By Janice K. Neal-Vincent, Ph.D.,
It was a night to remember. It was a time for reflection. It was a moment of appreciation. It was an occasion of encouragement. Those gathered at Connecting the Dots Foundation’s 6th Annual National Women’s History Month Celebration paused to spend time with family, friends, acquaintances, honorees, scholars and artists at the downtown Jackson Convention Complex (105 E. Pascagoula Street, Jackson, Miss.) Saturday, March 11, 2023, at 6 p.m. The theme was Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories. WLBT’s Maggie Wade Dixon and Walt Grayson hosted the affair.
Deference was given to six women who have contributed to the Jackson community, national and international locales. While Grammy Music Educator quarterfinalist 2022, Kurtina Cyntel Maholmes, serenaded the honorees and other diners with her musical arrangements – He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands and Summer Time – the duo trainees from Ballet Magnificat!, Julian Dean and Sarah Hom, wooed them with Amazing Grace and Marvelous Light.
Minister Hugh Davis (award winning musician, director, educator, national workshop clinician), on the other hand, comforted the crowd with his throw-back medley of songs on the keyboard, encompassing a variety of genres (Misty; What a Wonderful World; My Girl; I Feel Good). The maestro then played a medley of Caribbean tunes on the Trinidadian Steel Pan (Three Little Birds; Don’t Worry Be Happy and Day O).
Alice Thomas-Tisdale, recipient of numerous awards, is publisher emeritus of Mississippi’s oldest black newspaper – The Jackson Advocate. The Racine, Wisconsin native received her education from Washington State University and has reported on important world issues in places that include Zimbabwe, Africa; Sudan, Africa; Japan; Kazakhstan; Barcelona, Spain; Bangkok, Thailand; Toronto, Canada; and France. She is also a Metlife Fellow, HIV/AIDS advocate, and has extensive training in health journalism, including Families USA and New America Media.
Melanie Christopher, an American news journalist, is a news anchor for WJTV news. Her coverage has entailed key issues like Pauline Rodgers’ 35-year-dedication to change Mississippi parole laws for transitioning incarcerated women; Hinds Community College and the City of Vicksburg advocating a future workforce for the State of Mississippi; and the weekly show, Friday Fur Babies, featuring adorable animals needing a forever home. The Oglethorpe University (Georgia) graduate has won multiple Associated Press awards.
Mississippi resident – Lorena Quiroz – was born in Ecuador, by way of New York. The 22-year health leader served as State Director of Community and Stakeholder Engagement at the Office of Health Disparities Elimination. When the Trump Administration’s 2019 immigration raids directly impacted the lives of 680 Indigenous and Latinx immigrant poultry plant workers, she became the lead organizer for the emergency response coalition. Quiroz joined forces with queer Black and Indigenous women and founded the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity (IAJE), an organization that purports to amplify the voices of marginalized, multi-racial and immigrant communities by active participation in civic engagement in deconstructing barriers that perpetuate racial, xenophobic, socio-economical and gender identity and sexuality disparities and oppression.
Megan West grew up idolizing news trailblazers like Barbara Walters, Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer. The Laurel, Miss. native is a graduate of George Washington University (Washington, D.C.). After serving as a producer at the Hearst Television Washington News Bureau, she became anchor of the Hearst Station at WAPT where she’s been for 17 years. The Mississippi Association of Broadcasters awarded West and her co-anchor Keegan Foxx First Place among News Anchors at their Excellence in Broadcasting Awards in 2022.
West’s story on marriage records in Miss. helped WAPT earn first place from the Mississippi Associated Press for the station’s Who’s Accountable series. The honoree is a member of the Junior League of Jackson, the organizing committee for the Hinds County Distinguished Young Women Program and serves on the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Opera.
Cassandra Welchlin, raised in Jackson, Miss., sets out as executive director and co-convener of MS Black Women’s Roundtable (MS-BWR) to create a leadership infrastructure for long-term movement building to shift power at the voting booth and policy table. She has empowered many poor communities to use their power at the policy making table and at the ballot box. The W. K. Kellogg Fellow and a Novo Foundation Movement Fellow has been featured in national and local outlets and publications such as Oprah Daily, CNN, HNL USA Today, PBS News Hours, Black News Tonight, Fierce for Black Women, Truthout, MS Today, to name a few. A highly sought-after motivational speaker on expert content such as race, gender and economic security, Welchlin is a Commissioner for the City of Jackson Planning Board, an active member of New Horizon Church International, the NAACP and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Crystal Springs native Maggie Wade Dixon, a widely sought after speaker throughout Mississippi, is on numerous boards, including Merit Health River Oaks Hospital, Mississippi Blood Services and the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. She received the Legends for Children Award by Mississippi Families for Kids for outstanding commitment and support of families and children in Mississippi. Dixon was recognized by the Brain Injury Association of Mississippi and honored with the Eternity Award for being a champion for children, the disadvantaged and disabled of Miss. In October 2022, she traveled with other journalists to Spain for special reports on the Majesty of Spain Exhibition which was featured in Jackson from March through September of 2001. The Mississippi College graduate has received more than 500 awards, including being recognized by the United States Congress in October 2011 as an Angel in Adoption for her work on Wednesday’s Child. In October, 2011 Dixon was appointed to a 3-year term by Governor Haley Barbour to the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service.
Young scholarship recipients received $1,000 awards.
Among many sponsors were Carter Jewelers; First Commercial Bank; Sincere Home Care, LLC; Gordon Medical Arts Clinic; iHeart Media; 16 WAPT News; Green Oak Florist & Garden Center; Atmos Energy; and Herrin-Gear Lexus.
Reacting to the evening’s enchantment was Marilyn Johnson-Luckett (Ph.D.), founder.
“It’s people like you who make Connecting the Dots cultivated. We connect dots from America to Africa and from Africa to America [while serving the people]. Thank you,” she told the crowd.
For inquiry, contact Marilyn Johnson-Luckett @ 601-813-5045.
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