Setting the highest standards and restarting the game for young men of color, The One Hundred Black Men, Inc. (OHBM) recently gathered to celebrate their 35th Annual Gala.  Widely known as a platform to help individuals build their own human capital and mount initiatives to instill a sense of future-mindedness within their communities, the OHBM marshall their resources and effect change.

Taking social responsibility and economic growth seriously, the extent to which the OHBM have created a force that has inspires so many is atmospheric.   The Black-tie event was held at the prestigious New York Hilton Hotel, the theme…. “Economic Empowerment, Empowering People Through:  Opportunities, Building Strong Communities and sustainable Families.  This is a part of our founder’s vision and a legacy we inherited”, as shared by OHBM President, Michael J. Garner.  “Remaining focused on working towards empowering the communities we serve through mentoring; education scholarships, health and wellness, and economic empowerment [are at OHBM’s core].”

Among the distinguished honorees and esteemed attendees was a roster that boasted seven Champions of their respective fields:  Phil Banks III,  Torrence Boone, Duane Farrington, Carla Harris, The Honorable Charles Rangel, Amar’e Stoudermire and Mentor of the Year, Gary Smalls.  Each serving as a model of excellence in their profession, each demonstrating an unshakeable devotion to their work and each an exceptional minded leader.  Gala Honoree, Torrence Boone is Global Head of Agency Sales & Services and responsible for driving Google’s worldwide strategy and relationships with marketing & advertising agencies.  Duane Farrington, CPCU, another Gala Honoree, is executive VP and chief administrative officer of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.  Mentor of the Year Award recipient, Gary Smalls was also awarded a college scholarship to attend Baruch College.  The recipient of the Community Service Award, Amar’e Stoudemire is a professional basketball player, actor, author, producer, motivational speaker and a philanthropist.  Gala Honoree, Carla Harris is a Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management, Managing Director & Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley.   Chief of Department of the City of New York, Phil Banks III received the Robert J. Mangum Founders Award.  The Honorable Charles B. Rangel was also a Gala Honoree.

As if woven into a collective delivery – it was clear – the message made was relevant to the lives of those receiving it and was impacted in a meaningful way….to focus on quality content, ignite your passions and build solutions!

The One Hundred Black Men, Inc. began in New York City in 1963. “The 100” seeks to provide leadership in the African American community through engaged partnerships, educational institutions, community activism and philanthropy.  The goal is to engage their communities to address inequities, and seek social and economic justice”, as stated in its mission.  In a glowing letter from Borough President, Gale A. Brewer, who said “…your network of support helps prevent youth disconnection that contributes to the shameful epidemic of early incarceration in our city and country.  As the daily headlines remind us, race-based discrimination is a grave and persistent problem that we must fight with vigor and vigilance.  The work of OHBM shows that Black Leadership Matters.”

The evening started with a “New York kind of smile” with an opening prayer and remarks from the dynamic Reverend Jacques Andre De Graff.  Who later shared in a moment of reflection that, “The most important point and one that’s often missed, is that the dynamic success we’ve had with the Eagle Academy is attributed to the challenges we’ve overcome.  The Academy started with the Million Man March and we came back with a new spirit and said we want to make a difference!  No one asked us to do this.  This was an initiative by Black Men for the Black community…. And today, we have thousands of young men who want to wear the Colors!   Not the colors of the Bloods & the Crips, but the colors of the Black and Gold.”  Further enlightening and closing the loop, the engaging Reverend De Graff erupted that, “the biggest issue is that of empowerment!  We were an answer to a Mother’s prayer when they cried over their sons…. A big highlight for me is when I see someone put their arm around [a young man of color] and say I want you to step up, it makes them walk a little taller.  OHBM is not only an organization but a catalyst that we really demonstrate on a daily basis, “Yes We Can!”

