Audrey J. Bernard

*During the awe-inspiring February Black History Month celebration and the day before the Honorable Governor David A. Paterson announced he would no longer seek re-election, he respectfully graced the stage at the Latin Quarters to be honored at The JI Group Fifth Annual Black History Achievement Awards gala on Thursday, February 25, 2010.

This year’s theme, “Developing your Leadership Pipeline,” attracted some 250 young, African Americans professionals from the financial, legal and media sectors who braved inclement weather to attend the elegant empowerment event.

Governor Paterson — along with Stacey Tisdale, on-air journalist;  Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, best-selling author and award-winning financial news journalist; and Aziz Gueye Adetimirin, founder and publisher of The Network Journal — was honored for attaining the “highest level of achievement within our community,” says Calcie Cooper, co-founder of The JI Group.

Showing no signs that he would step down from his re-election race, the Governor delivered a message anchored around the importance of Black History Month — an understanding that became even more clear for him in 1991 upon learning an ancient burial ground, which held the bodies of more than 400 freed and enslaved Africans, existed where a federal building was being erected in New York City.

“The grave site was preserved, thanks to him and a coalition of concerned African Americans,” stated Christopher Whyte, co-founder and chief strategist, The JL Group.  “And those sacred grounds are now a National Monument known as The African Burial Ground.”

Chris Whyte, Juanito Fortuno, Governor David A. Paterson, Calcie Cooper

Whyte praised the Governor for attending the event in spite of the overwhelming controversial media hits surrounding his office.  “You have to give deference to Governor Paterson.  Despite the rumors and media pressure he’s been under lately, his story is unique and inspiring,” Whyte said.

“Our Black History Month Event is about hearing the career paths of the most influential.  Governor Paterson overcame a lot including his disability; his story is inspirational to many corporate climbers and entrepreneurs within the African-American community,” concluded Whyte.

Upon accepting their recognition awards for their career accomplishments, Khalfani-Cox, known as The Money Coach, spoke candidly about how she dug her way out of “living the bling” and $100,000 debt, in three years.  She also spoke about the personal path she took to shatter and ascend beyond the glass ceiling in becoming an award-winning financial news journalist.

Tisdale, who most recently was a financial journalist on CBS, shared how she overcame the personal hardships of losing her mother and her job, and learning she was pregnant within the space of several months. She further expounded on her role as an on-air journalist and gave advice on succeeding in Journalis

Juanito Fortuno, Chris Whyte, Stacey Tinsdale, Calcie Cooper

Lastly, Adetimirin revealed his personal story of migrating to the U.S., becoming an enlisted soldier and what inspired him to launch The Network Journal.  The publisher touched on his success as an entrepreneur as well as offered advice to potential and existing entrepreneurs and professionals working in corporate America.

The JI Group previous achievement award recipients include Alfred Edmond Jr., senior vice president/editor-in-chief, BlackEnterprise.com; Carla A. Harris, managing director in global capital markets, Morgan Stanley; Shaka Rasheed, managing director, J.P. Morgan Asset Management Institutional Americas Group; Dr. Dennis P. Kimbro, entrepreneur and author of the best seller “Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice”; Shon Gables, host of Black Enterprise Business Report; and Dr. Randal Pinkett, Rhodes Scholar, and winner of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice.

The 2010 exemplary honorees left the audience empowered and inspired by their personal stories of triumph.  They are true leaders in the young professional community and The JI Group welcomed the opportunity to share their stories with like-minded entrepreneurs and corporate climbers; and an empowering time was had by all!  (Photos by David Paul, courtesy The JI Group)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.