Urban League of Springfield celebrates ‘Black Women of Excellence’ and 105 years of history (photos, video)

Mar 29 2018

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SPRINGFIELD — As they gathered in a small room before the celebration began, the 16 women honored at the Urban League of Springfield’s “Black Women of Excellence,” event laughed and hugged and congratulated each other.

“I am deeply honored to be among this dynamic group of women,” said Denise Jordan, chief of staff to Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and one of the women being honored. “Some of these women have been my sheroes.”

From Academy Award-nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter to Jordan and other women leading the way in their chosen fields, the women were honored Tuesday night at the MassMutual Center during the Urban League’s celebration of its 105-year history.

“The women selected are the epitome of excellence. They have not only broken the glass ceiling, some of them have broken steel ceilings,” said  Henry M. Thomas III, president and CEO of the Urban League of Springfield.

The event highlighted all 16 women, with a focus on Carter, the keynote speaker who has designed costumes for critically acclaimed films including Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X,” Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad” and most recently “Black Panther,” the latest in a series of Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

A Springfield native and graduate of Technical High School, Carter said she was thrilled to be home.

“I’m back and I’m proud to be among these women of excellence,” Carter said. “We have all just taken one step at a time in our lives, and that it has come to this culmination where our city is proud of us and wants to honor us makes me proud.”

The event also highlighted many of the Urban League’s initiatives.

“The Urban League is always about continuous progress and uplifting the community without hesitation, because there is a lot of work to be done,” Thomas said. “I don’t remember what it was like in 1913, 105 years ago, but I can image the energy, the enthusiasm, the readiness of those who were the stewards of the Urban League mission back then could rival the energy and dedication we have today.”

Other “Black Women of Excellence” awardees included:

* Dr. Shirley J. Whitaker, M.D.: Nephrology specialist, Baystate Health

* Pia Flanagan, J.D.: MassMutual Corporate Secretary, and Chief of Staff to president Roger W. Crandall

* Adrienne Smith, M.S., Ed.D.,: Dean of Engineering and Technologies, STCC

* Tania Barber, MBA: President and CEO, Caring Health Center

* Dr. Tashanna Myers M.D.: Gynecological oncologist, Baystate Health

* Enku Gelaye, J.D.:  Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, UMass, Amherst

* Anika Gaskins: Vice President of Regional and National Marketing, MGM Springfield

* Sheila Goodwin, MBA: Senior Vice President, PeoplesBank

* Paulette Henderson, BA: Funeral director and owner, Henderson Funeral Home

* Cheryl Stanley, Ed.D.: Dean of Education, Westfield State University

* Jessica Henderson: Lieutenant, Springfield Police Department

* Yvette Frisby, MA: Senior vice president, Urban League of Springfield, Inc.

* Shadae Thomas-Harris, ED LD:  Springfield Public Schools principal, Harvard University teaching fellow

* Helen Caulton-Harris, RN: Commissioner, Health and Human Services, City of Springfield



May 2024