The New York Coalition of One Hundred Black Women held its annual year-end meeting in the art gallery of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building. The special surprise guest was one of the Coalition’s past presidents, the Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Cook is the first woman and the first woman of color to hold this position.

Coalition President Virginia Montague, completing her second two-year term, gave a report on the group’s activities and events from the previous year. She received a standing ovation from the over 125 coalition members in attendance.

Cook shared with the members some of her experiences working with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and past Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She regaled members with stories of her work with heads of state around the world, as well as about the importance of the work of the Office of International Religious Freedom.

Montague said, “Ambassador Cook, or as we affectionately call her, ‘Dr. Sujay,’ is an inspiration to her fellow colleagues in the coalition as well as to women across the world. The position she holds is one of the most important in a world that is religiously intolerant and cries out for recognition of the dignity of each human being and their right to pursue their own religious destiny. “During her tenure as the 10th president of the New York Coalition, Dr. Cook was instrumental in developing a programmatic structure where guests were invited to address the members on issues of concern to Black women in particular and women in general.”

She continued, “Her appointment to President Barack Obama’s administration is once again a testimony and an inspiration to us all. We salute her and are very proud of one of our own.”