*EUR’s Society & Lifestyles and Fashion & Beauty columnist/photojournalist Audrey J. Bernard was one of five trailblazing women honored during the WBLS and Café Mocha Second Annual “Celebrating Women” Brunch held at The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in Harlem, NY, formerly known as the historic Audubon Ballroom.
Deborah Williams, president & CEO, Her Game 2; Latraviette D. Smith, vice president, global diversity & inclusion, American Express; actress, singer, and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph; and Constance C.R. White, editor-in-chief, Essence Magazine, completed the list of deserving honorees.
The brunch opened with friendly greetings from Sheila Eldridge, creator and executive producer, Café Mocha Radio Show, who introduced event co-hosts Angelique Perrin and WBLS news anchor Ann Tripp who delivered warm welcoming remarks followed by B. Lifted Up Gwen Franklin’s inspiring invocation.
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a thousand words from Audrey is worth a gallery of photos from likes of Gordon Parks…” said Sandy Tate while presenting the Legends Media Award to her longtime friend Audrey J. Bernard who had guests in stitches as she modeled her yellow, black and white floral strapless dress with matching shoes in front of the podium and called the fabulous ensemble an “Ode to Michelle Obama…from Express for the dress to 9 West for the shoes.” She drew loud applause when she stressed the importance of keeping Black papers alive. “You must buy Black newspapers,” she said.
Tate, who happens to be my mom, ended her speech to Bernard by thanking her for being such an incredible Godmother and lifelong mentor to both my sister Jeanine and me. She fueled our passion as aspiring writers when we were just teenagers by securing for us a weekly column in the Amsterdam News called “Tomorrow’s Generation,” focusing on teenage issues, celebrity interviews and birthday shout-out’s.
Bernard’s award presentation wouldn’t have been complete without a surprise tribute performance from R&B songstress Alyson Williams. Williams brought everyone to their feet, and to tears, with her personalized version of “Just Call My Name.” Other entertainment was provided by gospel singer Jessica Reedy who performed a medley of her hits including “Put It On The Altar” and Elijah Ahmad-Lewis, Vy Higginsen’s godson, who kicked-off the festivities with an a cappella version of “Amazing Grace.”
Café Mocha co-host Angelique Perrin presented Deborah Williams with the Game Changer Award. Williams spoke jokingly of her mother who told her to remember the 5 B’s, “Be Brief Baby…Be Brief.” Latraviette D. Smith received the Powerhouse Award from co-host/WBLS air personality Ann Tripp and 12-year-old model/entrepreneur Diva Davanna presented Constance C.R. White’s Trailblazer Award. Unfortunately, White could not be there and her award was accepted by Vanessa Bush, executive editor, Essence.
Vy Higginsen presented the Community Activist Award to mentee Sheryl Lee Ralph, whom she met when Ralph was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Students in America. Ralph belted out “I Am An Endangered Species” a cappella and proudly proclaimed her D.I.V.A. status…Divinely Inspired and Victoriously Anointed!
Carl Simms welcomed guests on behalf of his company Wells Fargo Bank and fellow sponsors Susan G. Komen Circle of Promise, Miss Jessie’s and Fairway. The scrumptious soul food buffet was prepared by Two Fish & Five Loaves catering.
The Café Mocha radio show, a subsidiary of NJ based Miles Ahead Productions, is the brainchild of award-winning media veteran Sheila Eldridge and is syndicated nationally in over 25 markets. Heard in New York on WBLS Saturday mornings from 6AM-8AM, the show was created by and for Women of Color and is hosted by MC Lyte, Angelique Perrin and Loni Love.
Eldridge dedicated the event in loving memory of WBLS’ radio icon Hal Jackson, who was in attendance last year at the First Annual Café Mocha awards brunch that awarded the Media award to his wife and co host of “Sunday Classics,” Debbi B.
Attendees included Marilyn Mosley, Walter T. Mosley, Jr., Dr. Janice Carrero-Mosley, Sebastian Carrero-Mosley, Fikisha Cumbo, Robin Verges, Mira Gandy, Laverne Perry-Kennedy, Lu Willard, Don Thomas, Marie Moore, Ruth Clark, Jennifer Cunningham, JoAnn Skeete, Marcia Cole, Terrie Williams, Diane Thompson, Jeanne Parnell, Audrey Adams, Fern Gillespie, Sir Shadow, Carmen Barnes, Edna Sarr, Michael Thompson, Barbara Bolden, Margaux “MJ” Jones, Ken Simmons, Jeanine Tate, Bob Tate, Felicia Verna Mincey, Sharon Newton, Barbara J. Harris, Veronica Jones, b michael, Mark-Anthony Edwards, Sherry Bronfman, Jean Dixon West, Isseu Diouf, Kahlil Daniels, Brent Neighbors, Debbie McIntyre, and Ken Harris. (Photos by Ronnie Wright)
ABOUT THE HONOREES
Community Activist Award Recipient Sheryl Lee Ralph
The recipient of the WBLS and Café Mocha Radio Show’s Community Activist Award is Sheryl Lee Ralph. She is an original member of Dreamgirls, a passionate AIDS activist, and an award winning actress. With a successful career in film, television and on the Broadway stage, Ralph is devoted to her community by serving others in her commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS. Ralph founded the Divinely Inspired Victoriously Aware (DIVA) Foundation in 1990, serving as a living memorial to the many friends she lost to HIV/AIDS as an original cast member of Dreamgirls. The DIVA Foundation focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness, testing, erasing stigma, lowering of the HIV infection rate-especially as it pertains to women, girls and young people, and the development of new and effective programs to combat the disease using the arts. She also wrote, directed and performed the critically acclaimed one-woman show Sometimes I Cry, about the lives, loves, and losses of women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. She produced and created the critically acclaimed DIVAS Simply Singing!, which is the longest consecutive running musical HIV/AIDS benefit in the country, celebrating 22 years of artistic AIDS activism this year. Ralph has also received numerous awards for her work including the first Red Ribbon Award at the UN for her unique use of the arts in HIV/AIDS activism. Ralph is the recent author of the dynamic book, Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl, an unabashed story chronicling the life of a faithful and fearless woman who challenged Hollywood.
