Keynote speaker Gary L. Flowers, Honoree TCC’s Stephanie Burns, Gala Co-Chairperson Maria C. Willis, Gala Chairperson Carla D. Brown, Honoree Maurice Coleman (Photo by Margot Jordan)

Keynote speaker Gary L. Flowers, Honoree TCC’s Stephanie Burns, Gala Co-Chairperson Maria C. Willis, Gala Chairperson Carla D. Brown, Honoree Maurice Coleman (Photo by Margot Jordan)

*“The time has come for an all-out world war against poverty.  The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed.

Ultimately, a great nation is a compassionate nation.  No individual or nation can be great if it does not have concern for ‘the least of these,’” sermonized Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on December 11, 1964.

On January 17, 2013, the Black Agency Executives (BAE) honored the memory and words of Dr. King during its 36th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon at the Hilton Hotel in New York City themed “Advancing the Dream of Economic Equality.”

Over 350 professionals and community leaders from the non-profit, corporate and faith-based communities attended the popular MLK event that also celebrated BAE’s 23rd Annual Founders’ Awards.  WNBC-TV anchor David Ushery served as Master of Ceremonies with comedian Chuck Nice co-hosting.  Kudos to chairperson Carla D. Brown, co-chairperson Maria C. Willis and Bobby Watts; and event producer/fundraising consultant Theresa O’Neal, Bee Season Consulting.

The luncheon – which is recognized as one of the premier networking events of the season and known for its powerful keynote speakers — proudly honored one of the most prominent business industry leaders in the nation and two stellar organization: Maurice Coleman, Turner Construction Company and STRIVE.

After a wonderful invocation by Rev. Dr. Gary V. Simpson, the Renaissance Steel Chamber Ensemble who also entertained guests during the reception performed the Black National Anthem followed by greetings from BAE’s president Darwin M. Davis and luncheon chair Carla D. Brown.

Davis encouraged attendees to keep the spirit of Dr. King’s dream alive by supporting the agencies that care for those in need.  With President Obama’s inauguration and second term top of mind, each speaker spoke passionately about the past, present and future challenges faced by each organization but all the need for personal responsibility and deliberate action.

Keynote speaker was Gary L. Flowers, executive director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc., an alliance of national African American civil rights and service organizations in the United States of America, founded in 1977.  Based in Washington, DC, the Black Leadership Forum links leaders of national Black organizations together, forming a coordinated leadership model on legislation affecting African Americans.

Honoree Maurice Coleman is a senior vice president and senior client manager for the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Commercial Real Estate Group focused on Community Development Banking (CDB).  CDB specializes in providing debt and tax credit equity to finance affordable housing, charter schools as well as commercial and retail development nationally.  Prior to this position, Coleman served as the New York market manager and senior CRA compliance officer overseeing the Bank’s OCC regulatory compliance initiatives as it related CRA lending, investing and community service activity and corporate governance.

Turner Construction Company was founded 110 years ago by Henry Turner based on the core values of teamwork, integrity and commitment.  Today, The company’s reach is global, and each of its offices upholds its founder’s vision to provide valuable services to clients, build partnerships in the community, and deliver important resources such as schools, hospitals, workplaces, and social and cultural centers.  Stephanie Burns, director, community affairs, accepted the award on behalf of TCC.

This year’s Agency Award was accepted by Robert Carmona, the co-founder of STRIVE, a non-profit organization that under his leadership grew from a small community-based organization to an international leader in workforce development.  Prior to his tenure at STRIVE, Carmona held a number of senior positions in the NYC not-for-profit community, as the assistant director of agency relations at the Greater New York Fund/United Way and senior planner for the NYC Volunteer Corps.

Black Agency Executives is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support and professional development of its membership, which represents Black human services executives who promote the interests and values of the Black Community.  Agencies include The Harlem Children’s Zone, Steinway Child & Family Services and Care for the Homeless to name a few.

