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Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus McCormick’s EmpowHER Event Celebrates Women’s Achievements

FORT LAUDERDALE – In a momentous celebration of women’s achievements during International Women’s History Month, Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, the first Haitian-American Democrat elected to the US House of Representatives, hosted the inaugural EmpowHER Awards event on Saturday, March 23 at the Mizell Community Center in Fort Lauderdale.

Cherfilus-McCormick received 100 nominations for women across five categories: Women in Arts & Culture Innovation, Women in Leadership Achievement, Women in Sports Excellence, Women in Humanitarian Service and Women in STEM Excellence, with 20 individuals selected in each category.

From this remarkable pool of nominees, only five women were ultimately honored, exemplifying the exceptional caliber of their contributions. Among the distinguished recipients was Calibe Thompson, co-founder and board president of the nonprofit Island SPACE Caribbean Museum, and creative director at Island Syndicate.

Island SPACE president Calibe Thompson with Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus McCormick.
Island SPACE president Calibe Thompson with Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus McCormick. | Photo: David I. Muir (Island Syndicate)

Thompson was recognized for her outstanding leadership at Island SPACE and other uplifting work within the community, winning the Women in Arts & Culture Innovation Award. As a Jamaican-American entrepreneur, Thompson’s relentless dedication to elevating Caribbean art, history and culture has resonated throughout South Florida and the broader diaspora.

Thompson shared the spotlight with other distinguished awardees, including Commissioner Karlene Maxwell-Williams, Regine Hill, Victoria Sexton and Dr. Rena R. Amro, each recognized for their outstanding achievements in their respective categories.

Dr. Rena R. Amro, Karlene Maxwell-Williams, Sheila Cherfilus McCormick, Calibe Thompson, Regine Hill, Victoria Sexton and event host Melissa Dunn. | Photo: David I. Muir (Island Syndicate) Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus McCormick's EmpowHER Awardees
L-R: Dr. Rena R. Amro, Karlene Maxwell-Williams, Sheila Cherfilus McCormick, Calibe Thompson, Regine Hill, Victoria Sexton and event host Melissa Dunn. | Photo: David I. Muir (Island Syndicate)

A Message From US Vice President Kamala Harris

Notably, ahead of the event, Vice President Kamala Harris expressed her support and appreciation for EmpowHER’s mission with a signed letter congratulating the awardees, stating, “Diversity is our Nation’s greatest strength, and we are more effective when we uplift all voices. You all play a critical role in creating a strong future where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

An Inspiring Speech

In her inspiring remarks to the audience, Thompson not only expressed gratitude for Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick’s efforts in amplifying representation, but also called for greater support of Caribbean initiatives, emphasizing the importance of preserving and celebrating cultural heritage, particularly for Caribbean immigrants seeking to reconnect with their roots.

She shared a poignant anecdote about a recent Island SPACE guest, a devout Christian morally conflicted about wanting spiritual connection with her African ancestors, a desire typically cast as a “dark” inclination. The visitor left the museum with newfound knowledge about how Christianity has intersected with Afro-Caribbean culture, cultivating a deeper appreciation for her heritage and mitigating her feelings of shame. “One in four South Floridians was born in the Caribbean, and we are working to create an inclusive, cultural home for that community,” Thompson shared.

Calibe Thompson
Island SPACE president Calibe Thompson in a moment of levity during her comments to the audience. | Photo: David I. Muir (Island Syndicate)

After thanking the Island SPACE board of directors, small staff and amazing volunteers, she urged people to donate their time, talents and treasure to the museum to help keep it growing and thriving. She went one step further to shed light on the museum’s true purpose, stating, “We are daily combatting the idea that any child should be denied their history, or be ashamed of where they come from, or that we should be ashamed that we have colonized this country, which we helped to build, which we are grateful to be a part of, and which should be grateful for us as well.”


Thompson’s acknowledgment during the ceremony emphasizes the crucial importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in positions of power, particularly highlighting the invaluable contributions of individuals, especially women of color, in shaping the perspectives of those dedicated to serving their communities at the ground level. Emotion filled Thompson’s concluding remarks as she expressed gratitude, stating, “I want to thank Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick — because when there is a small but consistent, loud set of voices telling you you’re doing everything wrong, it feels like nirvana when someone of your stature says, ‘Girlfriend, I see you, and you’re doing it alright.’ ”

Congresswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick’s EmpowHER event stands as a testament to the collective achievements of South Florida’s women in leadership, and serves as a catalyst for driving progress towards empowerment.

South Florida Caribbean News

The SFLCN.com Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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