Game Changer Award Recipient Deborah Williams
The recipient of the WBLS and Café Mocha Radio Show’s Game Changer Award is Deborah Williams. She is the president & CEO of Her Game 2, an Apparel, Productions, and Talent Management company. Her Game 2 Productions has produced many of the largest fashion show events in the country. As a successful female African-American Entrepreneur, she has paved the way for women in Business, Sports and Entertainment. Williams has successfully negotiated an exclusive merchandise licensing agreement with the National Basketball Association, in addition to several college team licenses. In August 2008, Her Game 2 entered the mass retail market appearing in Macy’s Department Stores. She is also the Founder of Behind The Bench: The National Basketball Wives Association. She has received numerous awards including: One of the ‘25 Most Influential African American Women In Business’ by The Network Journal, the Black Rose Award for African American Entrepreneurs, a 1999 Woman At The Top of The Game; the Department of Commerce’s 2001 Business Enterprise of the Year, and the 2001 BRAG Award – “Business Innovator of the Year”, and Ebony Man Magazine’s 1991 “Woman of Distinction” award. She also received the Community Service Award for her commitment to young women in the community through the “Linkages to Excellence” program, which she founded through The Links, Inc. She also served as Service to Youth Chair of the Fairfield County Chapter of Links, Inc. Williams is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Urban League, The Child Welfare League of America, The Greenwich Foundation for Women and Girls, and the Miss Indianapolis Teen Scholarship Foundation.
Powerhouse Award Recipient Latraviette D. Smith
The recipient of the WBLS and Café Mocha Radio Show’s Powerhouse Award is Latraviette D. Smith. She is vice president of global diversity & inclusion at American Express and is responsible for leading a global team and driving key elements of the company’s global diversity and inclusion strategy. She is also responsible for embedding best practices throughout the company. Smith oversees the Women in the Pipeline and at the Top initiative, as well as a range of global talent segmentation initiatives and other key areas of focus including cultural intelligence. She also leads the global diversity & inclusion customer-centric marketing initiative to help drive marketplace growth for key customer segments. Prior to American Express, Smith was senior vice president, global communications for Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm. She led development of the firm’s internal and external communications strategy, including the global marketing plan, brand alignment, media relations, advertising, and strategic partnerships. Prior to that, she served as national vice president of the firm’s multicultural practice, where she advised corporations and brands across industries on reputation management, market growth opportunities and integrated communications campaigns for employees, consumers and other stakeholders within segment markets. In February 2012, Black Enterprise magazine selected Smith as one of its “40 Rising Stars 40 & Under: The Next Generation of Women of Power”.
Trailblazer Award Recipient Constance C.R. White
The recipient of the WBLS and Café Mocha Radio Show’s Trailblazer Award is Constance C.R. White. She is editor-in-chief at Essence Communications, Inc., and a veteran journalist, editor and culture & style expert. Prior to joining Essence, she served as style director, brand consultant and spokesperson for the leading online company eBay, where she developed content and strategies aimed at women. She is credited with conceiving and creating eBay’s first web-zine, as well as developing a comprehensive editorial … environment. White was previously the founding fashion editor for Talk magazine, a celebrated style reporter for The New York Times and the executive fashion editor for Elle magazine. She also served as associate editor at Women’s Wear Daily and W magazine. She began her career at Ms. Magazine, as assistant to co-founder Gloria Steinem. White is the author of Stylenoir, a ground breaking book on black style, published by Perigee/Putnam. She has written extensively on culture, style, lifestyle and contemporary issues and her work has appeared in British Vogue, Glamour, Essence and The International Herald Tribune. She is active in the National Association of Black Journalists and the Black Retail Action Group. White earned a B.A. in Journalism from New York University.
Legends Media Award Recipient Audrey Jacqueline Bernard
The recipient of the WBLS and Café Mocha Radio Show’s Legends Media Award is Audrey Jacqueline Bernard. She is an internationally recognized society columnist and photojournalist. Known as the premier chronicler of Urban and African American activities nationwide, Bernard has often been referred to as a “regal media royalty legend.” She has served as the lifestyles & society and fashion & beauty editors for one of the country’s preeminent African American newspapers, the New York Beacon, for the past 25 years where she pens her signature column, “Audrey’s Society Whirl.” She has internet presence as well, appearing twice weekly on the Electronic Urban Report. In addition, Bernard has served as the New York correspondent for the syndicated radio outlet, Radioscope, where she has extensively covered the film and entertainment industry. Bernard’s columns have appeared in The Amsterdam News, The Harlem News Group, The Daily Challenge, The New American, The Afro Times, The Black American, The New York Trend and The New York Voice. She was the first African American to ever write for the then 75-year-old Fire Island News. Bernard has received numerous awards and merits for journalistic excellence including the New York Association of Black Journalists Arts/Entertainment Award, The Black Alumni of Pratt Award, the National Action Network’s Women of Excellence Award, The Support Network, Inc.’s Excellence in Education Award, and the Den’s Woman History Month Award. She is also the recipient of the esteemed Thurgood Marshall Prestige Award. In 2011 she was a recipient of McDonald’s Salutes the Faces of Black History, Black Media Legends & Trailblazers honor presented during Black History. Also in 2011, she was the recipient of the Pursuit of Excellence’s Divine Divas Golden Legacy Award.