NEW YORK, New York — On Friday, Feb. 24, the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce (GNYCC) hosted its annual Black History Awards Breakfast at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. The event served as a celebration of Black excellence, and recognition of the contributions made by African Americans to the city’s economy, culture, and society.
The forum was attended by a diverse group of individuals, including business leaders, civic leaders, politicians, and community activists. The atmosphere was invigorating and exciting as attendees mingled, networked, and enjoyed hors d’oeuvre while waiting for the awards ceremony to begin.
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Featuring a panel discussion that included prominent Black business leaders such as Terry Holiday, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and Chair of Greater New York’s Chamber, and Larry Mullins, News Anchor with 1010 Wins, the event saw the speakers share their experiences, insights, and perspectives on entrepreneurship, leadership, and diversity in the workplace and beyond.
The event was kicked off with a welcome address from Mark Jaffe — President and CEO of New York’s Chamber of Commerce of more than 26 years — who begun by asking the audience to hold a moment of silence for victims of the devastating Feb. 6 earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey; Jaffe also spoke about the importance of recognizing and celebrating the achievements of African Americans throughout the history of the U.S.
‘Stories we should never forget’
“This is a special day for me because Black History Month means a lot to the people in this room, and to the people of America,” said Jaffe, adding, “I love this day because I love hearing about our great friends, and hearing them tell us stories that we should never forget.”
One of the highlights of the event was the presentation of awards to six distinguished honorees who have made significant contributions in their respective fields. The program’s participants included: Althea Stevens, Council Representative for New York City’s 16th District, Keia Clarke, CEO of New York’s Liberty in the WNBA, Patricia Ramsey Ph.D, President of Medgar Evers College, Melva Miller, President and CEO of the Association for a Better World, Fermiere James, retired U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, and A.J. Woodson, Editor at Westchester’s Black Magazine.
“This has been an inspiring meeting to see all of the great Black leaders who are making a difference in the Black community today, and moving Black people forward,” said Irene Smalls, author and owner of Nite Baby Nite, a series of children’s books for children of color.
“[At this event], I learned, networked, made business contacts; this is an opportunity that I don’t normally get — and to have all of this presented on Black History Month is just fantastic,” added Smalls.
Diversity and inclusion
The awards ceremony served as a testament to the diversity, resilience, and creativity of the Black community in New York state and beyond. It was also a reminder of the ongoing challenges and inequalities that still exist in the workplace, and the need for continued advocacy, mentorship, and support for Black entrepreneurs and professionals.
Other notable guests in attendance included Marin Montgomery, who shared with Vision Times why she believes these types of events are vital to the development of New York City, and the country as a whole.
“I grew up in Iowa so I’m very familiar with [the concept] of starting with nothing, having a dream, and building on my own personal experiences,” said Marin, adding, “I’ve had to be very cognizant of what I want to do, and how to be able to go from nothing to something. So I can relate to the feeling of building your brand, or business, and trying to figure out your place in the world.”
Marin, who wrote the best-selling book, “What We Forgot to Bury,” also shared why she believes education, and lending a voice to those whose voices are suppressed is so important to the betterment of society, and fostering stronger community ties.
“Getting a reliable news source is so important, and everyone should take a personal interest in reading the news, understanding different sources and educating themselves on issues,” said Marin, adding, “Everyone has a personal responsibility to do what they can to find out the issues that are affecting them, and it plays into the community and being able to recognize those broader issues and [identify] the voices that are being suppressed.”