National Council of Negro Women Convention Opens

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Ed Gordon talks with Cheryl Cooper, executive director of the National Council of Negro Women NCNW). The 70-year-old organization begins its national convention today in Washington, D.C.

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon, and this is NEWS & NOTES.

Today the National Council of Negro Women begins its 52nd annual national convention in Washington, DC. Once led by activist Dorothy Height, the NCNW is one of the nation's oldest organizations committed to the empowerment and equality of African-American women. Cheryl Cooper is the group's current executive director. As the organization marks its 70th year this fall, Cooper says the council is still addressing modern concerns.

Ms. CHERYL COOPER (Executive Director, National Council of Negro Women): There's a lot of guidance that's needed, and while we have made strides in terms of our achievements as African-American women and even our young girls, there remains a lot to be done, and the National Council of Negro Women is rethinking its relevance for today's African-American woman.

GORDON: There are so many people who--and may not know the full association of your group to what is called the Black Family Reunion Celebration that happens annually in Washington. Talk to me about A, the importance of that and, B, where you might like to take the growth of that celebration.

Ms. COOPER: This celebration was founded in 1986 by Dr. Height in response to a PBS documentary about the vanishing black family. And Dr. Height wanted to show everyone throughout this country and the world that the black family is not vanishing, that we are family, we're alive and well with our traditions, our heritages, and we wanted to celebrate that in a national celebration every year.

GORDON: And, Cheryl, where would you like to take that celebration? What would you like to see it grow into? We should note that there is this sense of revelry, if you will, that happens on the Mall. There's a lot of things for kids and there's health screening and the like. But how would you like to grow it?

Ms. COOPER: I would actually like to see it go back into several other cities. I think at one point they were in seven cities and this rich celebration and this health fair and this educational opportunity was available to more African-Americans. So I would like to see the national celebration that takes place on the Mall go back into several cities throughout the country.

GORDON: Now we should note that the organization is putting together a book that will come out in December titled "Tomorrow Begins Today." Tell us a little bit about that.

Ms. COOPER: "Tomorrow Begins Today: African American Women as We Age," is NCNW's way of bringing together all of the necessary advice for African-American women with respect to our health issues, our financial well-being and our overall life satisfaction.

GORDON: Is there a particular issue highlighted in this book?

Ms. COOPER: Obesity and stress are the number-one threat to African-American women's health today, and I think that in this book, you will find sound advice for African-American women to manage our weight and to manage our stress such that we are not dying disproportionately today.

GORDON: Is there a possibility to see a collective organization of women's groups align themselves perhaps with publications, media outlets and the like that may be able to drive, for instance, the health issue that you just spoke of?

Ms. COOPER: I think so, Ed. The National Council of Negro Women is an organization of organizations. We have 39 national affiliate organizations, so we have within our reach four million African-American women that we can pull together to work with Essence magazine and other organizations to really change things and make a difference in the lives of African-American women and all African-Americans in general.

GORDON: All right. Cheryl Cooper, head of the National Council of Negro Women, the executive director there, thanks so much for your time today.

Ms. COOPER: Thank you for having me, Ed.

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