nan1*The Keepers of the Dream Awards was established to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by The Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN), a civil rights organization that works through the grassroots participation of its members to fight inequality; and to keep Dr. King’s dream for a better world alive and honor those whose actions further the work of the legendary civil rights leader.

Now some fourteen years later, the event has grown to become the centerpiece of NAN’s annual convention which was held this year in Washington, DC from April 11-14, 2012 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

There was a big political turnout at this year’s star-studded celebrity dinner since Rev. Sharpton has become a MSNBC political personality hosting Politics Nation.  The host was joined by many of his fellow sharp political pundits who were on hand to support their colleague along with Tamron Hall, host of News Nation, who also served as host of the dinner.  (Both shows air on MSNBC, part of NBC News, a subset of NBCUniversal, which is the parent company of theGrio.)

The eagerly awaited event attracted the crème de la crème in politics, civil rights, education, business, the church, corporate, entertainment and fashion industries.  Following a delectable dinner, Dr. Bill Cosby delivered a rousing keynote address.  Guests were treated to a special performance by SONY recording star John Legend.

The coveted Keepers of the Dream Award recognizes those who continue to promote the doctrines that Dr. King gave his life for, in their respective fields of work.  This year’s honorees that were recognized for having committed themselves to fairness and racial harmony and for continuing to advocate for the principles for which Dr. King gave his life included:

Richard D. Parsons, senior advisor at Providence Equity Partners Inc., chairman of the board of Citigroup and former chairman of the board and CEO of Time Warner, Inc.; Denzel & Pauletta Washington; Karla Ballard, chief of strategic development, media and national partnerships, One Economy; and Doug Morris CEO of Sony Music Entertainment.

nan2On behalf of NAN, Rev. Sharpton thanked sponsors and guests for their continued patronage.  “The work that NAN has done over the last year could not have been done without the support and encouragement of our sponsors, friends and supporters, and we are grateful to you for your commitment to civil rights.”

The four-day event consisted of a series of plenary sessions, panels and special events that included the Attorney General of the U.S. Eric Holder, the family of Trayvon Martin, Harvard University Professor Dr. Charles Ogletree, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, David Gregory (NBC’s Meet the Press Moderator), U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

The convention closed with a televised symposium that took place at Howard University entitled: “Measuring the Movement” that featured victims of gun violence and their families including Sean Bell’s widow Nicole Paultre Bell and Kadiatou Diallo the mother of Amadou Diallo.

NAN’s chairman W. Franklyn Richardson brought the elegant gathering to a spiritual close with lasting words.  “Tonight we celebrate in honor of one man and one dream, as one community.  May the memory of Dr. King motivate us, the works of our honorees maintain us, and the power of God sustain us,” he said.  He then closed the evening wishing all a safe journey home.

NAN is one of the leading civil rights organizations in the Nation, with chapters throughout the U.S.  Founded in 1991 by Rev. Sharpton, NAN works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. King 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.  (Photos courtesy National Action Network)

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

audrey j. bernard

Audrey J. Bernard