Award honors the first Black woman and woman of color elected to Vermont Legislature
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Emerge Vermont, the state’s premier organization for recruiting and training Democratic women to run for office, announced today that former Representative Louvenia Dorsey Bright is the recipient of the 2023 Governor Madeleine M. Kunin Achievement Award.
Louvenia Dorsey Bright was the first Black woman to be elected to the Vermont Legislature. She represented South Burlington and served in the House from 1988-1994. The award will be presented to her family by former Representative Kiah Morris and current Representative Saudia LaMont, who are the second and third Black women ever to serve in the Vermont Legislature. Joining them for the award presentation will be Emerge President A’shanti Gholar.
Bright lived out her remaining years in Illinois, but her family has remained engaged in Vermont and New England. Her husband, Dr. William Bright II, was Associate Dean of the College of Education at the University of Vermont before retiring in 1995. Her son, Bill Bright III, worked for Senator Patrick Leahy and her daughter, Rebecca Bright Pugh, has had a long career teaching and is currently an education consultant for Savvas Learning.
Senator Kesha Ram Hindale is the second woman of color to serve in the Vermont legislature after Bright and a co-founder of Emerge Vermont and the Bright Leadership Institute, which is an organization that helps advance leaders of color in Vermont and is named for Bright. She has remained in touch with the Bright family and called to share news of the award in early August.
“It was an incredibly serendipitous and bittersweet call, because Louvenia Bright had passed away just days before. No one outside of the family knew then, so it was almost a divine experience that the Brights were able to hear how loved Louvenia still was and is as a pioneer in our state in the days after her death,” stated Sen. Ram Hinsdale. “Whether you knew her or knew of her legacy, she changed the state for the better, and we hope others will join us in remembering and honoring the difference she made.”
“It is with heavy but joyous hearts that we accept this award on behalf of my mother. We’re honored and humbled that her work is still being celebrated and that her legacy will live on. Her work on race and gender, equity, inclusion, and opportunity is still relevant today and we hope her story will inspire the next generation of leadership in Vermont,” said her son, Bill Bright.
The award, bestowed in honor of Governor Kunin, is given annually to a Democratic woman in Vermont with significant political achievements. Recipients must meet criteria including maintaining a consistent focus on mentoring and supporting women in their political, professional, and educational pursuits; focusing on policy work that expands opportunities for others; and evidence of her work having an impact on the lives of other Vermonters.
Rep. Bright is the seventh recipient of the award. Past recipients include Sallie Soule, former state legislator and Commissioner of Employment and Training (2017); former Vermont Treasurer Beth Pearce (2018); Jane Stetson, former Democratic National Committee Chair (2019); Mary Sullivan, former state legislator and Democratic National Committeewoman (2020); former Speaker of the House Gaye Symington (2021); and former House Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Maxine Grad (2022).
“We are honored to recognize Louvenia Dorsey Bright at our upcoming 10th Anniversary Celebration,” said Elaine Haney, Executive Director of Emerge Vermont. “She was a trailblazer who through her service broke a significant barrier for women of color in Vermont. The fact that there have been only two other Black women elected to the Legislature since her groundbreaking election speaks to how much more work must be done to achieve equitable representation in Vermont government.”
The Kunin Achievement Award will be presented to the family of Representative Bright at Emerge Vermont’s upcoming 10th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, September 23rd at 6:30 pm. The event will take place at The Barn at Lang Farm in Essex Junction and tickets are now available.