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Published on September 19th, 2018 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


2018 Enduring Spirit Awards

Honoring the achievements of African American women in the Midlands

Columbia, S.C. – The Friends of African American Art & Culture (FAAAC) present the second annual Enduring Spirit Awards to be held at the Columbia Museum of Art on Thursday, September 27, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. The awards recognize the outstanding achievements of African American women in the Midlands who are working to improve their communities.

The Enduring Spirit Awards are named in honor of the work of Columbia artist Tyrone Geter, who credits his mother as the inspiration for his art. Much of Geter’s work celebrates the relationship between mothers, daughters, and sisters—black women—whose personal and public sacrifices make it possible for their children to advance.

Honorees are selected from nominations received from the community. This year’s recipients were chosen from a strong slate, representing a diverse array of careers and lifelong contributions to the region. The 2018 honorees include:

Michaela Pilar Brown, Arts—Brown is a fixture in the Midlands art scene. Exhibiting across the United States and internationally, she considers herself a multidisciplinary artist using photography, installation, and performance to address issues attendant to the black body. Brown says she “cut her teeth in the halls of a museum where her mother worked as a security guard and has been immersed in the culture of objects, their making and interpretation ever since.” Brown uses her own and her family’s story to tackle larger societal questions about race, gender, equity, and what a future world looks like. Also an advocate for the arts, she mentors other artists and supports organizations like the FAAAC.

Dawn Dawson-House, Business—Dawson-House has more than 30 years of strategic marketing and communications experience. She uses her experience and talents as the director of corporate communications for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and in her volunteer efforts, including her role on the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission. Most notably, Dawson-House was integral in the creation ofThe Green Book of South Carolina, the first mobile travel guide to African American cultural sites across the state. This contemporary travel-planning tool pays homage to the original Green Book first published in 1936 in New York as a directory of safe places for African Americans traveling during the Jim Crow era.

Levola S. Taylor, Community Champion—Taylor’s life in South Carolina is the ultimate embodiment of community service. Serving several terms in the SC House of Representatives, Taylor often sponsored bills designed to enhance the quality of life for residents in the Midlands. Both during and after her political career, Taylor has been heavily involved in the historic Lower Richland community, serving on several boards including the Lower Richland Education Task Force.

Alice Carson Tisdale, Education—Tisdale has established herself during her 25 years as first lady of Claflin University as a champion for education. She has provided mentorship to many students at Claflin University and used her position to found the Alice Carson Tisdale Honors College at Claflin. It has helped the HBCU in recruiting some of the best students from across South Carolina and pushing those students to lead while at school.

Jessica Boyd, Emerging Spirit—The inaugural Emerging Spirit award is designed to honor up-and-coming leaders. Boyd already has a stellar record of community involvement in the Midlands. She is a self-proclaimed “afropreneur” specializing in integrated creative for award-winning multicultural, millennial, and influencer brands. In addition to running The Gild Agency, Boyd co-founded and coordinated the Miss Naturally Crowned Pageant, South Carolina’s first beauty pageant for African American women aged 19 to 30 wearing natural textured hair styles. The pageant awarded over $10,000 in scholarships and provided start-up assistance and business coaching to its participants. Miss Naturally Crowned has been featured by Black Enterprise, Essence, Teen Vogue, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, and more for its nontraditional approach to supporting and celebrating South Carolina’s millennial black women entrepreneurs and scholars. Boyd also played a major role in the promotion of The Green Book of South Carolina.

Recognized this year as Enduring Spirit Legends, African American women who have led long and distinguished lives of service in the Midlands, include:

Elise Jones Martin (103)—Martin is an entrepreneur and trailblazer in the Columbia community. She was the first African American woman to open a business on Columbia’s Main Street. In addition to operating her own beauty salon, she taught cosmetology at Booker T. Washington High School. An alumna of Allen University, Benedict College, and South Carolina State University, she is a strong proponent of education, serving on the Board of Education at Bethel AME Church where she is an active member.

Martin’s passion for building strong communities is evident in her work with the Columbia Zoning Board, Keep American Beautiful of the Midlands, and as head of her voting precinct for more than 30 years. She served on a special committee that played a formative role in the development and construction of Drew Wellness Center. The City of Columbia dedicated the Elise Jones Martin Place in her honor, a development that brought new homes to the area.

Vashti Jackson Woodson (100)—Woodson is a proud graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and attendee of Benedict College and Midlands Technical College. She has long been an active member of Blessed Martin de Porres Catholic Church where she has served as church secretary, Eucharistic minister, religious education teacher, parish council member, choir member, Senior Savvy Club member, and president of St. Martin’s Rosary Altar Society. Her community activities include visiting the sick, working in the soup kitchen, and serving as Girl Scout leader. She has received numerous other awards and honors, including the Rosary Altar Society’s Woman of the Year and Midlands Deanery President.

She is the mother of six children, 12 grandchildren, and 14 great grandchildren.

Martha Cunningham Monteith (97)—Monteith began her service to Richland County District One as a teacher and the first speech pathologist in South Carolina public schools, a role she held for more than 40 years. As a leader and advocate for speech pathology, she worked tirelessly with lobbyists and secured state funding for speech pathologists. She received the Honors of the Association, the highest award bestowed by the South Carolina Speech-Language-Hearing Association in recognition of her leadership and service. She is a charter member of the South Carolina Speech and Hearing Association.

$25 / $20 for FAAAC members. $30 at the door. Reception featuring saxophonist Ken Cheeks to follow awards presentation.

Purchase tickets online at or by phone at 803-799-2810.

To become a sponsor, please visit or email Sponsorship includes an invitation to a VIP reception with artist Tyrone Geter.

About the CMA

The Columbia Museum of Art is a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to lifelong learning and community enrichment for all. Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, S.C., the CMA ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and creative educational programs. At the heart of the CMA and its programs is its collection, which encompasses 7,000 works and spans 5,000 years of art history. Established in 1950, the CMA now welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually and is a catalyst for community creativity and education, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds. It is the recipient of a National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education, a National Park Foundation Award, and two Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Awards for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. In order to serve even more audiences, the CMA is undergoing a transformation funded by a successful capital campaign. Though some sections of the building will be affected during some phases of the work, the CMA remains open throughout renovations. The project is expected to be complete in late 2018. To learn more, visit


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