By Audrey J. Bernard, Lifestyles & Society Editor
*The National Action Network (NAN) is one of the leading civil rights organizations in the nation, with chapters throughout the U.S. Founded in 1991 by The Reverend Al Sharpton, NAN works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote a modern civil rights agenda that includes the fight for one standard of justice, decency and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, national origin and gender.
This has been a pivotal year for the famed organization now celebrating its 20-year anniversary. Rev. Sharpton who turned 57 this year received one of his best gifts ever with the launch of his vital daily TV show on MSNBC “Politics Nation,” which has received unbelievable traction since its start.
This year also marked the second anniversary of NAN’s signature Triumph Awards on Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room with its sparkling view of Central Park. The Triumph Awards was initiated to pay tribute to those who have made a positive impact beyond their performance on stage, in the arts, in sports, and in the community.
The benefit evening raised over a million dollars in funds and pledges that included a personal check from Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry Studios, who was moved by the organization’s strength and purpose. This is an awards program that keeps on giving. Perry received the Chairman’s Award for Historic and Transformative Service.
“Mr. Perry’s contribution and others will help NAN to continue grassroots efforts and expand its chapters across the United States that engage in crucial civil rights work,” remarked NAN’s national executive director Tamika D. Mallory.
New York State’s Governor Andrew Cuomo made a special appearance during the presentation to Chris Rock with the President’s Award for Service and Humanitarian efforts for the work that he and his wife Malaak have done in the community.
Other 2011 Triumph Awards recipients included Marva Smalls, executive vice president, Global Inclusion Strategy, Viacom & executive vice president, public affairs & chief of staff, Nickelodeon Networks Group; Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president, baseball development, Major League Baseball; Los Angeles Sparks forward and WNBA legend Tina Thompson; Maurice Cox, vice president, corporate development & diversity, PepsiCo Company; Attorney General Kamala Harris, State of California; and the Honorable Judge Greg Mathis.
The star-studded program featured a performance by The Cast of Layon Gray‘s award-winning play Black Angels Over Tuskegee starring Lamman Rucker, as well as a special musical performance by multi-platinum recording artist Joe. The event was hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist & NBC News correspondent Mara Schiavocampo.
NAN’s chairman of the board, The Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson; Rachel Noerdlinger, president, Noerdlinger Media and EVP, Reverend Al Sharpton Media; and Dominique Sharpton contributed to the success of the evening; as well as author & producer Tonya Lewis Lee and Paula Madison, CEO, Madison Media Management who presided as co-chairs.
NAN has an impressive track record. Since the last Triumph Awards, NAN has cemented itself as one of the top civil rights organizations in the country. Whether continuing the fight against racial profiling, defending parents for putting their children in school districts in Ohio and Connecticut, or joining with labor organizations to protect worker’s rights in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana, NAN and its 46 chapters have been working tirelessly around the country on social justice issues.
The organization has been so effective that it is the only civil rights group who the President of the United States personally addressed at their national convention this year and had five members of his Cabinet come and speak.
Event sponsors and proud supporters of NAN’s second triumphant event included: American Honda, Ariel Investments, AT&T, Black Entertainment Television, Comcast, General Electric, Globalhue, Lilly USA, Macy’s, Mastercard Worldwide, Judge Greg Mathis, Dennis & Karen Mehiel, MSNBC, NASCAR, NBC Universal, The News Corporation, Pepsico, RLJ Companies, Siebert Brandford Shank, Viacom, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Photos by Ray Tomarra)
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.