TV correspondent and beauty pageant titleholder Fionnghuala “Fig” O’Reilly will join a notable list of Black and Irish honourees as recipients of the inaugural Diaspora Leadership Awards gala on Thursday, 29 September, at the Manhattan Manor in New York City.
Hosted by the African American Irish Diaspora Network (AAIDN), which explores the links between Irish and African American identity, the event precedes the start of National Black and African History Month in Ireland – where, in 2019, Fig became the first woman of color to be crowned Miss Universe Ireland.
“I am honoured to receive the Heritage and Spirit award in celebration of raising cultural awareness of Black and Irish identities,” said O’Reilly, whose father is Irish and mother is African American.
“This event highlights both the local and global impact of our communities, and I am humbled to be recognized alongside such exceptional leaders.”
It is estimated that roughly 38% of African Americans have Irish ancestry, including former US President Barack Obama, singer Mariah Carey and actor Shemar Moore. During the AAIDN event, O’Reilly will be recognized for her impact and advocacy for women and diversity in STEM. She is the founder of Space to Reach, a tech startup that connects Black and Brown women in STEM to the tech industry. October also marks her return as a STEM correspondent to the Emmy-nominated CBS science TV series, 'Mission Unstoppable'.
O’Reilly – who holds a degree in systems engineering from George Washington University – is also a former NASA Datanaut, having worked within the agency’s highly competitive open innovation program to engage with NASA’s open data to create new thinking, processes and products.
In addition to O’Reilly, AAIDN will honor Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and chancellor of Trinity College Dublin; Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., Harvard University professor and executive producer of “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.”; and John Samuelsen, international president of the Transportation Workers Union.