A panel comprised civic and social justice leaders discussed “Charting the Course for Our Communities” at NBCSL’s Annual Legislative Conference. From left: Indiana State Rep. Cheryl Pryor; Janice L. Mathis, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women; Judge Carlos Moore, president of the National Bar Association; Shavon Arline-Bradley, principal of R.E.A.C.H. Beyond and president of Delta 4 Women in Action; Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP; Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. – Photos courtesy of Trice Edney Communications


Trice Edney Communications


Washington, D.C. – Over 500 Black state legislators from across the United States who attended the National Black Caucus of State Legislators Annual Legislative Conference renewed their commitment to addressing voting rights, health care, education and other important issues that have impacted African American communities.

Formed in 1977, the NBCSL is a membership association representing over 700 Black state legislators from 47 states, totaling over 50 million Americans. The 45th conference was held in Atlanta Nov. 28 through Dec. 3.

Distinguished guest speakers provided input on a wide range of issues that impact black and brown communities from COVID-19 to criminal justice reform, voting rights, health care, the upcoming 2022 mid-terms elections, increasing home ownership opportunities and social justice.

Speakers included civil rights icon Andrew Young; Marcia Fudge, secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League; Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP; Janice Mathis, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women; and Judge Carlos Moore, president of the National Bar Association.

The awards gala was held Dec. 2 at the Marriott. During the ceremony, remarks by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were shown to conference attendees.

“We have a White House that looks like America,” Biden said.

“We must have a national baseline for voting rights,” Harris said.

Presently, more than 20 states have passed laws that will make it harder for millions of Americans to vote.

“Georgia is ground zero for voter suppression,” NBCSL President Billy Mitchell said. “One of NBCSL’s goals is to ensure that we support and provide the framework needed for Black legislators to better represent their communities, which is a major reason why we’re creating a Public Policy Research Institute.”

The institute will represent the nation’s only nonpartisan think tank dedicated to providing evidenced-based public policy research to state legislators with a focus on issues concerning the Black community.

Additionally, the institute will offer legislators leadership development and training to assist them in composing and analyzing new public policy, according to Mitchell.


During the ceremony, the David P. Richardson Jr. National Nation Builder Award was presented to Harris for her significant contributions and for laying the foundation for political progress of African Americans.

The inaugural 2021 International Nation Builder Award was presented to President Nana Akufo-Addo of the Republic of Ghana.

“President Akufo-Addo’s leadership demonstrates his commitment to public service, the Republic of Ghana, and the global African community,” Mitchell said. “He advocates guaranteeing the rights of Ghanian citizens and is a champion for justice, freedom, and democracy.”

The Senator Regis F. Groff Youth Award was presented to Darnella Frazier, the Minneapolis, Minnesota, teenager who recorded the video of George Floyd’s arrest and death in 2020. The award recognized Frazier for her courage and being the catalyst for demonstrations and a worldwide movement to admonish racial and social injustice.

The Nation Award posthumously honored the late Congressman John Lewis for his years of service as a civil rights leader and politician

The Living Legend Award was presented to 92 year-old recently elected Tennessee State Representative Barbara Ward Cooper for her decades-long dedication to youth and the Black community in Memphis.

The National Nation Builder Award honored the efforts of the CROWN Coalition that resulted in the 2019 passage of The CROWN Act in California – legislation that was written to end hair discrimination and expand legal protections for people of color who choose to wear natural hair in the workplace and in public and charter schools. The coalition is a national alliance founded by Dove, the National Urban League, Color of Change, and Western Center on Law & Poverty. To date, 14 states and 29 municipalities have enacted The CROWN Act or laws inspired by The CROWN Act.

The Nation Builder Award was presented to Renee Montgomery, a former WNBA player All-star. She is presently one of the owners and vice president of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream. She also operates The Renee Montgomery Foundation, which serves the Atlanta community and focuses on voter registration and educating the community on local, state-wide, and national election processes.

The Legislator of the Year Award was presented to Texas State Rep. Senfronia Thompson while Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett was the recipient of the Freshman Legislator of the Year Award.

Last, the Corporate Achievement & Image Award was given to Steve Hightower, president and CEO of Hightower’s Petroleum Company.

The 2022 conference will be held in Las Vegas.

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