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NAACP Fund Honors Some High Achievers

July 05, 1994|BRIDGET BYRNE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Terry McMillan accepted her honor in memory of her "Mama." Angela Bassett paid tribute to "Mom."

The National Book Award-winning author and the Oscar nominated actress were named 1994 Black Women of Achievement Key honorees by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund at a luncheon Thursday at the Century Plaza.

"I try to do my best in everything I do," McMillan said. The best-selling writer, whose novels include "Mama" and "Waiting to Exhale," clutched her hands to her hair exclaiming, "You almost messed up my 'fro," as the ribbon adorned with the achievement medal was hung around her neck.

Bassett, best known for her portrayal of Tina Turner in "What's Love Got to Do With It?" is filming "Strange Day." She told the lunch crowd: "Each time I talk to my Mom, before we hang up the phone, she says, 'Be a good girl. Work hard.' "

The other two Key honorees were unable to attend. National Council of Negro Women President Dorothy I. Height, described during the presentations as "a woman who has given her whole life to upgrading women and their families," was in Egypt. Assemblywoman Marguerite Archie-Hudson (D-Los Angeles) was in Sacramento working on the state budget.

But there were enough additional awards handed out to keep the ceremony running through the entire lunch menu--salad, chicken and chocolate cake.

Co-chairwomen Jackie Hempstead, Carolyn J. Fowler and Patt Watts beamed, hugged, kissed and posed for photographs with the other honorees, who included 12 local business and community leaders chosen 1994 Outstanding Black Women of Achievement. Janice Bryant-Howroyd, president and CEO of Act One* personnel service, received the AT&T Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

All the medals are engraved with former congresswoman Barbara Jordan's quote: "I never intended to become a run of the mill person."

KCAL-TV anchor Pat Harvey, who was given a Special Recognition Award for her involvement in community affairs, spoke eloquently about her trip to South Africa during the recent election. The words on the importance of making one's vote count struck a chord in the audience, which also heard a passionate plea from Elaine Jones, director-counsel of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, to take on gun control and violence as civil-rights issues.

Jones also recently returned from South Africa, where she met former President F.W. de Klerk. Not one to hold back, Jones asked De Klerk to tell her three things he liked about President Nelson Mandela and one thing he didn't like.

"He said, 'His integrity, the fact that he listens and that he's a genuinely warm person.' "And the thing he didn't like about Mandela? I insisted. 'He's domineering,' " De Klerk told her.

Jones laughed. "If De Klerk thinks Mandela is domineering, what would he think of all of us?" she asked the audience of high-achieving women.

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