The organization consists of Black CEOs, presidents and executive directors who are responsible for leading many of the major human service agencies in New York City.  Founded in 1976, BAE is dedicated to the support and professional development of Black human service, non-profit executives which in turn positively impact their staff, customers, organizations and communities they serve.  These executives promote the interest, values, welfare and empowerment of the Black community.

b michael & models

At the end of his successful Fall 2013 couture collection held during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Lincoln Center, American couturier and ready-to-wear designer b michael walks the catwalk with two of his favorite muses (Photo Credit: b michael)

*b michael, the American couturier and ready-to-wear designer whose eponymous label is among the most coveted by stylish and accomplished women around the world, presented his Fall/Winter 2013 b michael couture collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on the evening of Wednesday, February 13. 2013.

The electrifying b michael America Couture Collection for Fall/Winter 2013 is comprised of 32 magnificent and modern looks, which the designer created to reflect “the most magnificent sense of self.”  “Flirting with imagination and extravagant notions of style,” the Collection offers an array of textures ranging from silk satin and tapestry to chiffon and crocheted lace, with womanly silhouettes.  The palette is rich with saturated jewel tones and textured black.

Highlights of the Collection include: a sapphire, silk-satin sheath; a black ribbon and tulle embroidered Spanish lace off-shoulder Cossack gown; a yellow-gold metallic silk wool boucle halter-cut dress; and a ruby and platinum silk/wool tapestry elongated trumpet gown.

“This Collection was inspired by beauty and the beauty of life, as I imagined the women who would wear these dresses in the various scenarios that comprise their lives.  This is unabashed elegance and opulence and I really wanted to celebrate women and embrace life to the fullest,” adds b michael.

More than 400 luminaries, industry leaders and members of the press attended the Show, befitting the designer whose collection debuted in 1999 and is known for clean lines, sophisticated use of color and flattering silhouettes.

Among the luminaries in attendance were: Socialite and philanthropist Alicia Bythewood, Apollo Theater president Jonelle Procope, wedding gown designer Amsale Aberra, philanthropist Lydia Carlston, Kathryn Chenault, attorney, philanthropist and wife of American Express CEO Ken Chenault, Amy Fine Collins, Vanity Fair contributing editor and b michael muse, attorney and TV personality Star Jones, Tina Lundgren, philanthropist and wife of Macy’s CEO Terry J. Lundgren, actress Condola Rashad, actress Phylicia Rashad, Couture Council’s Jean Shafiroff, Grammy-winning songwriter and recording artist Valerie Simpson, and star of stage, screen & television Tamara Tunie.

As is customary with the b michael brand, the Fall/2013 Couture Collection benefitted a charitable organization dedicated to education and the enrichment of youth.  This year, the Impact Repertory Theater is the charitable partner.  IMPACT’s mission is to use the performing arts and the dynamics of leadership training to develop and empower young people.

Rooted in creative self-expression and anchored by a commitment to Safe space, Outstanding effort and Service to the community (S.O.S.), IMPACT Repertory Theatre was founded in 1997 by Alice Arlen, Jamal Joseph, Joyce Joseph, and Voza Rivers, with additional assistance from Courtney Bennett and Ray Johnson.  IMPACT operates as a major branch of New Heritage Theatre Group (NHTG), established in 1964, one of the oldest Black not-for-profit theatre companies in New York City.  Since its inception in 1997, more than 1000 young people have gone through our rites of passage and left with life skills that have empowered them to assume leadership socially, academically and culturally.

“Our programs in youth development, creative arts, and community activism have transformed the lives of our members, many of whom have gone on to assume leadership roles in our nation’s top colleges and universities, making invaluable contributions within the various Community Colleges, Historically Black Colleges, and the Ivy League where they are enrolled,” stated Rivers.

About b michael
Fashion innovator, pacesetter and legend b michael began his career as a milliner and honed his skills as a fashion designer and couturier while working in the ateliers of leading designers including Oscar de la Renta.  michael launched his own label in 1998 and is now at the helm of a multi-faceted design brand that includes ready-to-wear, accessories and the treasured couture collection.  A favorite among some of the most photographed women in the world, michael’s designs have been worn by Beyoncé, Halle Berry, Tamara Tunie and Cicely Tyson, among others.  michael has presented collections worldwide and is a dedicated philanthropist and supporter of organizations that educated and empower young people, thereby shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

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

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard