CBCF to Honor Trailblazers at the Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts During the 48th Annual Legislative Conference

Actor, John David Washington; president of Essence Communications, Inc., Michelle Ebanks; and producer, actor and director, Laurence Fishburne among 2018 Celebration of Leadership honorees.


September 10, 2018

Marc Banks

WASHINGTON— The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) announced that up-and-coming actor John David Washington; president of Essence Communications, Inc., Michelle Ebanks; and actor, director and producer, Laurence J. Fishburne III will receive awards at the Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts during the 48th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC). The awards ceremony, which will take place Sept. 12 at the Sidney Harman Hall, from 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., is organized in cooperation with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Spouses Visual and Performance Arts Scholarship program. Erika Alexander, an actress, writer and political activist best known for her roles as Cousin Pam on the NBC sitcom The Cosby Show, and as Maxine Shaw on the FOX sitcom Living Single will be the mistress of ceremonies for the evening.

“As we continue to make progress in all facets of life, we must remember to uplift the arts as a conduit for creative expression and a medium for sharing the African American experience with a wider audience,” said A. Shuanise Washington, CBCF president, and CEO. “The Celebration of Leadership is an opportune time for us to highlight the work of emerging and veteran artists that are shedding light on issues and triumphs in our community through art.”

The event will feature performances by the exceptionally talented vocalist Myah Paden, a dedicated student of music at the University of Georgia. Throughout the evening, CBCF and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Spouses will pay homage to legendary actor, producer, and film director, Laurence Fishburne; President of Essence Communications, Inc., Michelle Ebanks; and up-and-coming actor, John David Washington.

This year’s honorees include:

John David Washington, an up-and-coming actor who has received praise for his performance as ‘Ricky’ on the HBO series, “Ballers”. His work has generated rave reviews with the show going into its 4th season in 2018. Most recently, he starred in the Spike Lee movie, BLACKKKLANSMAN. The film premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and won the Grand Prix. Washington will receive the Trendsetter award at the Celebration of Leadership.

Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc. has emerged as a preeminent authority on women and the multicultural market. She is a passionate brand steward focused on the cross-platform expansion of ESSENCE from traditional magazine media to an international powerhouse comprised of digital, video, television and experiential platforms. Ebanks will receive the Trailblazer award at the Celebration of Leadership.

Laurence J. Fishburne III, as an actor, producer and director, Mr. Fishburne has achieved an impressive body of work. He starred in his first television show at age ten in the drama One Life to Live, and made his feature film debut at age twelve in Cornbread, Earl and Me. Fishburne’s versatile acting has won him awards in theatre, film and television. In 1992, Fishburne won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Sterling Johnson in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. He won his first Emmy Award in 1993 for “The Box” episode of Tribeca, and his second for his one-man show, Thurgood, in 1997. Currently, he produces and appears on the ABC-TV hit series black-ish. In The show was also nominated in 2017 and 2018 for a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. Mr. Fishburne will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts marks the start of the 48th Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), one of the nation’s leading public policy conferences. Past awardees of the event include, Cicely Tyson, Richard Roundtree, Phylicia Rashad, Chadwick Boseman, Yolanda Adams, Spike Lee, and Dionne Warwick.

A ticket is required to attend the Celebration of Leadership. To purchase tickets and register for the 48th Annual Legislative Conference, visit Proceeds from the Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts benefit the CBCF’s scholarships in the performing and visual arts.


The ALC is the leading policy conference on issues impacting African Americans and the global black community. The conference features nearly 100 public policy forums on health, education, economic empowerment, the environment, and more. Signature events and features include the National Town Hall, Celebration of Leadership in Fine Arts, Community Breakfast and Health Fair, Gospel Extravaganza, Black Party, Prayer Breakfast, Exhibit Showcase, and the culminating event, the Phoenix Awards Dinner.

The impact of civil and social movements over the last 50 years has played a major role in changing the trajectory of American history. This year’s ALC theme, “The Dream Still Demands,” focuses on the influence and legacy of these moments, while uplifting present-day champions in the fight for racial equality, justice and freedom.

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Established in 1976, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) is a non-partisan, nonprofit, public policy, research and educational institute committed to advancing the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy and educating the public. For more information, visit

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