NAN Honoree Robin Verges with presenters Rev. Al Sharpton and Audrey J. Bernard

*Each year, the National Action Network (NAN) Women’s Auxiliary NYC Chapter hosts an annual Women of Excellence/Men of Vision awards luncheon to honor outstanding women and men for their exemplary community achievements, inspiration and support.

The lovely luncheon took place on Saturday, March 27, 2010 at the Astoria Manor Banquet Hall in Astoria, New York to a packed house and featured a majestic buffet spread fit for a King.

Audrey J. Bernard

The event was co-hosted by The Honorable Rev. Al Sharpton and fabulous fashionista Audrey Smalls, CEO & founder, The Ground Crew Worldwide, a unique firm providing indispensable backstage management during New York’s Fashion Weeks.

This year’s event resonated more than the others with me as three of my dearest friends were among the honorees and I had the distinct honor of presenting them — Sandy & Bob Tate and Robin Verges.  Another honoree, Valerie Oliver-Durrah, is also a good friend.

The luncheon kicked off with the procession of the nineteen honorees that included Kennedy Williams-Benjamin, Earland Rachel Brumfield, Wylia Slade-Chestnut, Chris Curry, Valerie Oliver-Durrah, Raymond Farquharson, Ricardo Ferguson, Russell Graddy, Angela B. Hollis, Marsha Hosley, Nakia D. Johnson, Geneva Lewis, Linda Outerbridge, Mary Pannell, Courtney Rodriquez, Minister Beverly Harris-Surgeon, Robert Tate, Sandra M. Tate and Robin Verges.

In her warm welcoming remarks, NAN’s president, Marie Thompson, shared her blessings with the glorious audience who were divinely dressed in their early Easter outfits.  And, as she looked out onto the beautiful audience, the newly elected president said, “God has given us talents and skills to share with one another and as we travel along the journey called life, find your purpose and live it.”

NAN Honorees Bob & Sandy Tate with presenter Rev. Al Sharpton

Thompson then turned her remarks to NAN’s much-admired visionary leader, Rev. Sharpton.  “Reverend Al Sharpton, our president of the National Action Network, is a perfect example of following your vision, and I am thankful to God for allowing me to be part of the National Action Network’s glorious journey.”

During lunch guests were delightfully entertained by the Somethin Untouchable Dancers and impersonator Joy Moses.  Guests found it hard to remain seated and danced every chance they got to the hot music by DJ Wayne Glover.  Church people sure know how to party!

NAN Honorees Sandy & Bob Tate with Family & Friends

In her glowing message, NAN’s chairwoman Kathy Jordan Sharpton, resplendent in a green taffeta cocktail dress accessorized with animal print high heels, cheerfully greeted guests in peace.  “Our theme this year, ‘Women Empowering Growth & Change in the New Decade,’ reminds us that we must be encouraged to embrace our purpose, and know what God would have for us to do,” expressed Kathy.

Patrice Perry, Gayle Marquis, Rev. & Mrs. Darren Ferguson, Rev. Dr. Thomas D. Johnson, Sr., Dominique Sharpton, Audrey Smaltz and Kathy Sharpton

“This is our 14th year and we have continued to make progress in supporting the efforts and the vision of The Rev. Al Sharpton and The National Action Network through our fund raising efforts and commitment by organizing around issues and demanding change, trying to bring an end to the cycle of poverty, pain and injustice as the struggle continues.”

Kathy appealed to guests to continue to support President Obama and help him in his quest to make this country a better place.  “Change really has come to America, and it is not only our responsibility, but our duty to do our part to help President Obama reshape the country.”

In a planned move she asked all members of NAN to join her at the podium.  She once again extolled the virtues and vision of Rev. Sharpton.  “We thank Rev. Sharpton — the hardest working leader that I know – for his consummate leadership.”  And turning to him she proudly affirmed, “And how you have always stood strong behind the efforts of NAN.”

She then called a surprised Rev. Sharpton to the floor and presented him with a Man of Excellence award for his excellent leadership, rendering him speechless.  “I always present the awards” said the stunned activist.  “I like being on the receiving end,” he laughed.  “I could get use to this.”

As I was leaving the inspiring afternoon affair, guests were tearing up the dance floor forming the perennial “Soul Train” line followed by the other favorite signature dance, The Electric Slide.

National Action Network 2010 Honorees

Kudos to NAN’s outstanding membership and its exceptional executive board including chairwoman Kathy Jordan Sharpton, president Marie Thompson, first vice president Aisha Wilson, treasurer Marie Washington, assistant treasurer Patrice Perry, financial secretary Earland Rachel Brumsfield, recording secretary Valerie Wilson, assistant recording secretary Franshara Hunter, sergeant-at-arms Gwendolyn Grant, chaplain Katherine Hunter, assistant chaplain Carmetta Perry and advisor Judith Price.  And an awe-inspiring time was had by all.  Amen.  Amen! (Photos by Ronnie Wright)

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