Heirlooms: Black Women | Real Power

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

Black Enterprise opened their 10th Annual Women Of Power Awards with a fitting question: “What will be your legacy?” Greatness left many clues in the stories of trial and triumph as told by 2015 Legacy Winners. Courageous, determined, elegant and excellent are just a few adjectives used to describe Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Susan L. Taylor, Pam Grier, and Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum on last evening. In honor of Barbara J. Graves, Black Enterprise matriarch and co-creator of the BE Women of Power Summit, the Sisterhood of Legacy Honorees embody Barbara’s vision of Women and Power.

Heralded as the premiere professional and leadership development conference for women of color, the Women of Power Summit lured Barbara Graves out of retirement to create an engaging environment for women to be trained and equipped for industry leadership. Described by her husband, Earl Graves Sr., as a “tower of power,” Barbara became a fierce advocate for women’s issues. In 2005, Barbara spearheaded the Women of Power Summit, one of the first events for women of color hosted by Black Enterprise. As the face and voice of WPS until her death in 2012, Barbara inspired and empowered women to attain higher heights in their careers by acknowledging and honoring women leaders of color.

Barbara Graves’ legacy lives on through the Women of Power Legacy Awards. Four Legacy Award Honorees are recognized by Black Enterprise for their outstanding service in education or the community. In 2012, The Barbara Graves’ Legacy Award was established by Black Enterprise WPS Editorial Team as the highest honor for women leaders of color. Named in Barbara’s honor, one woman leader of color is recognized for her outstanding impact, achievement and leadership in business, the arts, education, government and other influential industries. Since its’ inception, Marva Collins (inaugural) and Marian Wright Edelman (2014) have received this honor.

On March 3, 2015, at the landmark celebration of Women of Power Summit’s 10th anniversary during Women’s History Month, four new Honorees join the “Sisterhood of Legacy.” Here are key nuggets of wisdom we gleaned from their speeches last night:

(top l to r) Dr. Beverly Tatum; Pam Grier; Charlayne Hunter-Gault; Susan L. Taylor.
(top l to r) Dr. Beverly Tatum; Pam Grier; Charlayne Hunter-Gault; Susan L. Taylor.

“UBUNTU: I am who I am because You are who You are…”

“Women in my life forged a suit of armor made out of the values that empowers me.”

“No matter the obstacles, your history is your armor. It enables you to take on any chance!”

Charlayne Hunter- Gault is an award-winning journalist, author, and international correspondent. She was the first African American woman to desegregate University of Georgia-Athens. Her ambition landed her pioneering opportunities in journalism where she would spend six years as CNN’s Johannesburg Bureau Chief and Correspondent. Read her Black Enterprise interview and more about her work here.


“I’m doing this work because it could’ve been me.”

“The Village is burning and we are needed!”

“Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray.”

Susan L. Taylor is an esteemed author, activist and mentor. Connecting the stories of the African American woman as Editor-In-Chief and columnist of Essence Magazine, she is the only African American woman to receive Magazine Publishers of America highest industry honor and the first to be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Publishers’ Hall of Fame. When she left her posh chief editor position to launch an organization to end poverty, thousands of people answered her call to join the National Mentoring Cares Movement.  Read her Black Enterprise interview and more about her work here.


“We find ways to uplift. We do it by sharing our stories.”

“Even though we take small steps, we are still moving forward.”

Pamela Grier is an actress and activist from the rural fields of Winston, North Carolina. Discovered at the tender age of 19, Pam Grier is the face of the Blaxploitation era black beauty. Her expansive acting career afforded her progressively larger roles as the first woman to headline a black action film. Her passions for literacy, agriculture, and clean eating fuels her activism. Read more about her work on Black Enterprise. 


“This journey would not be as satisfying and sustaining without my family.”

Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum is the recipient of the Barbara J. Graves Legacy Award for her 35 year career in STEM advocacy and education. President of Spelman University, the oldest historically black college for black women, her leadership has increased access to resources, innovation, and growth in offerings for the SpelmanNation. Dr. Tatum was recognized for her innovative leadership, she was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Board for the White House Initiative on HBCUs. Read about her future plans on Black Enterprise.

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