Author and poet Maya Angelou returns to Charlotte for a much-anticipated event honoring women leaders and raising scholarship money for deserving students through the United Negro College Fund

The Eighth Annual UNCF-Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, at The Westin Charlotte (601 S. College St.).

The 2010 honorees, who have made significant contributions to their professions and the community, are: Astrid Chirinos, founder and president of Diverso Global Strategies; Cynthia Marshall, president of AT&T North Carolina and Tami Simmons, senior vice president of corporate philanthropy and environmental affairs with Wachovia.

Jennifer Holliday, a two-time Grammy award winner, and Daisy Spears Stroud, a retired educator and civil rights activist, will receive the Maya Angelou/Elizabeth Ross Dargan Lifetime Achievement Award. Holliday made her professional New York theater debut in 1980 in the revival of Your Arms Too Short to Box With God. That role led to her Tony-winning performance in Dreamgirls, and her rendition of that show’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” earned the singer-actress her first Grammy. Stroud is a native Charlottean who took part in the initial desegregation of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

New to the event is the Excellence Award, which was established to honor women who have made achievements in various professional fields. This year’s Excellence Award will recognize women in media from cities throughout North Carolina. Tonia Bendickson, Erica Bryant, Debbie Kwei-Cook, Fannie Flono, Elsie Garner, Belva Greenage, Fran Farrer-Nash, Maureen O’Boyle, Colleen Odegaard, Beverly Dorn Steele and Jeri Thompson are among the Charlotte women who will be recognized. In addition, an evening performance and conversation with Jennifer Holliday will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Knight Theater.

“This is one of UNCF’s biggest and best fundraisers of the year, and we are so honored to have Dr. Angelou and all of these outstanding women join us for an inspiring, fun and quite fashionable event to support students who want to go to college,” said Marilyn Richards, North Carolina UNCF director.

A major highlight of the luncheon is the popular “HAT-ti-tude!” contest. Many women – adorned in their favorite hats – compete to win prizes for the best and most unusual headpieces. Patrons also will enjoy a silent auction with high-end items, including a private lunch for six at Dr. Angelou’s home and round-trip airline tickets coupled with a seven-day stay for two at the Villas At Sunset Lane, a new exclusive boutique hotel in Antigua.

During the luncheon, a $5,000 scholarship will be given to a high school student who will attend a North Carolina UNCF school in the fall. Additional proceeds will benefit UNCF member institutions, including the five located in North Carolina: Bennett College, Johnson C. Smith University, Livingstone College, Saint Augustine’s College and Shaw University.

To purchase tickets to the luncheon and the evening performance, contact the local UNCF office located at 119 East Seventh Street, Charlotte, N.C., or call 704-377-8625. Information also is available on the events section at

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