WI Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes Honored at Annual Salute Her Awards

For the ninth year, and the fifth year co-hosting with radio station WHUR, Café Mocha Radio held its annual Salute Her Awards on Thursday, Aug. 22, recognizing 10 women who made a difference and “stepped into their power.”

Among the award recipients was The Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes, who was recognized with the Trailblazer Award for her stewardship of the newspaper she inherited from her father, the late Calvin Rolark.

“I didn’t inherit a condo,” she said as she accepted the award, referencing the award recipient who preceded her. “My dad left me a newspaper, and our stories. We always see stories about what we did wrong, we want to say what we did right.

“All women now are not only making noise, we are influencing political decisions,” she added. “I am proud to say there are a record number of Black women who are publishers. Now that we have the positions, we have to recognize how they should be used. Media has so many legs, and we are in so many places in the media. I am in print journalism, but to have people in broadcast and so many other areas, it is a treat to feel that people really understand the significance of the Black press.

“I don’t work for the mainstream media,” she continued. “I work for the Black press and I have spent my life working for the Black press, and if people feel that is significant, it means a lot to me and it means they care about the stories we write.”

12-year-old entrepreneur Madelyn Martin and her mother, Tosha Terry, jointly accepted the Family Legacy Award for Madelyn’s business, Madelyn’s Bake Sale. Her award-winning cupcake recipe was passed down from her grandmother and she now runs a full-fledged company, selling the cupcakes in a variety of flavors for the past three years.

“It’s an honor,” the poised young woman said as she accepted the award. “I started this business when I was 9 in the third grade. My teacher said I was good in math, and the rest is history.”

Her mother referenced the family’s legacy as business people.

“My grandfather had a logging business,” she said. “He made it happen because he had no other choice. He hired his family and friends so they would have jobs.”

Before leaving the stage, Madelyn’s mother surprised her daughter, who will turn 13 in a few days, with the keys to her own condominium in the District, which will be rented as a “Cupcake Airbnb” until Madelyn comes of age. But, as her mother implored, she can never put it up for sale, instilling the elements of investment in her daughter early.

The ceremony included entertainment by singer Karen Linette and jokes from the Café Mocha co-hosts, comedienne Loni Love and hip-hop icon Yo-Yo. Other recipients included Fox News Morning anchor Allison Seymour, who received the Broadcast Innovator Award, and Stacie Lee Brooks and Kristie Lee, the owners of Lee’s Flower and Card Shop, a fixture on U Street since 1940. The sisters, descendants of the store founders, received the Business Legacy Award.

Dorothy Butler Gilliam, the first African American woman hired as a reporter at The Washington Post, and Dr. Barbara Skinner-Turner, the first female executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus and spiritual adviser to its members, also received the Media Legend and Spirit Awards respectively.

“I am honored and surprised,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, who received the Community Activist Award for her work as chief public affairs officer for MoveOn and political analyst on NBC and MSNBC. “You do the work in in the community, you do the activism work, and you never think about the reward. You never think about people watching your work and thinking you should get an award.”

Jean-Pierre will release her first book this fall, a memoir that references her work to gain rights for the LGBTQ community and other marginalized people. The child of Haitian immigrants, she noted that her parents didn’t come here to do nothing, and they instilled the same spirit in her.

Tee Marie Hanible, the only woman to deploy with her unit to Iraq in 2003, was the recipient of the Toyota American Pride Award.

“It’s one thing to have an idea, but it’s another to have sisters bring it to life,” said Sheila Eldridge, founder of Café Mocha Radio and the Mocha Cares Foundation, which focuses on “being a voice to empower women and children in local shelters.”

“We have radio created by and for women of color,” she added. “We have conversations from our perspective.”

Now in its seventh year on WHUR and its other platforms, Café Mocha is hosted by Emmy-winning Loni Love, who also co-hosts TV talk show “The Real,” along with radio broadcast veteran Angelique Perrin and Yo-Yo.

The theme of this year’s awards was “Step Into Your Power,” and preceded the Ubiquitous Festival held last weekend.

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