ONYX Magazine honors trailblazing women across Florida who have made significant strides in their professions and communities.

ONYX Magazine
Pastor Shirley Riley of Agape Perfecting Praise Worship Center

Some of the state’s most ambitious and creative women were honored earlier this month during an awards luncheon presented by ONYX Magazine.

The magazine’s fourth annual Women on the Move (WOTM) luncheon was presented on March 1 at the Alfond Inn, Winter Park.

The energy from the more than 300 guests was unmatched as each speaker stepped to the podium, starting with a powerful prayer by Pastor Shirley Riley of Agape Perfecting Praise Worship Center.

She was followed by keynote speaker Angela Suggs, president and CEO of the Florida Sports Foundation. In her speech, Suggs incorporated the talent and accomplishments of each honoree bringing the crowd to their feet.

ONYX Magazine
Angela Suggs, Rich Black and U.S. Rep. Val Demings

‘A king maker’

ONYX Magazine President and CEO Rich Black thanked the guests for their continued support and recalled why he was moved to establish ONYX Magazine’s Women on the Move.

“As my siblings and I were talking about the significant accomplishments of my father, my mother said, your father was a king because I am a queen and a king maker.”

Her words prompted him to elevate all women who take pride in supporting their husbands, children, communities and industries.  

ONYX Magazine celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans and those of the African Diaspora throughout Florida.

Along with ONYX, the luncheon was made possible through the assistance of founding partner Orlando Health and presenting sponsor Samuel B. Ings, Commissioner District 5, City of Orlando.

ONYX Magazine
Bethune-Cookman’s Cliff Porter, Rich Black, Melissa Freeman and Orlando Health’s Marisol Romany

Doctor’s wisdom

One of the most moving moments of the two-hour event happened when 92-year-old Melissa Freeman gingerly stepped up to take her place at the microphone.

Tears of joy accompanied the outpouring of cheers for the doctor who is the first in the nation to treat women with opioid addiction using a methadone maintenance modality of treatment.

Freeman regaled the audience with stories of her journey and encouraged them, “as long as you have breath in your body, don’t stop. Keep going.”

The audience stood during her entire speech and hung on to her every word. Freeman has been heralded by numerous organizations and has inspired interviews with Robin Roberts on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the BBC and other networks.

Salmon and sax

ONYX Magazine
Lady Smooth Sax (Joanna Fleming) performs.

Each of the 22 women honorees received an engraved glass award, a wall certificate, and a swag bag full of decadent gifts from area merchants.

Attendees noshed on salmon, herb chicken, vegetables and delectable desserts handcrafted by the Alfond Inn chefs.

While they dined, guests listened to the jazz sounds of Lady Smooth Sax, JoAnna Fleming, a saxophonist in Orlando. They got up on their feet and danced while also snapping pictures and videos of friends.

‘Visionary Champions’

The theme, “Visionary Champions,” highlighted women who have shattered the glass ceiling in their professions and persevered against all odds.

ONYX Magazine was excited to collaborate with its sponsors to present these women – trailblazers who are leading major businesses to succeed on national and international levels in several professional disciplines.

ONYX Magazine
Dr. Paulette Walker, left, and Attorney Carolyn House Stewart

list of honorees

Ann A. Ashley-Gilbert, M.D.
OB/GYN, Altamonte Women’s Center, Altamonte Springs

Eloise Abrahams, R.N.
Administrator, Guardian Care Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Orlando

Sherri T. Brown
Director of Multicultural Business Development, Visit Tampa Bay

Cathy Brown-Butler
Bank of America, Senior Vice President, Local Markets Organization, Orlando

Chloe Juanita Evans
Coney Tampa Corporation to Develop Communities, founder, Tampa

Rep. Val Demings
Congresswoman, U.S. House of Representatives, Orlando

Elizabeth A. Dooley, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Central Florida, Orlando

Melissa Freeman, M.D.
Physician, Beth Israel Hospital, Woman of the Year, Harlem, NY

Carolyn House Stewart, Esq.
28th International President, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Tampa

Linda S. Howard, C.P.A.
Chief Financial Officer, Florida Municipal Power Agency, Orlando

Jacqueline Jones
Entertainer, Business-Orlando

Nikki Lewis-Simon
Director of Client Development and Corporate Social Responsibility, Greenberg Traurig, P.A., Miami

Novlet Mattis
Chief Information Officer, Orlando Health

Vickie Oldham
President, Vickie O! Heritage Productions, Sarasota

ONYX Magazine
Women on the Move co-chair Nancy Port Schwalb, Dancia Penn, chair Dee Parker

Dancia Penn, OBE, QC
Dancia Penn & Co., Managing Partner, International Woman on the Move, British Virgin Isles

Clemmie Perry
Women of Color Golf, Executive Director, Tampa

Victoria Siplin
Commissioner, District 6, Orange County Government, Orlando

Rep. Geraldine Thompson
Legislator, Florida House of Representatives,  Orlando

Riva Tims, Th.D.
Founder and Pastor, Majestic Life Ministries, Orlando

Paulette C. Walker, Ed.D.
25th National President, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Tampa

Melanie Williams
Senior Vice President, Operations Southeast Region, Frontier Communications, Tampa

Tonjua Williams, Ph.D.
President, St. Petersburg College


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