The 5th Annual Tri-State Defender Men of Excellence Awards Dinner and VIP Reception was truly one for the records. With 300-plus in attendance, including Memphis dignitaries such as Mayor AC Wharton Jr. and his wife Ruby, Downtown Commission President, Paul Morris and Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett, it was certainly a grand occasion to celebrate the contributions of this year's MOE honorees.
The event consisted of various layers of positive expression and connection. During the dinner and awards presentation, The Sidney Kirk ensemble provided a music tribute to our honorees singing many jazz and soul classics. Aided by the super soulful voice of Cidney Joy Kirk (daughter of band leader Sidney Kirk), the ensemble left an impression on our guest with tunes such as "Route 66," "Unforgettable," "Summertime," and "God Bless the Child."
During the reception, our guests mingled and made connections. Saxophonist Cameron Ross set an elegant and festive atmosphere with his mellow and melodic tunes.
"This was phenomenal in the sense that new relationships have been formed and ideas shared that will lead to greater positive impact in the city down the line," commented one member of the 2013 class. "I truly appreciate your vision and The New Tri-State Defender not only for honoring me, but for bringing us all together."
This was the spirit that prevailed throughout the evening, the collective power of black men coming together for common purpose and effectual action. In his keynote, Judge Joe Brown amplified the theme.
Bold, challenging and ever insightful, Judge Brown shared his insights and observations on myriad topics from local government to national policy. Causing many to cheer and some to squirm in their chairs, he pulled no punches in his nearly 40 minutes of energized sharing and teaching. The take away was that the community needs informed, inspired and courageous men to stand up, step forward and make a difference.
A special word of thanks to our Mistress of Ceremony, Fox 13's Brooke Thomas, who was funny, personable and very professional in leading us through a great evening. We welcome Brooke to Memphis and the TSD family and hope to have her back at one of our 2014 events.
I want to personally thank Mayor Wharton, who during his comments referenced and commended my personal triumph over controversy and boldness in moving the TSD forward. It is always good to be acknowledged for overcoming adversity, focusing on the positive and progression.
We had a great group of sponsors this year. They provided essential support that allowed an event of this magnitude to transpire as it did. Our lead sponsor was FedEx. Now in its third year of support for MOE, FedEx stepped up big time as always. I appreciate Rose Jackson Flenorl, Janas Jackson and Pam Roberson for their support of TSD and all that we endeavor to do to inform, inspire and elevate.
Likewise, I thank Cynthia Scales of Allstate Insurance for her continued support and for being a 2013 MOE sponsor. I also give special thanks and recognition to Rick Farwell of Pyramid Wine and Spirits, as well as Olympic Tax Service and Christian Davis for their sponsorship and support.
MOE 2013 is a phenomenal class of superstar men who are doing it big in their career endeavors, for their families and for the community; they certainly deserve the recognition and honor. I congratulate each of them. However, it is important that we collectively understand that the community is thirsty for greater leadership, commitment and conviction from its leaders. Therein lies the true opportunity for this class and past classes of TSD Men (and Women) of Excellence.
There is a need to aggregate the gifts and talents of these individuals towards the betterment of generations to come and towards greater overall outcomes in our community. That is the next phase of work for our MOE. For it is our collective service that has the chance to change the course of lives. So with a spirit of work, we look forward to 2014. Time to step up the game!