Metro Weekly

NBJC Honors 11 Extraordinary Black LGBTQ Women at Wisdom Awards

Earline Budd, Wanda Sykes, and Darlene Nipper are among the women honored at Tuesday's virtual awards ceremony.

Earline Budd (Photo: Todd Franson), Wanda Sykes (Photo: Derek Wood) and Darlene Nipper (Photo: Todd Franson)

The National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to empowering LGBTQ people, will host its Third Annual Legendary Elders Wisdom Awards and Tea. The virtual event takes place on Tuesday, May 16, starting at 1 p.m. EST.

The awards honor Black LGBTQ women elders and their contributions to America, the Black community, and the LGBTQ movement.

The ceremony will be live on NBJC’s website, YouTube, and social media platforms. Watch it live at

This year’s 11 honorees are:

  • Mary Anne Adams, the founder and Executive Director of ZAMI NOBLA (National Organization of Black Lesbian on Aging), the only organization in the country building power for Black lesbian elders.
  • Simone Bell, the first Black, openly lesbian legislator to serve in a state legislature in the United States. Bell was elected to the Georgia House four times.
  • Earline Budd, the founder of Transgender Health Empowerment and an early leader in challenging systemic abuses of Black transgender women.
  • Roz Lee, a trailblazer for Black LGBTQ people in philanthropy, who recently served as the Vice President of Philanthropy at the Equality Fund.
  • Darlene Nipper, CEO of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and the former Deputy Executive Director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
  • Donna Payne-Hardy, co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition, and a trailblazer for Black leadership at the Human Rights Campaign within the organization.
  • E. Denise Simmons, the former mayor of Cambridge and the first Black, openly lesbian mayor in the U.S.
  • Nadine Smith, the co-founder and Executive Director of Equality Florida, a Time100 honoree, and one of four national co-chairs of the 1993 March on Washington.
  • Wanda Sykes, an award-winning stand-up comedian, late-night talk show host, actress, writer, and producer.
  • Beverly Tillery, the Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project and an experienced thought leader, advocate, and national organizer with nearly three decades of experience working in social justice movements.
  • Dr. Imani Woody, the President and CEO of Mary’s House For Older Adults and a trailblazing advocate for the needs of Black LGBTQ elders.

In a statement, Dr. David J. Johns, the Executive Director of NBJC remarked, “Too often, Black LGBTQ+/SGL elders are rendered invisible, the process of aging is hidden, and our existence is frozen in photos of young people at pride parades…. The Wisdom Awards…are designed to give flowers to Black queer, trans, and non-binary/non-conforming leaders; celebrate the process of aging, preserve the lessons learned over time, and facilitate intergenerational connections that enable Black people to get closer to freedom — collectively.”

“The Wisdom Awards was created to be the Black LGBTQ+/SGL equivalent of Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball,” added Victoria Kirby York, NBJC’s Director of Public Policy and Programs. “Oprah’s Ball, like our event, was an opportunity for legendary icons to be given their flowers from soon-to-be-legendary icons who benefitted from their labor. Our honorees and torchbearers have collectively worked to achieve dignity, equity, and liberation for the Black LGBTQ+/SGL community. As a beneficiary of an enduring legacy of Black queer leaders working to ensure we can all get free, I am honored that NBJC can give our leaders their flowers while they can smell them.”

To watch the awards ceremony, visit Free, no registration required.

Learn more about NBJC at

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