Who says you can’t go home again? Not Emmy-winning NBC News White House correspondent and Fairmount native Kristen Welker, who returned to Philly last month to emcee the Madam C.J. Walker Awards Luncheon.

The annual fete, sponsored by the local chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc., honors female community leaders of color and is named for the legendary businesswoman regarded as one of the country’s first self-made female African American millionaires.

Growing up, Welker, now 42, attended the luncheon every year with her mother, Fairmount Realtor and one-time City Council candidate Julie Welker.

“It is so good to be home and to be with all of you here today,” she declared to thunderous applause in the packed ballroom of the Philadelphia 201 Hotel on March 16.

Julie Welker and daughter Kristen (second and third from right) with long-time friends and members of the Philly chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
Julie Welker and daughter Kristen (second and third from right) with long-time friends and members of the Philly chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

“I have attended this special event countless times, but this is my first time standing at this podium, so this is a true honor. We’re here to celebrate the remarkable contributions of African American women throughout the country and right here in Philadelphia — including and especially my mom,” she said.

And then she choked up before hundreds of women who over the decades have watched her metamorphosis from a cute, quiet, polite kid to a sophisticated and formidable journalist respected by Beltway insiders and viewers around the world.

“The luncheon was as much about celebrating my mom as it was about marking the work of Madam C.J. Walker,” said Welker. “As an African American business owner, my mother broke through incredible barriers to achieve her success and to give back to her community. She took immense pride in sharing the luncheon, to pass down a shared set of values and respect for the achievements of black women who came before us. She is living proof of the spirit of this luncheon.”

Kristen Welker speaking at the annual Madame C.J. Walker Luncheon.
Kristen Welker speaking at the annual Madame C.J. Walker Luncheon.

Welker also gave props to her father, Harvey, “the most supportive father in the world”; husband, John Hughes, “my partner in everything”; and a laundry list of extended family members and family friends whose support has carried her around the world.

“This truly is a homecoming, to see so many familiar faces,” she said. “It is because of events like this that I dared to pursue my dream to become a White House correspondent.”

Welker’s presentation was the biggest feel-good moment in a day that had many, said Teresa Lamore Redmond, co-chair of the lunch.

The women at “this luncheon formed the foundation of who Kristen is," she said. "To see how far that foundation has taken her, and now for her to come and give back to others, it’s amazing. We’re all just so proud of her.”

Julie Welker, Kristen Welker and WDAS DJ Patty Jackson at the Madame C.J. Walker Luncheon.
Julie Welker, Kristen Welker and WDAS DJ Patty Jackson at the Madame C.J. Walker Luncheon.