ESSENCE recently held a regal and ritzy brunch to celebrate Black women in athletics paving the way for future generations and BOSSIP was in attendance.
On Friday, December 16, the publication expanded on the Black Women in Sports franchise with the return of the Black Women in Sports Awards Brunch during the 2022 Celebration Bowl weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. In partnership with Coca-Cola, the mission was to provide a safe space for honest conversations around issues that Black female athletes and industry personnel face on a daily basis.
The invite-only affair took place in conjunction with a plethora of events throughout the week that catered to the HBCU family-oriented audience. The Awards Brunch honored the leading women in the sports industry – both professional and collegiate – who serve as a catalyst for change and are making waves in the business of sports to create opportunities for future talent.
Taking place at the Westside Cultural Center, attendees enjoyed not only an extensive menu of breakfast bites but panel discussions on important topics surrounding Black women in sports including conversations moderated by host Elle Duncan of ESPN, Maria Taylor, and ESSENCE CEO Caroline Wanga who told BOSSIP that ESSENCE’s activations aim to do three things;
“We honor people who have played a role, we give the audience an opportunity to be fed and just receive—and then we give them a charge; go out and do something with it.”
Topics at Black Women In Sports included; Changing the Game: Black Women & HBCU Athletics – with Peggy Davis, Tiffani-Dawn Sykes, Dauriana Lewis, and The Real MVPs: Black Women in Sports – with Francena McCorory and Tara Owens.
The award honorees were Sanya Richards-Ross who competed internationally for the US in the 400-meter sprint before taking her r track and field talents to Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta.
The 2012 Olympic champion, 2009 world champion, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, and 2005 world silver medalist was joined at the event by her husband Aaron Ross, and fellow housewife Marlo Hampton who watched her “Champion Things” fireside chat with Caroline Wanga.
Sonja Stills, a well-known staple within the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference for the past 19 years who became the first female commissioner in the conference’s history was also honored at the brunch.
Stills expressed to BOSSIP that she felt especially ecstatic to be celebrated in a room full of Black women.
“I am so freaking humbled,” said Stills whose journey began with working in counseling before she acepted the “challenge” of her current position in the MEAC. “I’m sitting here and I’m emotional the whole time. It’s just amazing when you think about ESSENCE and being a little girl and reading the magazines and seeing them. [So] to be here and to be honored os totally amazing! This is my holiday Christmas present!”
It also wasn’t lost on the MEAC Commissioner that the exclusive event was also shining a spotlight on HBCUs which have proven to still be relevant to this day. According to Stills, students in sports should know that attending a historically Black college won’t negatively affect their professional sports career.
“Being at an HBCU shows you the culture and the family—you’re not gonna get that anywhere else but at an HBCU,” said Stills. “When I went to Hampton and I worked at Hampton, it was teaching you that you’re not solely American, you’re different. It teaches you that it’s important to know your history and that you don’t have to shrink yourself. You can get a great academic experience there, you can have great degrees and you can get anywhere with an HBCU degree, it’s important that our student athletes know that.”
Like Stills, Coach Pamella Jenkins, was also honored. Jenkins was celebrated on behalf of the Delaware State University Lacrosse Team.
Earlier this year, the team was subjected to an unjust and degrading traffic stop by police who rifled through their belongings with dogs sniffing for contraband. The young women handled it with poise and grace while continuing to overcome adversity during the aftermath of their traffic stop and Jenkins told BOSSIP about the harrowing experience.
“Those girls are my babies, I treat them like they’re my own,” said Jenkins who was “awestruck” to be in a room brimming with Black excellence at Black Women in Sports. “So I think going through that, the most important thing was to let them know that I care for them and that that was a traumatic experience, and it’s just important that you speak your truth. And no one can negate your feelings, you can articulate that—no one can make you feel invalidated.”
She continued and reflected on the outpouring of love her team received in the wake of the incident.
“It was wonderful with the support. It really made us feel calm and [assured us] that will we acted appropriately and that this [incident] was really wrong. And I think it helps also our mental health. So to have that outpouring of support, it just let us know that, yes, we went through something but there are people rallying around us, that support us and that love us.”
In addition to the honorees at ESSENCE Black Women In Sports, other notable attendees were Rashan Ali…
and DJ Traci Steele.
.Congratulations to all the honorees!
What do YOU think about the ESSENCE Black Women in Sports brunch?
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