By Marcella Gadson
The presidential debates haven’t started yet, the Democratic and Republican conventions are still months away, several states and national organizations are battling voter suppression laws, and organizations dedicated to voter suppression have already begun cropping up. Needless to say, this election year is shaping up to be a big one, and organizations like the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and its annual awards celebrating the Spirit of Democracyare more important than ever.
The Spirit of Democracy Awards were created to honor those “who have demonstrated a consistent commitment to creating balance in the democratic process and support The National Coalition’s mission and vision of making civic participation a cultural responsibility and tradition.” Last week, the NCBCP held its 15th annual Spirit of Democracy Awards Gala, hosted by Vivica Fox, and honoring seven distinguished men with the theme “Celebrating Our Brothers.”
Honorees at the gala included actor Jonathan McDaniel, MMTC President David Honig presidential assistant Joshua Dubois, Service Employees International Union Executive Vice President Gerald Hudson, 100 Black Men of America Chairman Al Dotson, Campaign for Black Male Achievement Campaign Manager Shawn Dove, and radio personality and philanthropist Michael Baisden.
Ruby Penelope Campbell-Pulliam, an unsung hero of the civil rights, women’s rights, and social justice movements, was honored posthumously. During her life, she was a devoted member of the NCBCP and instrumental in the organization’s creation of the Black Women’s Roundtable. Janet Campbell accepted the NCBCP’s first ever Ruby Campbell-Pulliam “Love You More” Servant, Leadership, and Community Service Award on behalf of her late daughter.
Voting for Justice
Debra Speed, executive director of public policy and strategic alliances at Verizon and NCBCP board member, presented David Honig with the Technology and Economic Empowerment award.
“We all know the power of media. The lack of media ownership has tremendous impact on how we, especially our brothers, are portrayed in the media,” she said.
Upon receiving his award, Honig spoke of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the importance of everyone having a voice in our democratic process, and the impact of organizations like the NCBCP.
“I had the privilege of filing the NAACP’s petition with the Justice Department to get [the Trayvon Martin murder] investigated,” Honig stated. “They called back from the regional office in Atlanta 10 minutes later granting the complaint, saying, ‘We’re gonna get our feet on the ground.’…They charged the shooter with second degree murder, and justice was done. Now, not a lot of people running for president would choose a person of the dignity, integrity, and responsiveness of an Eric Holder to do that in ten minutes.
“When we elect a president, we are electing a Justice Department, we’re electing an Attorney General, we’re electing a Supreme Court, we’re electing a Federal Communications Commission. People don’t realize how important elections are. How important voter education is.”
Every Vote Counts
The Black Youth Vote Civic Leadership Award went to Jonathan McDaniel, who starred in “In the Hive,” a Robert Townsend film that follows a group of at-risk teenagers who grew up in a disadvantaged community and have been expelled from their public school system. The film shines a light on everyday struggles that are often unnoticed or misunderstood in the mainstream media.
“The only thing I wanted to do was to become a positive role model for my generation,” McDaniel stated. “I wanted to do God’s work.”
McDaniel hopes to use his influence to inspire young African American men and women to educate themselves and ultimately become stronger voices in the election process. He believes that voting educates those who are not educated about the world and its political policies. “It is not about the number of votes counted,” he says, “but that every vote counts.”
The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, has played an integral role in increasing civic engagement and voter participation in black and underserved communities, and its Spirit of Democracy Awards serve to highlight the work of other individuals dedicated to the cause. This election year, it is more important than ever to show support for this organization. Click here to get involved.
Marcella Gadson is the Editor in Chief of the Broadband and Social Justice Blog and Director of Communications at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC).