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Building on tradition

 2011 Men of Excellence

As the New Tri-State Defender continues its transformation into a dynamic 21st Century multi-media outlet, we realize the importance of telling “our stories” and highlighting the daily contributions of African Americans.
2011 Men of Excellence
The 2011 Men of Excellence (Photos by Warren Roseborough)

As the New Tri-State Defender continues its transformation into a dynamic 21st Century multi-media outlet of cutting edge, introspective global and “hyper-local” news and information, we realize the importance of telling “our stories” and highlighting the daily contributions of African Americans to the growth and well-being of the Greater Memphis community.

Andre Gibson, an executive for Buckman USA, was the youngest of the 2011 Men of Excellence honored at its annual gala. Keep reaching out to us, he asked of his fellow – and senior – honorees.

Men of Excellence online magazine

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. And it is my sincere hope that events such as last Friday’s Men of Excellence Awards – and the accompanying editorial coverage – serve to inspire people to contribute, invest, work and commit themselves to principles and values that lead to more stories of triumph and victory, as opposed to defeat and despair.

At the gala event, I shared a two-part story of personal inspiration that occurred on Thursday (Sept. 29) of last week. Part one was attending the unveiling of the portrait of Dr. Willie. W. Herenton in the Hall of Mayors at City Hall. As I sat and observed the paintings of all the previous mayors in the 192-year history of Memphis as an incorporated city, I realized the significance of Dr. Herenton’s mayoral tenure.

But more importantly, I became acutely aware of the significant deficit in opportunity, exposure and recognition of contributions from African Americans to the fabric of this community during that same 192-year span. It resonated in me that there is so much catching up to do and that it is vitally important to identify and recognize on an ongoing basis the contributions by those of color to the “City of Good Abode.”

Inspiration, part two, came from a short but impactful visit by a minister who was unassuming in physical stature and who asked to remain nameless. He told me that as a young man at LeMoyne-Owen College over 30 years ago he “couldn’t hardly” afford to buy a Tri-State Defender. He recalled being profoundly impacted by the content of the newspaper then, and said that he now is inspired by our content and vision for the future.

With obvious sincerity, my visitor shared the promise he made a promise to himself years ago – that if he ever had the resources to do so, he would make an investment towards the strengthening of the publication. On Thursday, he made “good” on the promise, walking into the newspaper’s Beale Street office shortly after cashing a windfall check. The amount isn’t as important as the message that I took away.

In this day of rapidly changing values and flimsy principles, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to keep a promise to one’s self. This gentleman kept his promise to himself and in my mind solidified the definition of a man of excellence. At a moment when I was tested by exhaustion, he inspired me to a new level of energy for the work at hand.

As I shared this story with our Men of Excellent event audience on Friday night, it served as inspiration for one of the honorees, who subsequently and very discreetly invested $2,500 to further the TSD mission to inform and empower. Both investments will be put to excellent use in fulfilling our obligations and growth plans, particularly as we approach our yearlong celebration of 60 years of continuous publication with a kick-off celebration on Nov. 3, 2011.

I congratulate and thank all of this year’s honorees. I encourage each of them to continue the great work and contributions they are making in the city. And I invited them to remain engaged with the TSD as we inform, inspire and elevate the quality of life for our readers and those in the tri-state area.

We’ve just scratched the surface in honoring our community’s men of excellence. Next year, we build upon tradition and add another layer to our ongoing tribute.


• The New Tri-State Defender 3rd Annual Men of Excellence Reception and Awards Dinner was held at the University of Memphis- Holiday Inn on Sept. 30.
• Purpose: recognize and honor area African-American men for their contributions and achievements.
• Nearly 500 attendees.
• Sponsors: AT&T, FedEx, Justmy.com and Real Times Media, Inc.
• Special thanks: Felecia Bean-Barnes and Jamila Webb – event coordination.

President/ Publisher Bernal E. Smith II shared a two-part story of inspiration.

The purpose, said Executive Editor Karanja A. Ajanaku, was to honor African-American men who motivate and inspire others in myriad ways.

The gala event had myriad accents, including an ice sculpture noting the focus.
Kym Clark of Action News Five guided the evening as mistress of ceremonies.

Deborah Powell Alexander, TSD Vice President / Executive Sales Manager, introduced Kym Clark and set the evening's tone.

The entertainment included keyboardist Sidney Kirk and a group of talented friends.

Brittany Oatis of The Edge Performing Arts Company.

Linda Carter of FedEx extended the sponsors’ salute to the 2011 Men of Excellence.

Honoree Marvell R. Mitchell of Mitchell Technology Group, LLC also received a birthday salute.
Honoree Lee Andrew Bean and his wife. Honoree Dr. Albert Morris Jr. and his wife.

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