*I shamefully admit that I’ve never been to the infamous New York City Audubon Ballroom where slain civil rights pioneer Malcolm X met his demise on February 21, 1965. So just imagine how amazed I was when I found myself standing in the room — and not too far from –where he was fatally shot.
As I stood there, chills ran up and down my spine as the essence of the civil rights legend resonated throughout the ballroom renamed The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial & Educational Center in Washington Heights, 3040 Broadway, New York City. The Center – named in honor of the revered couple — continues to be an iconic cultural and educational venue nearly five decades after that fateful day.
Ironically, what brought me to the Center for the very first time Saturday, April 30, 2011 was an event acknowledging a trio of trailblazing women who walked in the footprints of Dr. Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King.
The WBLS Café Mocha Brunch themed “Celebrating Women,” honored these exceptional women for their work in making a difference and commitment to the community. The awards brunch that took place from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. was sponsored by Wells Fargo.
The exemplary honorees included Marty Gillis, owner/operator of five McDonald’s locations and chairwoman of McDonald’s African American Consumer Market Committee; Vy Higginsen, founder and CEO of the Mama Foundation for the Arts; and Debi Jackson, co-host of the Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens International (HJTTI) Scholarship Competition and co-host of the WBLS-FM radio show Sunday Classic.
“Women — especially women of color — are so vital to the fabric of our communities,” said Sheila Eldridge, Café Mocha’s creator and executive producer in her warm welcoming remarks. “It brings us great pleasure to honor three outstanding women for their tireless work to serve their community and inspire others.”
Gillis received the” powerhouse award” for creating a legacy of excellence that inspires African American Women nationwide. Higginsen received the “children’s champion award” for being the founder of the Mama Foundation For the Arts where talented youth are uplifted through the power of gospel music. Jackson received the “community activist award” for her continuous commitment to empowering youth and the community.
The event brought to an end a two-month initiative that paid tribute to Women’s History. Throughout March and April listeners were informed about women who have globally impacted American history via on air vignettes sponsored by Wells Fargo.
“No accurate discussion of Women’s History or African-American History is complete without recognizing Dr. Betty Shabazz for her contributions” added Eldridge. “We are honored and thank WBLS and Wells Fargo for supporting our ‘vision’ to host this event at such an important moment in time.”
The cutting edge radio show Café Mocha brings a fresh perspective and is heard on Saturday mornings on New York’s WBLS-FM and hosted by New York native and two-time Grammy-nominated hip-hop legend MC Lyte, actress/comedienne Loni Love (E! Entertainment’s “Chelsea Lately”) and broadcast veteran Angelique Perrin.
For more enriching information about Café Mocha, please visit www.cafemocharadio.com or follow Café Mocha on Twitter @cafemocharadio; on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cafemocharadio or call 201 722-1500.
The event, which was generously sponsored by Wells Fargo with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, WBLS-FM, African Pride, Uptown and Miles Ahead Entertainment, featured special performances of “The River” and “Beautiful” by Noel Gourdin.
Other participants in the inspirational program included an invocation by WBLS-FM’s Liz Black and special remarks by Wells Fargo’s vice president of diversity segments Alisa Joseph. Also Shiba Haley, event producer, Mahogany Entertainment, Jackie West, Small Business Administration and Dr. Bob Lee, director of community affairs, WBLS/WLIB.
In addition to uplifting memories, guests also parted with great goodie bags containing fabulous gifts contributed by sponsors. Kudos to Cynthia Horner for her assistance in the success of this event and for radio icon Hal Jackson for just being there in support of his wife Debi and his radio colleagues. (Photos by Kenthephotographer)
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.