NMAAHC Luncheon Celebrates Black Achievement

EncouragHERS Luncheon

Leading up to the grand opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was a long list of events.

Among them was Marriott International’s EncouragHERS luncheon. The event, an extension of the hotel chain’s partnership with the museum, was commissioned to recognize women of character, courage and commitment.

Grammy award-winning entertainer Common served as the event’s host while singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan provided musical entertainment.

“The National Museum of African American History and Culture has been a long time in the making, and all of us at Marriott International are truly honored to be kicking off the weekend with the EncouragHERS luncheon,” said Erika Alexander, chief lodging services officer, the Americas at Marriott International. “EncouragHERS are the women who recognize when their communities need her support, when their protégés need encouragement, when their families need her strength or when friends just need an ear, act as an inspiration to us all, and that’s why Marriott is here to say thank you.”

Johnson Publishing Company Chair and member of the museum’s council, Linda Johnson Rice, gave strong words of encouragement to attendees.


“Today, we are celebrating one very special, one very essential group whose efforts helped build the foundation of this museum,” said Johnson Rice at the event. “EncouragHERS, the powerful women whose courage, character and commitment both lit and kept the light burning for this museum’s mission and vision.”

Director Ava DuVernay, who served as special guest of the event, eagerly expressed her excitement for the luncheon.

“Just the chemistry of women together, it’s a beautiful thing,” DuVernay said. “Especially when we are appreciative of each other. I just hope to see more women in power…more women saying, ‘You look beautiful’ to another sister.”

The Queen Sugar creator also shared her hopes for a more inclusive film industry that acknowledges what members of diverse backgrounds can and do bring to the industry table.

“It’s about creating spaces where we have more control.”

On Saturday, President Obama opened the door to America’s long-awaited first national museum dedicated to Black history and culture. His words were at times solemn, but mainly joyful as he said he hoped the stories contained inside will help everyone “walk away that much more in love” with their country.

“Hopefully, this museum makes us talk to each other and listen to each other and see each other.”

The NMAAHC is the nineteenth Smithsonian museum, and is located on the National Mall just blocks away from the White House.