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Deborah Watts in May Essence “Woke 100” list

Deborah Watts

Deborah Watts

New York –Essence has unveiled its first-ever “Woke 100” list in its May 2017 issue and an area woman is on that list.

The list honors the top 100 women activists and social influencers from around the country – introducing a sisterhood at the forefront of activism across the political, social and creative spectrum. The Woke 100 will also come to life during this year’s Essence Festival, which will officially be themed “Woke Wonderland.”

Minneapolis’ Deborah Watts will be a part of that experience. Watts, co-founder of the Emmitt Till Legacy Foundation, was named to the inaugural Woke 100. A cousin of Till’s, Watts is dedicated to ensuring time will always remember Till and the societal conditions that caused his death. Till, just 14 years old, was brutally killing in Money, Miss. in 1955 by a group of racists whites for supposedly whistling at a white woman. That accusation was later deemed false.

The May issue of Essence features one cover spotlighting 12 of the women using their various platforms to battle injustice and infractions to civil rights, dignity and basic humanity. Writer/producer Shonda Rhimes, veteran journalist Joy-Ann Reid, Women’s March co-chairs Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez, Women’s March organizer Janaye Ingram, political commentator Angela Rye, Circle of Mothers founder Sybrina Fulton, author/blogger Luvvie Ajayi, social activist April Reign, Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi and educator/activist Brittany Packnett all grace the cover.

The Essence Festival, taking place June 30 – July 2, in New Orleans, will serve as the culmination of the brand’s celebration of change agents who are vigilant in creating and inspiring equality and a more inclusive and tolerant nation. Free and open to the public, the Festival’s Empowerment Experience Stage – held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center – will host conversations and keynote addresses that put the invaluable voice of Black women at the forefront and will feature influencers from the Woke 100 list, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Ajayi, Reign, Mallory and more.

“We are beyond proud to announce our first ever Woke 100 list and to summon a circle of women who are shaping the narrative of today’s social and political climate,” said Essence editor-in-chief Vanessa De Luca. “As we kick off the conversation of modern activism in our May issue, the 2017 Essence Festival’s ‘Woke Wonderland’ theme will act as the intersection of passion and purpose – bridging the gap between this generation’s most prominent voices in leadership and those who’ve laid the groundwork before them.”

In addition to the Empowerment Stage’s previously announced keynote speakers and program topics, Ava DuVernay and Patrisse Cullors will receive official Woke Awards for their commitment to advancing representation and raising community issues in their fields. Following the awards ceremony, Asha Bandele will moderate a panel discussion with DuVernay and Cullors.

May 8, 2017
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