February 13, 2014
By Princess Manasseh
LAWT Contributing Writer
In a packed ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Wednesday, February 5, the National Action Network (NAN) held its inaugural Black History Month Awards Luncheon.
NAN founder and president, Reverend Al Sharpton who hosted the event was careful to recognize the day as also being the birthday of the late Trayvon Martin, who would have been 19 years old.
The afternoon’s honorees were Danny Bakewell Sr., publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel; Honorable Aja Brown, mayor of Compton, CA; Jon Platt, president North America, Warner/Chappell Music; Reverend Xavier L. Thompson, pastor, Southern Missionary Baptist Church; and Randy Falco on behalf of Univision Communications Inc.
Irving “Magic” Johnson helped to get the program started. The former Laker received a warm welcome from the crowd as he took to the podium.
“I have to first of all apologize to the Rev for being late,” Johnson told the guests, “but I was downtown, I just bought the Sparks Basketball team,” he announced to roaring applause. “I just cut the press conference short, because I told them I promised Reverend Sharpton I’d be here!”
A video presentation of some of the work and achievements of NAN played as lunch was served. Following the video Rev. Sharpton addressed the crowd, welcoming a few special guests in the audience. Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray who Sharpton described as “walking Black history”, “God Father” Clarence Avant, businessman and mobilizer J. Anthony Brown, and Rev. Sister Omarosa, were among those mentioned.
Next, came time to present the awards to the afternoon’s honored guests.
“Today we initiate these Black History Month honors with the National Action Network because Black history is not something in the past,” Reverend Sharpton related. “We reduce history too often as something that happened, rather than what continues to happen. Black history is living, and we want to honor those that help to make history now. “
President of North America Warner/Chappell Music Jon Platt was one of those Sharpton described as currently making history. First to receive his award, Platt “has risen as a giant in an industry that many Blacks have never been able to reach [such a] level of achievement and accomplishment,” said the Reverend of the executive side of the music industry.
Next Rev. Sharpton introduced Compton’s newly elected Mayor Aja Brown, the youngest the city has ever seen.
“We honor a lady now who has made a difference. Around the country Compton was known in a negative , now we have a mayor who has begun turning that around,” he said of Brown who accepted her award with honor and humility, expressing great pride at being awarded amongst “such powerful individuals.”
“Mayor Aja Brown believes in the resurrection. A women who has taken a city that had surrendered to despair, and took it to a place where people are looking upward.”
Reverend Xavier Thompson received his award to heavy applause and cheers as many community members whose lives he has personally touched were in attendance, along with his family and expectant wife.
President and CEO of Univision Randy Falco accepted the award on behalf of the communications company. Reverend Sharpton stressed the importance of Black and Brown coalitions and Falco echoed his sentiments.
Of the five honorees, Sentinel Publisher Danny Bakewell Sr. was the only civil rights era activist, a fact Reverend Sharpton was deliberate in pointing out.
“I have marveled at him because California is not an easy place to organize,” the Revered noted. Sharpton commended Bakewell for being on the “front lines” in community activism over the years, while simultaneously making business work so as “not to have to beg from those he had to confront.” “He’s the quintessential renaissance man of the civil rights movement around this country,” proclaimed Sharpton before inviting Bakewell up to receive the award.
The luncheon is intended to be the first of an annual recognition of community leaders and corporations who are actively making Black history.