Janet Rolle, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer, BET Networks, Honoree Suzanne de Passe, Vice Chancellor Achievement Honoree Brenda Blackmon

*The American Foundation for the University of the West Indies (AFUWI) presented its coveted Bob Marley Award to Suzanne de Passe, co-chair of de Passe Jones Entertainment, making her the first female to be awarded the prestigious AFUWI Bob Marley Award at the 14th Annual Legacy Awards Gala on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 in New York City at the lavish Pierre Hotel on 61st Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City.

The AFUWI Legacy Awards gala is a prestigious annual event that seeks to raise well-needed funds to support scholarship programs at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and is its premier fundraising event in the United States.

The Bob Marley Award is a recognition granted to individuals whose contribution to the advancement of arts and culture transcends boundaries of race, color, creed and geographies, uniting people throughout the world in a spirit that embodies the essence of the music and lyrics of the Hon. Robert Nesta Marley, OM.

de Passe, whose mother Eunice was of Caribbean descent and whose father David was of Haitian, French, and African American descent, stated, “I am “honored” to receive the Bob Marley Legacy Award.”

de Passe began her illustrious career with Motown, discovering Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, and numerous other multi-million selling artists.   Her remarkable career has included an Academy Award Nomination for co-writing “Lady Sings the Blues” and three Peabody Awards and a Golden Globe for the mini-series “Lonesome Dove.”

She was executive producer for the sitcoms “Sister Sister” and “Smart Guy” for The WB Network. Other programs have included, “The NAACP Image Awards”, “The Essence Awards”, and six seasons of “Showtime at the Apollo.”

de Passe has won numerous trade and civic awards including two Emmy Awards and her productions have earned over 30 Emmy nominations.  She is the subject of two Harvard Business School Case Studies and received an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Howard University.

Vice Chancellor University of the West Indies, Professor Nigel Harris, and AFUWI Special Honoree Patrick Gaston, President, Verizon Foundation

Currently, de Passe and her business partner, Madison Jones, along with Steven Spielberg are producing the definitive motion picture on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for DreamWorks.

“We are thrilled to celebrate Ms. de Passe for her trailblazing and groundbreaking achievements in entertainment.  She certainly embodies the spirit in which the award was created, and she continues to provide a stellar image and example of the positive contribution the arts can make to our world”, said gala chair, Janet Rollé of BET Networks and AFUWI board chair Michael Flanigan.

The 14th annual “The Legacy Continues” awards were conferred on notable individuals who represent high levels of achievement within their respective fields of industry and enterprise.

The Caribbean Luminary awards were presented to Michelle Johnson, MD of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Ambassador Carlton A. Masters, CEO, GoodWorks International; Kaye Foster-Cheek of Onyx Pharmaceuticals; and Yolanda Lezama-Clark, who accepted a posthumous award on behalf of her father Carlos Lezama, “The Father of Brooklyn’s Carnival.”

Longtime friend and mistress of ceremonies of past AFUWI galas since inception, Brenda Blackmon, co-anchor of My9 News, WWOR TV, along with international Jamaican artist Michael Escoffrey and Jeanine Liburd of BET Networks, were recipients of the Vice Chancellor’s Achievement award.

Patrick R. Gaston, president, Verizon Foundation, was presented with the AFUWI Special Award in recognition of his outstanding professional accomplishments, as well as his years of dedicated service and commitment to the mission of the AFUWI.

Answorth Allen, J.D. and Hon. David N. Dinkins served as honorary chairs; Janet Rollé, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, BET Networks, served as gala chair; Paula Madison, executive vice president and chief diversity officer, NBC Universal, served as diner chair.  UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Dr. Harry Belafonte, OJ served as honorary patron.  Attorney and TV personality Star Jones served as Mistress of Ceremonies.

The University of the West Indies celebrates six decades of achievements in preparing student leaders, advancing research frontiers and engaging industry and community partners for the benefit of the region.

An entire year of celebrations is planned to mark the University’s 60th Anniversary which plans will extend the gamut of the Caribbean region and Diaspora — from the three campus countries and UWI-12 centres, to metropolitan areas in North America — and will involve UWI staff, students, alumni and people, from all walks of life, who have been associated with our University’s development over the last 60 years.  (Photos by Margot Jordan)

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