With shooting stars sprouting up and already established ones, the evening sparkled with the likes of “New York’s Sweetheart” in radio, Ms. Shaila Scott, as our Mistress of Ceremony, FOX5’s Good Day New York, Mike Woods was Master of Ceremony; a force to be reckoned with and important government official, Hazel Dukes and New York’s own, the Honorable Mayor Dinkins – among so many more – were also present and accounted for.  The beloved Mayor Dinkins, one of the original founders of OHBM, was also a keynote speaker.  So well noted for his emphasis on education, Dinkins warmly remarked that “he had no idea the “The 100” would succeed so wonderfully when they first founded it, and that [The Academy] has made tremendous strides because of it.”
Recognized as New York’s most recent rising star was Assemblyman, Michael Blake, was present along with The Honorable Inez Dickens.  Councilmember Inez Dickens, who accepted the award for Charles Rangel, spoke glowingly about the four-time elected public official.  While introducing the councilmember from District 9, the savvy Reverend De Graff referenced her as “the Harlem Street fighter because she gets the job done.”  Other notables acknowledged were Deputy Nassau Comptroller, James Garner; the Honorable Dick Anderson; Chief Adversity Officer, Cerra Wallace; and as said, “One who made a difference at every stop along the way….a man not afraid to be right, and be alone, State Senator, Kevin Parker.”  And finally a woman who’s made history, Public Advocate Letitia James.

Among some other touchpoints on the program were remarks that were made by New York City Comptroller, Scott Stringer.  The much welcomed Comptroller made not only a speech but made the difference when he shared that “the time had come to deal hard with the fact that our city does not invest in small businesses and those owned by women and [other minorities].  And that we have to do something about it!  We looked at our $160 billion pension budget and said we have to give everybody the opportunity to compete and participate in managing our pension fund.  So when I became Comptroller, the first person I hired to do this work was the first Chief Diversity Officer for NYC operating in the Comptroller’s Office and her name is Cerra Wallace. You could feel the air quality of the packed house rise, the man who controlled the City of New York’s finances had his mojo working now…. He continued, “We mean business!  That’s why we’ve invested a billion dollars in our emerging management program.”

The 100’s Executive Director, Steven Board said in his Greetings to Guests and Friends letter that “the OHBM is best known for mentoring and leveraging our collective talents, abilities and energies of our members to identify business and career opportunities for communities of color.  We focus our efforts on supporting minority and women owned businesses through the identification of contracts and exposure to procurement professionals.”  Always exuding an air of well-placed confidence, Mr. Board causes an effect when he exemplifies not just their philosophy; but their principles of integrity.

Google, a proud sponsor of the OHBM, was in the house congratulating one of their own.  Marketing Director, Torrence Boone, one of the Gala Honorees, holds the position of Global Head of Agency Sales and Services for Google.  Mr. Boone graciously took a few moments to sit down with The Harlemtimes after the gala and parted with a few insights of his own.  “Clearly the OHBM is a vital part of the eco-system that’s focused on helping people less fortunate find their way and providing the inspiration and the support financially, emotionally and spiritually to put people on the path to success.  You can’t argue with that!  What really resonates with me and what’s so important for the community is that the focus is on Black men!  There’s a huge need to communicate to young Black men what true manhood is about and what the right expectations are to being a pillar in the community.  Because our community struggles on so many different levels, you don’t have that generational support and consistency.  There are huge gaps and we live with those gaps when we see the dynamics, like me and my brother not having a father. . . and then to have a resource that provides a scaled response to the maturation of boys so that you do have an example [to follow] is the big “get”.

The evening bustled on during their sponsor’s reception, Harlem Times tuned in with another major supporter, Turner Construction’s Rodney Pope, Turner’s Sr. HR Director chimed in, “I think the work OHBM does with children is phenomenal.  We need more role models that set a positive image than what they see on TV and [The 100] provides that.”  Hilton Smith, Sr. VP and an OHBM Board member, beamed that he was a longstanding 28 year member and was introduced to the organization by Dr. Rosco Brown.  Last year Mr. Smith was an honoree for his outstanding professional contributions.  He further shared that “The 100 had “adopted” the Eagle Academy and each child has a mentor….they’re our future!”  Making things work in a novel way by thinking beyond what is; The OHBM helps young men discover and envision what might be.  The Harlemtimes, in its mission, serves as a publishing & educational platform and joins forces with OHBM in their strides to continue to build dreams, tighten community ties and strengthen resources.

So says Michael Garner, “This is one of our major fundraisers to support the mission of the organization and to raise scholarship for our young men”.   Sr. Director, MTA, Craig Stewart who was one of the guests said, they’re doing “a great job of mentoring young men and how fostering a climate that creates new opportunities” is just part of this group’s DNA.”

….The 100 Black Men epitomize more than just a philosophy: it’s an attitude….a way of life!