The Washington Post

Vanessa Williams honored by National Council of Negro Women

The spirit of Dorothy Irene Height was alive and well as the National Council of Negro Women hosted their annual Black Family Reunion and several other events in the nation’s capital last weekend.

The annual event, which began 26 years ago, used to be a three day affair attracting as many as 250,000 people to mall of the U.S. Capitol. But due to diminished corporate donations, the event was been scaled back since Height died in April 2010.

One of the highlights this year was the presentation of the “Uncommon Height,” award to several people including actress, singer and former Miss America Vanessa Williams and her mother Helen Williams Thursday night at the Washington Hilton.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to thank my mother who has been my biggest supporter and the family life she has given me,” Williams said in an interview. “African American women from the beginning have embraced me. I am a product of an African woman, it is part of who I am and it is part of what I am and who the girls I am raising will become.”

In 1984 Williams became the first African American crowned as Miss America, but shortly after the pageant she resigned after it was disclosed she had posed in the nude and those images landed in Playboy. Since that time she has been a star in the studio and on television. Now, Williams is a star on the ABC hit “Desperate Housewives.”

“Grace under fire, that’s the name of my life’s book” Williams said.

Her mother, Helen Williams, said she always supported her children.

“Both my children have done well and excelled in the arts,” said Helen Williams. “The key was making sure you encourage their passion and wait for them to meet their goal.”

In addition to the awards presentation, the group sponsored a gospel concert and had a held it’s regular event on the Mall.

NCNW President Barbara Shaw is focused on increasing the number of younger members. “If we are going to live we have pass the torch to the next generation and that is how we go from generation to generation.”

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Hamil Harris is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of The Washington Post.

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