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Black men honored for business excellence

July 14, 2007 by  
Filed under Money/Business, News

( Oakland rolled out the red carpet for a night of ties, tuxes and plenty of flash during the African American Excellence in Business Awards and Scholarship Gala.

That was Wednesday evening, when Las Vegas glitz met Oakland civic pride at the Oakland Marriott hotel.

“It’s good when black folks can come up and honor each other — just sit down and just dig yourself,” said Marcel Diallo, who has spearheaded efforts torevitalize the historically black community of West Oakland.

The founder of an eclectic mix of businesses and art venues, Diallo was a first-time guest at the gala.

His presence was a bit pressing, since he was among the 101+ men being honored at the gala for their contributions to the community.

He was among such honorees as Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey, American Red Cross Chief Harold Brooks, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Golden State Warriors’ Baron Davis and Michael Givens, founder of Fathers Saving Sons, an organization Givens founded after his only son was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a murder committed in 2006.

Givens said, “I looked at it great privilege to be in the arena with so many great black men being honored. It was the biggest thing in my life. It shows that one person really can make a difference in the community.”

The event, now in its 12th year, is part social mixer and part networking bonanza, with a hefty dose of community spirit thrown in.

A silent auction before the dinner raised $4,000 for scholarships, adding to the $75,000 awarded since 1997 to students through the Self Empowerment through Education, Entrepreneurship and Dreams scholarship.

The gala also kicks off the Black Expo 2007, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Oakland Convention Center, in the Marriott Hotel, 1001 Broadway.

This is spectacular. Honestly,” said Marsha Martin, coordinator of the recently launched Get Screened Oakland campaign for HIV-testing.

“It is really a pleasure when the community can come together to celebrate itself and give back,” Martin added.

There was food, drink and no end to the music by singers of the “Down Broadway” revue, which is a supper-club stroll down rhythm and blues memory lane.

But guests were starting to get fidgety after several hours at the sit-down soiree, when performers interrupted their rendition of “My Girl,” to call the honorees on stage.

I know there are some Motown-lovin’ brothers out there,” called out the singers as honorees began filling the stage in the middle of the ballroom and began a back-and-forth shuffle to the velvety lyrics “My girl, talkin’ ’bout my girl.”

Give 101 black men a hand,” beckoned the singers.

The crowd did. They did more than that.

Some decided they couldn’t resist the temptation to get up and sway along.

The honorees were selected not only because of their business contributions but also because of benefit to the community. The event gave them a chance to all come together.

“It was about young black men sitting at the table with successful, older black men,” said Brian Hill, a California State University, East Bay, educator behind an effort to bring young men together in support of each others’ academic success.

“The achievements over time of African Americans have not been recognized,” said KCBS reporter Bob Butler, also an honoree.

“This shows people can do something,” added the president of the Bay Area Black Journalist Association.

“Lord knows there enough people doing good things. It’s nice for someone to notice.”

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