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The Black Leading Women Celebration puts women’s achievements in the spotlight

By Ericka Alston Buck
Specially for The AFRO

The 3rd Annual Black Leading Women Celebration, held June 13 at the Center Club and presented by Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center (LYTC) and CarVer Communications, highlighted the accomplishments and legacies of remarkable Black women.

This year’s event was hosted by Nicole Kirby of CarVer Communications and Lauren Blackwell, Chief of Staff at LYTC, and emceed by April Watts. The evening was filled with inspiring performances, heartfelt speeches and well-deserved honors.

The evening began with a dynamic invocation by charismatic pastor, teacher, evangelist and author Dr. Jazz Sculark, setting an uplifting tone for the celebration. Special guest artist Mumu Fresh delivered stirring performances of her songs “Let Your Light Shine” and “Gratitude” that were well received by the audience. DJ Angel Baby kept the energy high throughout the evening with a phenomenal set.

Nicole Kirby summed up the spirit of the evening with her passionate words: “We want to celebrate women who are making a difference. We see you, we see you, we see you. When we see you driving around and waving, we know what you’re going through. Tonight we celebrate all of you. Let’s keep it up.”

Honorees included Dana Carr, CEO of The Creative Impact Group, who was honored for her innovative leadership. Nykidra Robinson, CEO of Black Girls Vote, was celebrated for her tireless work to inspire Black women to participate in political decision-making. Sydney Johnson, a 19-year-old youth leader and fashion influencer, received praise for her commitment to fighting gun violence and her empowering fashion initiatives.

Johnson’s story was particularly moving.

“Sydney Johnson is a rising star who shines brightly as she advocates for change and inspires through fashion and self-expression,” the host noted. Johnson’s commitment to using repurposed fabrics to promote individuality and authenticity has made her a beacon of hope and creativity in the community.

Tyde-Courtney Edwards, CEO of Ballet After Dark, was honored as a trailblazer in the arts. Edwards’ evolution from a classically trained ballet dancer to a social innovator was highlighted, particularly her development of a ballet-based fitness program for victims of sexual and domestic violence.

“After a traumatic experience, she took the leap into the unknown and created ‘Ballet After Dark,’ which caught the attention of multi-talented artist Queen Latifah and was shown at the Tribecca Film Festival,” the tribute states.

Shelonda Stokes, CEO of Downtown Partnership, was honored with the Cultural Impact Award. Her impact as a changemaker in Baltimore was recognized, highlighting her accomplishments from her beginnings at Morgan State University to her evolution into one of Maryland’s most influential leaders.

“Shelanda Stokes, Baltimore’s powerhouse, can make a difference in any great city across America, but she continues to call Baltimore home,” the introduction said.

The event also gave special thanks to Brittany Young, founder of B-360, Dr. Aisha Austin, founder of the Symone Center for the Arts, and Dr. Vonnya Pettigrew, CEO of Root Branch Media Group, for their extraordinary contributions.

APoetNamedNate delivered a powerful spoken text entitled “She is Beautiful” that summed up the mission to empower the women in the room.

Natasha Murphy, who accepted the award on behalf of Nykidra Robinson, expressed her deep gratitude, saying, “Just the opportunity to be recognized for the amazing work we have done in the Baltimore area and beyond is incredibly humbling.”

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