Brenda Marsh-Mitchell (File photo)



 Prestigious honor named for notable African American women with deep roots in South L.A. 


The Black Women Legends Awards will be presented to five accomplished African Americans at the 

“Power, Leadership and Influence of the Black Woman” luncheon. 

On Saturday, April 15, the achievements of Mayor Karen Bass, Dr. Elaine Batchlor, Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Sandra Evers-Manly, and Stephanie N. Wiggins, will be honored at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.   

According to Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., chairman of Bakewell Media and program creator, the gala event will pay tribute to the “strength and dignity” of Black women “in advocating tirelessly for the advancement of our people.”  Bakewell added that the honorees have demonstrated strong leadership in politics, business, entertainment, community advocacy, and public service. 

Johnnie Tillmon (File photo)


“Our honorees have dedicated their lives towards the goal of making life better for Black people, both here, in Los Angeles, as well throughout this nation,” said Bakewell as he outlined the considerable achievements of each woman.  

Bass, who previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly and U.S. Congresswoman, is the first female and second African American to become L.A.’s chief executive. Batchlor, a medical doctor, is the CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Healthcare, and Dupont-Walker, a longtime community activist, is the president of Ward Economic Development Corporation. 

Evers-Manly, retired vice president of Global Corporate Responsibility at Northrop Grumman and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation, is a film producer and the founder and president of the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center. Stephanie N. Wiggins, CEO of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and visionary transportation expert, is the first woman to serve in the role.   


Mary B. Henry (File photo)

The successes of the recipients are equaled by the attainments of the women for whom the Black Women Legends Awards are named, said Bakewell, describing the women as “trailblazers who broke down barriers.” 

 “Whether behind the scenes or on the front lines, these courageous women fought for the rights of their communities. Each of our honorees will be presented with an award named after one of these dynamic women who paved the way for us all,” he said. 

One of the awards is named for Brenda Marsh-Mitchell (1947-2014), Bakewell’s trusted confidant and treasured executive assistant.  A native of Los Angeles, she served as president of Mothers In Action and Taste of Soul, two organizations that continue to positively impact thousands of people every year.  

Citing the expansive influence of Marsh-Mitchell, Bakewell recalled in a 2016 Sentinel article, “Ms. Marsh-Mitchell exceptionally organized and mobilized successful marches, rallies, receptions, community service events, fundraisers and political campaigns like only she could. She was politically active, socially conscious and served the African American community with an unwavering and fearless commitment to helping those less fortunate and disenfranchised.” 

Johnnie Tillmon (1926-1995), pioneering activist for welfare rights and the founder of Aid to Needy Children (ANC), displayed a similar devotion to the underserved. ANC became one of the first grassroots organizations for women on welfare and attracted more than 25,000 dues-paying members.  


Lillian Mobley (File photo)

Tillmon also advocated for women’s reproductive rights and battled against the practice by some agencies of forcibly sterilizing mothers on welfare to prevent them from having more children. She wrote a brilliant essay in “Ms.” magazine in 1972.  In an article entitled, “Welfare is a Woman’s Issue,” Tillmon declared a woman’s right to receiving an adequate income, whether she worked in a factory or as a stay-at-home mother.     

The Head Start program owes its beginnings to Mary B. Henry (1927-2009), who served on President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty task force that created the national agency emphasizing nutrition and education for urban children.  Henry was also instrumental in raising awareness about child education, quality healthcare and civil rights for communities of color.  

Hundreds of people benefitted during her tenure as director of the Avalon-Carter Community Center in South Los Angeles. Her deep allegiance to education was revealed during her three terms with the Compton School District as she persuaded trustees to implement campaigns that would raise the self-esteem of youth and establish programs to combat the district’s drug and gang issues. In the area of healthcare, Henry played a key role in the construction of the King/Drew complex. In 2002, the Mary B. Henry Child Development Center opened on the campus.  

Lillian Mobley (1930-2011) was a contemporary, who worked hand-in-hand with Henry and other activists.  A co-founder of Mothers In Action with Marsh-Mitchell and Bakewell, Mobley was another valuable leader in the building of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in 1966, MLK Hospital in 1972, and King Drew Magnet High School in 1982, all in the Watts-Willowbrook area in South Los Angeles. 

Lillian Mobley (File photo)


Referred to as “a voice for poor people and working folks,” Mobley served on many citizen’s boards and commissions where she pushed for quality education, affordable healthcare and services for the elderly. She served as executive director of the South Central Multipurpose Senior Center and fought valiantly against the 2007 closure of MLK Hospital, which has since reopened as the MLK Community Health Center. 

Vaino Hassan Spencer (1920-2016), who founded the National Association of Women Judges, was the first Black woman appointed as a judge in California.  A native of Los Angeles, Spencer earned a law degree in 1952 and became the third African American woman admitted to the bar in California.  

In 1961, she was named a municipal court judge and in 1976, she ascended to become a judge in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. She rose even higher with her appointment as presiding judge of the California Court of Appeals. When Spencer retired in 2007, she was hailed as “one of the longest serving judges in California history.” 

Bakewell credited Spencer as being a valuable ally “who worked personally with me (as did all of these women) to speak to employees in the city about the importance of contributing to their own communities by signing up for payroll deduction through the Brotherhood Crusade.”  


The “Power, Leadership and Influence of the Black Woman” luncheon is a sponsor-driven event.  Interested sponsors should contact [email protected] 


Individual tickets for the“Power, Leadership and Influence of the Black Woman” event are available for $500. Individuals should email [email protected] to register for tickets.  


For more information, visit and click the Power, Leadership & Influence Icon at the top of the website.