D.C.  The tony event was attended by over 400 leaders from civil rights, government, labor and faith communities.

The Spirit of Democracy Awards are presented to individuals and organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to creating balance in the democratic process and support the coalition’s mission of making civic participation a cultural responsibility and tradition.  Title 35th anniversary partners included AT&T and Verizon, among others.  The 2011 Spirit Award honorees included:

Dennis Van Roekel, president, National Education Association, was presented with the Educational Innovation and Empowerment Award by Arlene Holt-Baker, executive vice president, AFL-CIO.  Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers, was presented with the Educational Innovation and Empowerment Award by Holt-Baker.  Yelberton Watkins, chief of staff, Congressman James Clyburn’s Office, was presented with the Emerging Leader Award by Lyndon Boozer, vice president, AT & T Federal Affairs.

Spirit Awards Mistress of Ceremonies Star Jones, honoree Rev. Al Sharpton, Melanie L. Campbell, Kevin Parker

Wade Henderson, president and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, was presented with the Trailblazer Award by Howard E. Woolley, senior vice president, Strategic Alliances and Wireless Policy, Verizon Communications.  Minyon Moore, principal, Dewey Square Group, was presented with the Economic and Community Empowerment Award by Rev. Leah Daughtry, House of the Lord Church.

The coveted Chairman’s Visionary Leadership Award was presented to The Rev. Dr. Al Sharpton, president, National Action Network, by Melanie L. Campbell., president and CEO, The National Coalition.

“Our esteemed honorees exemplify our theme of Leadership, Engagement, and Empowerment. Each of their remarks touched on issues ranging from the crisis in education to civil rights and the assault on labor unions,” remarked Campbell.  “This year, the 35th anniversary of the organization, our audience left with a charge to get to work so we can keep moving forward instead of backward.”

Celebrity Attorney, TV personality and author Star Jones served as mistress of ceremonies and presented each guest with a copy of her “Satan’s Sisters” book.  During the intergenerational gala the coalition paid tribute to Dr. Ronald Walters, the beloved National Coalition board member and internationally recognized political scientist who passed away last year.

Long-time National Coalition events manager Ruby Pulliam was also recognized during the event.  In commemoration of the anniversary celebration the founders of The National Coalition were recognized for keeping the coalition’s mission of making civic participation a cultural responsibility and tradition.

Kevin Parker, principal, Capital Consulting Group and 35th anniversary spirit host committee chair, challenged the distinguished audience to stay vigilant in addressing 21st century issues.

“In 1976 The National Coalition launched the first nationally coordinated coalition to register 15 million Black people to vote.  Today we bear witness to the impact The National’s Coalition’s work has had on the number of elected officials in office,” said Parker.  “We have Black members of congress, mayors, and the election of the first African American president of the United States, President Barack Obama.  Thank you for your dedication and commitment.”  (Photos by CitiVisual, Inc.)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.