*NEW ORLEANS — Sweltering heat did not deter festively dressed guests from attending the ninth annual McDonald’s 365Black awards program on Friday, July 6, 2012 at the historic Mahalia Jackson Theater in New Orleans. The annual event honors outstanding African Americans who are making positive contributions to the community.
This year’s honorees did not disappoint and were real troupers walking the red carpet – manned by entertainment correspondent Janelle Snowden and national television journalist Roland Martin — and stopping for photos and interviews as sweat poured down their faces. Even the scorching heat did not temper the honorees’ enthusiasm or that of the media who met them with equal zealousness.
The 2012 honorees included multi-platinum and 10-time Grammy winning recording artist Chaka Khan; global humanitarian, best-selling inspirational author/entrepreneur Bishop T.D. Jakes; Grammy-nominated R&B singer/songwriter Tamia and husband, All-Star NBAplayer Grant Hill; teenage medical innovator Tony Hansberry, II; youth empowerment activist Mary-Pat Hector; and McDonald’s owner/operators, Tina and Harold Lewis.
Once inside the beauteous and air-conditioned venue, entertainers, professional athletes, political figures and hundreds of citizens from across the nation were welcomed by Bettina Roberts, vice president & general manager, great southern region, McDonald’s USA and Mitch J. Landrieu, Mayor, City of New Orleans followed by a vision statement delivered by Jan Fields, president, McDonald’s USA.
The program was laced with powerful messages of empowerment — saluting the outstanding honorees who are committed to making positive contributions that strengthen the African American community — from Marty Gillis, chairman, McDonald’s African American consumer market committee, Kevin Newell, executive vice president, global chief brand officer, McDonald’s Corporation and Neil Golden, senior vice president, chief marketing officer, McDonald’s USA.
“Helping others and giving back are critical components to making our community stronger, and it was moving to witness the number of celebrities and community members who supported the event,” said Chaka Khan, founder of The Chaka Khan Foundation. “I am humbled I was chosen to receive the 365Black Award with such an amazing group of individuals who also embrace community service. I commend McDonald’s for their ongoing efforts to make community service a priority.”
The elaborate program was hosted by actor Laz Alonso and included soulful performances by Grammy winning gospel star Fred Hammond, Grammy-nominated artists Melanie Fiona and Eric Benet, and hip-hop legend Doug E. Fresh. Khan closed the ceremony with a surprise performance in tribute to her fellow honorees. Another special and surprise performance from honoree Tamia of her new single was also a crowd pleaser.
Corporate presenters during the stellar program included Robert Jackson, director, African American Consumer marketing, McDonald’s USA; Edgardo Navarro, senior vice president, strategy, field and ethnic marketing, McDonald’s USA; Cody Teets, vice president and general manager Rocky Mountain Region, McDonald’s USA; James Collins, senior vice president, chief restaurant officer, McDonald’s USA; and Sharlene Smith, vice president of operations, McDonald’s USA Great Southern Region.
Celebrity presenters included Full Force, Marsha Ambrosius, Tank, Tisha Campbell and the Rev. Al Sharpton who gave a very moving speech when presenting the award to youth empowerment activist Mary-Pat Hector who he appointed National Youth Director for National Action Network Youth Move last year at the tender age of thirteen.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to recognize and celebrate people who are doing significant work for the community,” said Rob Jackson. “From what our operators do in their local communities to our efforts around the globe, McDonald’s supports multiple programs that help build feelings of pride and inclusion and work to make our communities stronger.”
McDonald’s 365Black Awards launched in 2003 as an extension of McDonald’s 365Black platform, created to celebrate the pride, heritage and achievements of African Americans year-round. This year’s event — produced by Merge Communications — was hosted as a prelude to the Essence Music Festival weekend.
McDonald’s USA, LLC, is the leading foodservice provider in the United States offering a variety of wholesome foods made from quality ingredients to more than 26 million customers every day. Nearly 90 percent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by local businessmen and women. Customers can now log online for free at any of the 11,500 participating Wi-Fi enabled McDonald’s U.S. restaurants. For more information on our U.S. business, visit www.mcdonalds.com, or follow us on Twitter (@McDonalds) and Facebook (Facebook.com/McDonalds) for updates on our business, promotions and menu items. To learn more about the global company, please visit www.aboutmcdonalds.com and follow us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/mcdonaldscorp) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/mcdonaldscorp). #365Black
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.