Michael Jobst, national marketing manager, BMW of North America, LLC; Essence editor-at-large Mikki Taylor; honoree Gelila Assefa Puck; honoree Holly Robinson Peete; Essence president Michelle Ebanks; ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts; Tom Penich, media communications manager, BMW of North America, LLC

*On Tuesday, August 2, 2011, the gold carpet fussily placed in front of the Openhouse Gallery at 201 Mulberry Street in the fashionable NoLita (North of Little Italy) area of New York City, presaged a special event about to take place.  And as paparazzi and curious onlookers jockeyed for key positions, gold carpet guests arrived at The Art of Giving exclusive celebration for the philanthropic endeavors of Holly Robinson-Peete and Gelila Assefa Puck.

Essence, the number one media brand aimed at African American women, partnered with BMW of North America, the ultimate driving machine, to honor philanthropy and art and pay tribute to two accomplished and influential African American women who have founded their own non-profit organizations — Holly Robinson-Peete, founder of the HollyRod Foundation, and Gelila Assefa Puck, founder of the Dream for Future Africa Foundation.

The posh party was hosted by Essence editor-at-large Mikki Taylor and featured a silent art auction displaying captivating original art and photographic pieces donated by some of the world’s most altruistic celebrities including singer and songwriter Solange Knowles; Grammy-nominated singer Janelle Monáe; photographer Delphine Diaw Diallo; and actor Jesse Williams.  During the festive evening, guests were invited to experience the all-new 2012 BMW 6 Series.

Monáe donated a breathtaking painting done live on stage during her performance of “Mushrooms & Roses” in Montgomery, Alabama.  Diallo presented a few pieces that were inspired by her rich, multicultural background and personal history.  Diallo’s art is currently on display at the Museum of Art and Design.

Honorees Holly Robinson Peete and Gelila Assefa Puck in front of the all-new 2012 BMW 6 Series

Proceeds from the elegant evening event benefitted the HollyRod Foundation and Dream for Future Africa Foundation.  Event attendees included: singer Estelle, author/television producer Tonya Lewis Lee, record executive Sylvia Rhone, The Studio Museum in Harlem’s director and chief curator Thelma Golden, and many more.

Essence is elated to partner with BMW in bringing together the who’s who of philanthropy and art to honor the important work of Holly and Gelila and raise funds to sustain the efforts of HollyRod and Dream of Future Africa,” says Karen Williams, vice president of sales and marketing, Essence.  “Essence is proud to support women who are leaders in our community and raise awareness of the power of the arts to affect change.”

“BMW is honored to work with Essence in benefit of The HollyRod and Dream of Future Africa Foundations,” said Trudy Hardy, manager, BMW marketing communications and Consumer Events.  “Both Holly Robinson-Peete and Gelila Assefa Puck have dedicated their lives to helping others in need and BMW applauds the selfless work of these inspiring women and their respective organizations.”

The HollyRod Foundation was created in 1997 by actress, author, and philanthropist, Holly Robinson-Peete and her husband, former NFL player Rodney Peete.  It is dedicated to providing better quality life for families and individuals living with Autism and Parkinson’s disease.  The foundation has given compassionate care to many that may not have been able to afford it.

After only one year of service, the Dream of Future Africa Foundation has provided opportunity and equity to many of those most in need in Africa.  Puck has been active in supporting women’s global health initiatives and the advancement of orphaned children in Africa for over a decade.  Her dedication to her East African heritage is well-known and extremely noteworthy. (Photos by Brad Barket)

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