Two women honored at Stephens College luncheon

Saturday, February 16, 2008 | 6:40 p.m. CST; updated 4:23 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Modeled after Oprah Winfrey’s “Legends Ball,” a luncheon honoring two women was held Saturday afternoon at Stephens College. The school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union organized the event, called Ladies Who Lunch, and praised Wynna Faye Elbert and Symone Langston-Thomas for their work in the community.

“We wanted to do an event celebrating the women of the Columbia community,” said event co-chairwoman Niaja Henry. “Stephens is a female college, and we wanted to recognize women out in the community who are making a difference and going above and beyond. This was a way to connect the women of Stephens College with women in the community.”

Elbert grew up in Columbia and is known for her KOPN/89.5 FM radio show, “Straight Talk.”

“We call her the Grand Diva of Columbia,” Henry said.

A graduate of Stephens College, Elbert said she was happy to be honored by her alma mater.

“Having gone to school here and to come back, it’s kind of exciting,” Elbert said. “It’s exciting to see the young girls and how active they are in community issues.”

Elbert is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Frederick Douglass Coalition and Columbia Parks and Recreation. In addition, this year marks her radio show’s 21st anniversary. Elbert said she likes being able to keep the community informed with the show, and that people are able to call in and discuss any issue or event that’s on their mind.

“It’s called ‘Straight Talk’ and I guarantee that we straight-talk about things going on within the community and outside the community,” Elbert said.

Langston-Thomas, the other honoree, has been involved with Columbia Public Schools since 1993. In 2002, she founded Minority Achievement Committee Scholars to increase the number of minority students in honors and Advanced Placement classes. She also created an organization called the No-Limit Ladies.

“I saw a need for a group for young ladies where they can get together and support each other,” Langston-Thomas said. “At the same time, I wanted to teach young ladies they can be anything they want to be.”

Langston-Thomas is involved in other organizations such as the Student Achievement Committee and has received several honors, including being named the Black Educator of the Year by the local NAACP branch. She said being recognized at Saturday’s luncheon was humbling.

“I still feel like I have so much more to do,” Langston-Thomas said. “But it feels great to be honored.”

Mamie Coleman, vice president of music and production for Fox Broadcasting Co., delivered the keynote address, discussing how she worked up the corporate ladder. In reference to the theme of the luncheon, “Hats Off to Women of Excellence,” she encouraged women to explore all available opportunities.

“If I achieve nothing else in my career, I am content in knowing that I paved the way for a future generation of women,” Coleman said in her speech.

The luncheon featured several vocal performances by the Rev. Linda Dodd, Michelle Carter and Bianca Polnett with her brother and sisters. In addition, the Stephens College dance department entertained the audience with an excerpt of “New Amazonians.”

Henry and her co-chairwoman, Stephanie Davidson, both said they were excited with the outcome of the event and look forward to the ways they will be able expand the luncheon next year.

Kristin Parran, the student union’s public relations representative, said she was inspired by the luncheon, the speakers and the honorees.

“It’s always wonderful to see a group of women come together to honor and support one another,” she said.

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