“Black Girl Magic” Honored at Ford Freedom Awards

The Ford Motor Company has had a long and illustrious partnership with the African-American community. Dating back towards the early 20th century, when the company boasted the greatest amount of employment for African-Americans in the auto industry (among very few companies), Ford has steadily built upon that goodwill through their funding of several women’s programs including the S.H.A.U.N. Foundation for Girls and a collaboration between social entrepreneur program EmpowerHer and Michigan Women Forward, as well as signature initiatives for Ford Freedom Unsung, Ford Blue Oval Scholars, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Sojourner Truth Leadership Awards.

This year, at the 20th Annual Ford Freedom Awards held May 22nd at the Michigan Opera House and Charles H. Wright Museum, the theme “Black Girl Magic” helped spotlight the achievements of prominent female leaders and rising activists and entrepreneurs in equal measure. The honorees included the late Dr. Dorothy Irene Wright, Jessica O. Matthews, and Asia Newson. Wright Museum president and CEO Juanita Moore quoted that in “illuminating the achievements, strength, and beauty of women and girlsand recognizing [the honorees], we encourage all girls to believe in the power of their magic and live beyond the possible.


Dr. Dorothy Wright received the Ford Freedom Award, which was posthumously accepted by Alexis Herman, former U.S Secretary of Labor, and Ingrid Saunders Jones, current chair of the National Council of Negro Women. She is the only person to be honored twice, after being awarded back in 2008. A renowned educator and leader for the modern civil rights movement, heralded as its “godmother” by many including former President Obama, she dedicated her aim towards the issues strongly affecting African-American women, including but not limited to unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness. Her many accomplishments include helping organize the legendary March on Washington in 1963, serving as leader of the National Council of Negro Women for nearly half a decade, and being awarded with both the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.

Jessica Matthews received the Ford Scholar Award. After earning an MBA from Harvard Business School, she became a CEO of her own renewable power company Uncharted Power, which specializes in harnessing energy from motion and using it to create usable ecosystems around the world. She is also a known inventor, having built her first invention the energy-generating soccer ball the SOCCKET at age 19, and is listed on more than 10 pending patents.

Asia Newson received the Ford Rising Star Award. A Detroit teenager who started making and selling her own candles at age 5, she runs a successful independent candle business currently generating over $100,000 in profits (with a significant portion of those donated to the homeless), that also boasts a small army of peer salespeople that she personally traits and educates in entrepreneurship. Asia’s skills have also reached a mass audience, having been featured on national programs including The Ellen DeGeneres Show and ABC News 20/20.
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