Getting the Spirit

SharptonIt’s time again for the annual Spirit of Democracy Awards. Produced by the?National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), this year’s event will take place on May 18 in D.C. at the Renaissance D.C. Hotel. It will be hosted by Star Jones and honor the Rev. Al Sharpton, among others. This year is also significant because it will kick off the launch of The National Coalition’s 35th Anniversary Celebration.

This marks the 14th year for the awards, which in addition to Sharpton, will honor Wade Henderson, president and CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights; Minyon Moore, principal, Dewey Square Group; Yelberton Watkins, chief of staff, Congressman James Clyburn’s Office; Dennis Van Roekel, president, National Education Association; and Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers.

“The National Coalition?s 2011 Spirit of Democracy Awards honorees were selected by the NCBCP chair, president & Spirit Host committee members.?The Spirit Awards Celebration showcases leaders and their unique programs that exemplify the importance of civic engagement, economic empowerment, public service, education, civil rights, and social justice in our global communities, explains Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of NCBCP and convener of The Black Women’s Roundtable.

The Spirit of Democracy Awards is presented to individuals and organizations who have demonstrated a commitment and vision of making civic participation a cultural responsibility and tradition.

According to Campbell, it is an exciting time for the Coalition. “On May 6, 1976, The National Coalition was founded to ensure that this nation?s democracy would one day be as good for every American as our children imagine it; that as African-Americans, we would not lose the lesson of the sacrifices that President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others made to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other landmark legislation,” she notes. “For 35 years, The National Coalition has been a central force for Black civic engagement, leadership development and voter empowerment creating effective non-partisan coalition models and networks to address our communities? emerging needs through its 80 membership organizations, 12 state-based affiliates, signature programs and initiatives—Black Women?s Roundtable, Black Youth Vote, Youth Policy & Process and Unity Diaspora Coalition.”

Besides the Spirit Awards, the coalition will celebrate its 35th year with various events, including?the launch of the Eddie Williams Civic Engagement and Social Innovation Training Academy on Sep 17, and the Women of Power 35: Mentor/Prot?g? Luncheon & Summit on Oct. 20. The luncheon and?summit will be part of the close-out of the final tour stop for the Black Women’s Roundtable 2010-2011 “Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise” National Empowerment Tour. Adds Campbell, “The Academy is a Black Men & Boys Initiative that the NCBCP will pilot in Metro Washington, D.C. area focusing on mentorship and responsible fatherhood designed to encourage high school boys to stay in-school, pursue higher learning to compete in high-tech global economy and increase their address policy issues they care about. Eddie Williams is the founding chairman of the board of NCBCP and is currently Chair Emeritus, NCBCP.”

As more and more people become politically engaged, it is a prime time for the coalition. “The National Coalition?s mission is to promote greater civic engagement, social and economic responsibility and opportunity to enhance the quality of African-American life in all levels of civil society,” says Campbell. “The National Coalition envisions a nation and a world in which all people, from children to seniors, have the tools to participate fully in the democratic process at the local, state, national and international levels. Through organizing, training and leadership development, and by continuing to lead the fight to eliminate barriers to civic participation, the coalition promotes greater social and economic justice to enhance the quality of life for all Americans.”