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The Black Retail Action Group Honorees (left to right) Terry Lundgren, Iman and Alain LaFontant pose with BRAG’s President Gail Monroe-Perry.

*The Black Retail Action Group (BRAG), Diversity, From a Retail Point of View, held their 43rd Annual Scholarship & Awards Gala on Thursday, October 17, 2013 at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square celebrating excellence in fashion and retail.  The stellar event was attended by over 600 fashion and retail diversity supporters and raised over one million dollars making this the event’s most rewarding and biggest draw ever!  There was a lot to be thankful for as this event left the organization with BRAGging rights — greatest attendance, greatest number of scholarship recipients and greatest fundraising dollars in BRAG’s history.

Barbara’s Flowers set the Thanksgiving tone for the evening using warm fall colors to create an appreciative ambiance.  Grateful guests loved the atmosphere.  Following an invocation by Reverend Dr. Floyd H. Blake, Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral, a gluten-free dinner was served: Jumbo Shrimp with Bloody Mary and Celery; Caprese with tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil; Mushroom Arancini; Seared Tenderloin with truffle duxelle (hors d’oeuvres); Signature Wild Mushroom Bisque en Croute; Forest Mushrooms, Chervil and Truffle Oil; Arugula, Kale and Frisee Salad, Pickled Onions, Blistered Tomato, Toasted Almonds, Shaved Asiago Cheese, Parmesan and Mustard Vinaigrette (duet appetizer); Herb Chicken Breast, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Peppered Bacon, Parsnip Puree, Lemon Thyme Chicken au Jus (entrée); Cocoa Carrot Tart, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (dessert).  Premium libations were served throughout the event.

For more than 42 years, BRAG has been helping to level the playing field for people of color in fashion and retail, and this year’s honorees exemplified the gala’s theme, Imagine, Inspire, Ignite: Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO of Macy’s Inc., received the BRAG business achievement award; Iman, CEO & founder of Iman Cosmetics, Skincare and Fragrances and co-founder of the Diversity Coalition that aims to increase diversity on fashion runways, was honored with the BRAG legacy award; and for the first time in the organization’s history, a 1996 graduate of the BRAG internship program was honored, Alain LaFontant, vice president of business development/brand manager of Sean John, who received the BRAG special recognition award.

“We are especially excited to honor one of our own intern graduates whose level of accomplishment is the perfect example of how BRAG is supporting the industry and its future leaders,” exclaimed BRAG’s President Gail Monroe-Perry.

BRAG also awarded scholarships and internships to students interested in careers in the retail industry who have achieved academic success and are in need of financial assistance.  To date, BRAG has awarded over $800,000 in scholarships to more than 400 students.

Monroe-Perry revealed that this year’s gala was the most successful to date, meeting their goal of raising over $1 million dollars and doubling the number of scholarships awarded from 30 to 67.  Additionally, over $35,000 was generated at the event through a live auction and on site donations, which will support 7 students in the internship program.  Since 1975, over 1,100 interns have participated in the BRAG program.

The black tie gala, which was hosted by top tier fashionista Lloyd Boston, began with cocktails followed by dinner, awards, and dancing and featured a special surprise performance by entertainer Nick Cannon, who recently launched a new tie collection at Macy’s.  Music was provided by Hank Lane Music & Productions.  Gala co-chairs were Laticha Brown and Leslie Smith(Photo credit: Shareif Ziyadat)

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The New York Coalition of Black Women honorees are pictured with NYCOBW’s President Avalyn P. Simon: (left to right) Jean Nash Wells, editor-in-chief and co-founder, The Positive Community, Beacon Award honoree; Judge Tanya R. Kennedy, Acting Supreme Court Justice, Beacon Award honoree; NYCOBW President Avalyn P. Simon; Sheener Bailey Briggs, York College of the City University of New York, recipient of the Edna Beach Political Awareness Scholarship; Antoinette Hamilton, AVP, diversity & inclusion, Beacon Award honoree.

*On Saturday, September 28, 2013, an impressive group of ladies of distinction gathered at the stately Yale Club on Vanderbilt Avenue in the Grand Central area to attend The New York Coalition of One Hundred Black Women’s (NYCOBW) Founders Day and Beacon Awards reception.  NYCOBW is a coalition of women leaders, positive role models and mentors for young women.  While enjoying festive libations, guests snapped their fingers to the lively jazz music of the National Jazz Band of Harlem during a snazzy cocktail reception followed by the illustrious program themed “Illuminating a Path.”

In her warm welcoming words, NYCOBW’s President Avalyn P. Simon centered her remarks on the organization’s twenty-four women of distinction “who through their vision, commitment and courage laid the foundation for our illustrious organization.”

NYCOBW founder Dorothy Gordon received the organization’s enviable Lifetime Role Model Award.   “It is with immense pride that on this our 43rd anniversary we present the Lifetime Role Model Award to Dorothy Gordon, one of the twenty-four ‘sheros’ who set out in 1970 to build a legacy of leadership for the women of the coalition.  Gordon has been an exemplary role model!” stated President Simon about the awardee who served as president 1974-1975.  The award was presented by NYCOBW Past President Virginia M. Montague (2008-2011).

During the notable program, which was efficiently emceed by NYCOBW vice president Dr. Barbara Kairson, administrator of the Education fund of District Council 37 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the coveted Edna Beach Political Awareness Scholarship was presented to Sheener Bailey Briggs, York College, City University of New York, “who demonstrated strong academic achievement and leadership qualities through involvement in student government, civic, or volunteer activities with a strong emphasis on political awareness.

Another key highlight of the program was the presentation of the distinguished Beacon Awards to four esteemed honorees:  Antoinette Hamilton, assistant vice president of diversity & inclusion, L’Oreal USA; Judge Tanya R. Kennedy, Acting Supreme Court Justice; Jean Nash Wells, co-founder and editor-in-chief, The Positive Community; and Sheena Wright, president & CEO, United Way of New York.

In her congratulatory remarks about the Beacon Award recipients, President Simon commented, “Congratulations to our 2013 Beacon Award recipients — Antoinette Hamilton, Judge Tanya R. Kennedy, Jean Nash Wells and Sheena Wright — for outstanding achievement in their professional careers and their commitment to the community.  Each of them exemplifies what it means to lead by example and is illuminating a path for others, which embody the spirit of our founders’ vision.”

Then, a scrumptious buffet lunch — including a dessert bar and libations – was served.

Other participants in this phenomenal program included Mercedes Nesfield (member/invocation), Cheryl Green-Foster (1st vice president/acknowledgements; and a dedicatory tribute to NYCOBW Past President Elizabeth “Betty” Phillips Adams (1986-1989) by presenters Robin Verges, senior vice president, Rubenstein Associates, Inc., NYCOBW advisory board; Natatia L. Griffith, NYCOBW past president (2004-2007), NYCOBW advisory board; and Judith West, long-standing NYCOBW member.

President Simon extended profound thanks to her fellow members, corporate partners and individual thanks to Denise Branker (event coordinator); Sharon Long (entertainment coordinator); Raena Bird (graphic designer); and Dari Levine Rosalina (The Yale Club).  (Photo by Hubert Williams)

New York based award-winning journalist Audrey J. Bernard covers entertainment, fashion & beauty, film, lifestyles and travel for the Electronic Urban Report and other outlets.  Contact her via: ajbernardster@gmail.com

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard