Previously the Power Rising Award, the Cicely Tyson Award is presented to an esteemed, trailblazing Black woman who embodies our mission to ensure equity, opportunity, and representation for ourselves and our communities.

Tanya Lombard (2020 AWARD Recipient)

Vice President -External and Public Affairs AT&T

Tanya Leah Lombard is a widely respected government relations and public policy executive with decades of professional experience and leadership in government and the private sector. Ms. Lombard currently serves as the Head of Multicultural Engagement and Strategic Alliances at AT&T. Her core areas of responsibility focus on creating, promoting and managing the company’s brand messaging to minority communities and women through the development and stewardship of tactical community-based relations, strategic policy initiatives and special projects. Ms. Lombard is a native of New Orleans and is recognized as a confidante to leaders at the highest levels of government, business, entertainment, national, civic and professional organizations.

Prior to joining AT&T, Ms. Lombard was a Principal with Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart, Inc., a premier international government relations firm providing strategic, legislative, regulatory, public policy and communication services to clients around the world.

Ms. Lombard previously served as the Director of Government Affairs for Altria Corporate Services, Inc. in Washington, D.C. where she was responsible for representing Altria and related companies including Kraft Foods, Kraft Foods International, Miller Brewing, Philip Morris International, and Philip Morris USA. At Altria, she managed the landmark Youth Smoking Prevention legislation with Sen. Ted Kennedy. Ms. Lombard was deeply involved in the development of international trade strategies, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).

During President Clinton's administration, Ms. Lombard had the honor to serve as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Political Affairs. In this capacity, Ms. Lombard advised the President, Vice President, First Lady and senior White House officials on the national political climate in the United States and abroad.

Ms. Lombard is active in several professional and civic leadership organizations. She currently serves on the NAACP Foundation Board, and the Board of Directors for the National Action Network, ColorComm, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation.

In recognition of her community and civic leadership, Ms. Lombard has received numerous honors and awards including the President’s Award from the Black Women’s Agenda, Inc., Harvard University Association of Black Harvard Women Visionary Award, National Action Network’s Keepers of the Dream Award, National Urban League Donald H. McGannon Award, National Newspaper Publishers Leadership Award; Woman of Distinction Spirit Award from the Greater New York Chapter, The Links, Incorporated; Politics365 Game Changer Award, Corporate Leadership Award for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Black Broadcasters Association, Power Player Top 100 Corporate Executives List by Uptown Professional Magazine, ColorComm Circle Award, Essence Strength of a Women Award, Essence Woke 100 Women, Ciroc-Variety Empowered Woman, Walkers Legacy Power 15 Award and the Champion of Digital Equality Award from the Minority Media and Telecom Council.

Ms. Lombard earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Xavier University, and is a former elected official in Louisiana, serving on the Democratic State Central Committee and Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.

Debra L. Lee (Recipient of the 1st Cicely Tyson Award)


Debra L. Lee graduated from Greensboro-Dudley High School and later moved to the East Coast where she attended Brown University. During her junior year, Lee spent a year studying abroad in Southeast Asia in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. In 1976, after receiving her B.A. degree in political science with an emphasis in Asian politics, Lee attended Harvard University. She simultaneously earned her M.A. degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and her J.D. degree from Harvard Law School in 1980.

Shortly after, Lee moved to Washington to complete a clerkship with the late Honorable Barrington Parker of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In 1981, she worked at the law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, as a regulatory lawyer. Five years later, Lee joined Black Entertainment Television (BET Networks) and created its legal department. During her tenure, Lee has played pivotal roles in the company's history, including executive vice president and general counsel of the legal affairs department; corporate secretary; and president and publisher of the publishing division. In 1996, Lee became president and chief operating officer; and, in 2005, she was named chairman and chief executive officer. During her tenure, BET enjoyed some of its most explosive growth in ratings, revenue and popularity. She led the network's evolution beyond its successful music programming into original movies, documentaries, concert specials, news, late-night talk shows and public policy coverage. Lee has also substantially expanded investment in marketing, advertising, digital, research and development.

Lee has been regarded as one of the country's top female executives and served on the corporate board of directors of global businesses including Marriott International, Revlon and Eastman Kodak Company. She has also been affiliated with several professional and civic organizations including the National Board of Directors for National Symphony Orchestra, the National Women's Law Center and the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Lee was also named Trustee Emeritus at Brown University, her alma mater.

Debra’s honors include the 2001 Woman of the Year Award from Women in Cable and Telecommunications and the 2003 Distinguished Vanguard Award for Leadership from the NCTA, a first for an African American female executive. Outside of the cable industry, Lee has also received special recognition, including the 2005 Madame C. J. Walker Award from Ebony magazine for best exemplifying the entrepreneurial spirit of the pioneering Black businesswoman.