A tangible sense of family gripped The New Tri-State Defender's 4th Annual Men of Excellence Reception and Awards Dinner at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn last Saturday (Nov. 17.)
That sensation was made all the more real by the evening's keynote speaker, Dr. Willie W. Herenton, the first African American elected mayor of Memphis and the city's longest-serving mayor. He did not disappoint, delivering an address that added context to a dynamic event recognizing and honoring area African-American men for their contributions and achievements.
The TSD gala has become an annual Memphis tradition, with nearly 400 attendees on hand on what was a jammed-packed, social-calendar Saturday evening. The event continues to grow in both scope and impact, serving as a platform of recognition and inspiration for young and old alike.
Dr. Herenton spoke eloquently, passionately and direct about the role of men in the changing landscape of public education and in improving the community. He referenced W.E.B. Dubois' concept of the "talented tenth" as the framework for his challenge to our 2012 Men of Excellence as well as previous classes.
Dr. Herenton painted a picture of contrast, juxtaposing his early childhood in a single-parent, female-headed household with the experiences of those who are living in similar family conditions today (and in far greater numbers).
"I grew up without a father, but I had a strong grandmother and a strong mother. Young women are having children now that are still children themselves mentally and emotionally. We can't allow the children to suffer because of their parents' shortcomings, " Herenton said.
"The true measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy," said Herenton, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"What will you do? What will be your contribution, your legacy? It is up to you, Men of Excellence, to help change the landscape for our young people, to be that talented tenth of which Dubois spoke for the city of Memphis."
As the TSD Men of Excellence continue their evolution, we will be there to tell their stories. Our transformation into a dynamic 21st Century multi-media outlet demands that we travel the course of highlighting the daily contributions of African Americans to the growth and well-being of the Greater Memphis community. It is our role and responsibility to inform, inspire and elevate through our various portals, giving the entire Memphis community an opportunity to embrace and recognize the diverse contributions made each day by people from all walks of life.
It is my sincere hope that events such as the Men of Excellence Awards and the accompanying editorial coverage serve to inspire action, moving readers to contribute, invest, work and commit themselves to principals and values that lead to greater stories of triumph and victory rather than those of defeat and despair.
I concur with the words that Dr. Herenton shared. The recognition, pomp and circumstance are simply not enough. We must put in to action the aggregated talent that was assembled on Saturday and in previous years to affect positive change throughout the community. We will be announcing plans to activate our Men and Women of Excellence in ways that leverage their collective talent and influence. Our MOE and WOE platforms must be ongoing think tanks of talent moving forward with action plans to collectively transform our community in a comprehensive way.
I thank all of this year's honorees and encourage them to continue the great work and contributions they are making in the city. I envision them working more cooperatively and remaining engaged with the TSD as we move to inform, inspire and elevate the quality of life for our readers, particularly those in the Tri-State area.
Clearly, the need for MENtors is great. The need for real men to give real time beyond the confines of the corporate and business walls, beyond their own homes and beyond even their own churches and places of refuge is more evident and necessary than ever before.
(Bernal E. Smith II is President/ Publisher of The New Tri-State Defender.)
At A Glance
• The New Tri-State Defender 4th Annual Men of Excellence Reception and Awards Dinner was held at the University of Memphis-Holiday Inn on Nov. 17.
• Purpose: recognize and honor area African-American men for their contributions and achievements.
• Nearly 400 attendees.
• Sponsors: The New Tri-State Defender; AT&T; FedEx; Allstate Cynthia Scales; Horne & Wells, PLLC; and Real Times Media, Inc.
• Special thanks: Nina Allen-Johnson and Jamila Webb – event coordination.