Phenomenal Women: Cheryl L. Duncan

CREDIT: Lisa Farrow

Cheryl L. Duncan has a soft spot for history. The president and CEO of Cheryl Duncan & Company, Inc., a publicity firm specializing in entertainment and social betterment, has built a career on promoting women’s history and women making history.

 

She turned the spotlight back on for the late Doris Eaton Travis, who was the last-living Ziegfeld Follies girl, publicizing Travis’ book The Days We Danced and the performer’s appearances at age 100 at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS charity events. She continues to promote the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, one of only three orders of Black Catholic nuns in the United States, now in its 103rd year. In fact, earlier this month a 100-page journal was published capturing the history of the first 100 years of the order, a book which Duncan co-wrote.

 

Mahen Bonetti presents award to AFF PR consultant Cheryl Duncan. Credit: Lindsey Seide

Duncan has also built a career bolstering women who are changing the world. They include Mahen Bonetti, champion of African film. The founder and executive director of African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF), and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Bonetti has been giving voice to African filmmakers for decades through the annual New York African Film Festival at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and other venues.

Likewise, Duncan also works with the National Black Theatre in Harlem whose CEO Sade Lythcott, is the daughter of the theater’s founder Dr. Barbara Ann Teer. With a nod to the past and her mother’s founding principles, Lythcott is charting a new course for the Harlem institution, guiding it into its second half-century.

 

Client Black Public Media’s Executive Director Leslie Fields-Cruz is steering the nation’s only nonprofit dedicated solely to media content about the global Black experience, to higher heights, and empowering black filmmakers along the way.

 

In years past, Duncan has promoted the work of playwright Dominque Morisseau, whose Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations recently opened on Broadway, and Trey Anthony, who became the first Black Canadian woman to write and produce a television show on a major prime time Canadian network. She has repped Shelley Wade, who was the first Black on-air personality to have a full-time show on the popular Z100 hit music station in New York.

 

Other history makers whose stories Duncan has had the pleasure of bringing to the fore include directors Crystal R. Emery, Dai Sil Kim-Gibson and countless female directors through her work in film and television.

 

Over the years, Duncan has enjoyed publicizing Essence Magazine; Felicity Seidel, playwright and actress of Lucky Chick fame; Sharon Mackey McGee and Karen Mackey Witherspoon of Mackey Twins Art Gallery; and children’s book author Dr. Linda Sturrup.

 

 

Duncan’s interest in women’s stories was stoked by her more than 15 years of work with famed public relations professional and author Terrie M. Williams, with whom she freelanced for many years while maintaining her own firm. Together with her mentor Williams, Duncan worked to share the stories of U.S. Ambassador Harriet Lee Elam Thomas; iconic actor Ruby Dee; actress Ellen Holly, the first Black person to be cast in a central role in daytime television; and actors Cicely Tyson and Vanessa Williams, through their work with the Broadway show The Trip to Bountiful.

 

“Women have been so instrumental in my career, from Jazzmobile CEO Robin Bell-Stevens and Sejong Soloists string ensemble executive director Kyung Kang, who hired me for some of my first public relations gigs, to Terrie M. Williams, who has been so influential on me,” said Duncan. “These wonderful individuals have been such excellent examples of women helping women that I have to do everything in my power to pay tribute to them this Women’s History Month and to pay it forward.”

 

The Howard University alumna and Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholar recommends public relations as a career that allows one to advocate for causes one believes in and one that can allow individuals to help share the stories of the next generation of women history makers. Follow her on social media @cherylduncanco.