James Brown Memorial Award recipient Mariah Carey

*In April 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  His unfortunate and untimely death resulted in the creation of the National Action Network (NAN) in 1991 by Rev. Al Sharpton and a group of political and human rights activists in New York.

Rev. Al Sharpton, Tamika Mallory, honoree Wyclef Jean, Rev. Jesse Jackson

NAN’s mission is to empower people by providing extensive voter education, services aiding the poor, supporting economically small community businesses, confronting racism and violation of civil and human rights.

NAN created the Keepers of the Dream (KOD) awards to celebrate the life and work of Dr. King as well as to fete those who have continued to advocate for the principles for which the slain civil rights leader gave his life.

Kelli Coleman, Nick Cannon, James Brown Memorial Award recipient Mariah Carey, Rev. Al Sharpton and his daughter Dominique Sharpton

The awards are handed out each year in April to mark the anniversary of Dr. King’s death and to salute the pillars of the community from all walks of life who keep Dr. King’s dream alive.  The gala is held in conjunction with NAN’s annual convention.

The 12th annual KOD gala took place on Thursday, April 15, 2010 at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers and was hosted by MSNBC news correspondent Tamron Hall and featured special musical performances by The Roots band and Miri Ben-Ari.

Executive of Excellence Award recipient Jeffrey Zucker, Rev. Al Sharpton

The evening was executive produced by Ogilvy & Mather, NAN’s national executive director Tamika Mallory, and Rachel Noerdlinger, president, Noerdlinger Media and executive vice president, Reverend Al Sharpton Media.

Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church delivered the invocation and blessing before dinner was served followed by a rousing keynote address by Dr. Bill Cosby that centered on the importance of leadership and self-motivation.

Tamika Mallory, keynote address speaker Bill Cosby, Rev. Al Sharpton

In a surprised and totally unexpected move, Rev. Sharpton and Mallory presented Dr. Cosby with a special KOD meritorious award for his commitment to fairness and racial harmony to the delight of the capacity crowd.

Then Rev. Sharpton was joined by Mallory and Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, NAN’s chairman, in presenting the 2010 KOD awards to an esteemed group of recipients including:

The Roots

Wyclef Jean, humanitarian and world-renown musical artist (cultural excellence award); Jeff Zucker, president and CEO, NBC Universal (executive of excellence award); and Mariah Carey, award-winning actress and internationally acclaimed singer (James Brown memorial award).

Audrey J. Bernard

Also Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Jr., president, Morehouse College (MLK education leadership award); Kimberly B. Davis, president, JPMorgan Chase Foundation (woman of excellence award); and Bishop Charles E. Blake, Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ (Dr. Wyatt T. Walker service award).

Lastly, Johnny Furr, Jr., vice president, community affairs & consumer outreach, Anheuser-Busch Companies (community service award); DeMaurice Smith, executive director, federation of professional athletes, National Football League Players’ Association (MLK sports leadership award); and The Home Depot (corporation of excellence award).

Grammy award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari and Dr. Christopher Kyriakides, founder & medical director, New York Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, were recipients of the 2010 NAN community service awards.  (Photos by Audrey J. Bernard, Kenthephotographer, Ronnie Wright)

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

Community Service Award recipient Miri Ben-Ari

Executive Producers of National Action Network's Keeper of the Dream 2010 Community Service Awards Tamika Mallory and Rachel Noerdlinger (Photo by Getty Images)