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'Black Girl Magic' theme of 20th annual Ford Freedom Awards

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

The 20th annual Ford Freedom Awards will celebrate "Black Girl Magic" on Tuesday  during events at the Detroit Opera House and Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. 

Dorothy Height

The Ford Freedom Award will go to the late Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, often called the "godmother of the civil rights movement," at a luncheon at the Wright Museum. 

Jessica O. Matthews, a tech entrepreneur, will be named the Ford Freedom Award Scholar, while Asia Newson, a Detroit teen with a shockingly successful candle business, is this year's Ford Freedom Rising Star honoree. 

"The Wright proudly celebrates 'Black Girl Magic,' " said Wright president and CEO Juanita Moore, "illuminating the achievements, strength and beauty of women and girls."

Height, who died in 2010, was one of the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington, a longtime leader in the National Council of Negro Women, and the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. 

Also named a Ford Freedom Scholar in 2008, Height will be the only individual twice honored by the Freedom Awards. 

Jessica O. Matthews, who earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and is listed on more than 10 patents and/or patents pending.

Tuesday's celebrations will kick off in the morning with a Ford Freedom Award Scholar's Experience for 2,000 middle-schoolers at the Opera House, where a panel will discuss tech innovation, business development, fashion and education in talk-show format. 

Students across the state were invited to submit a two-page essay on an African-American woman they found inspirational who had achieved excellence in one of those fields. 

The top five essays in the contest will be announced at the Opera House. 

The program will then move to the Wright Museum for a sit-down luncheon. At that time, Height's name will be enshrined in the museum's Ring of Geneology. 

Asia Newsom

Matthews, a Nigerian-American from New York State, received her MBA from the Harvard Business School and went on to become an inventor, CEO and venture capitalist. She is the co-founder of Uncharted Power, which made Soccket, a soccer ball that doubles as a power generator.

Detroiter Newson, who's 14, started a candle-selling business at age 5 that last year racked up more than $100,000 in gross sales. She has appeared on the "Ellen" and ABC News' "20/20." 

The Ford Freedom Awards, which are underwritten by the Ford Motor Company Fund, spotlight outstanding individuals whose achievements have promoted lasting, positive change for African-Americans.

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