Black brilliance, creativity, and genius filled a packed room at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles Thursday night during the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala. Hosted by comedian Cedric the Entertainer, the annual celebration honored remarkable individuals who have not only blazed a trail as power players in their respective fields spanning across community and corporate leadership, technology innovation, media, philanthropy and the arts, but have been standout personalities representing the African-American community, overall.
R&B supergroup Earth, Wind & Fire and beloved award-winning actress Cicely Tyson were honored with EBONY Lifetime Achievement Awards at the event, while legendary songwriter, producer and performer Nile Rodgers was presented with the Icon Award. This in addition to Ava DuVernay, John Legend, Simone Biles and Nas, gracing this year’s Power 100 issue cover as strong examples of 2016’s most valuable players. They were part of a list of dozens of examples of Black Excellence recognized each year by EBONY.
The event comes after a year of the hot-topic race debates and political shake-ups. A year of Blackness and a prosperous time in carving opportunity for the Black voice to shine in mainstream spaces, such as Power 100 honoree Issa Rae, co-creator of HBO’s Insecure, among the numerous content creators dedicated to telling our stories via universal mediums.
Chairman Emeritus of Ebony Media Operations, Linda Johnson Rice, acknowledged and applauded the attendees and honorees, followed by a video message from First Lady Michelle Obama welcoming guests to the salute to greatness on behalf of herself and President Obama.
“For more than 70 years Ebony Magazine has been shining a bright spotlight on the lives of Black people in America with pages featuring images of Black talent, achievement and Black beauty,” she said. “And when it comes to the most important issues facing the African-American community and American community, EBONY Magazine and Johnson Publishing were there, capturing our most pivotal moments and engaging in our most important debates.”
Finally, leading into the festivities was a prayer and dedication to paying respects to one of 2016’s fallen “Community Crusaders” and Power 100 honoree, renown journalist Gwen Ifill, who died on Nov. 14.
“Looking out at this crowd and running down our Power 100 list, I can honestly say this is one of our proudest moments,” Willard Jackson, Vice Chairman of EBONY Media Operations, stated. “We are even more dedicated to ensuring the EBONY and JET brands continue to shine. We truly need this in our community, both nationally and globally.”
Among the most emotional moments of the night came when actor and director Regina King presented Tyson with one of the evening’s two Lifetime Achievement Awards.
“She has taken us on A Trip to Bountiful. She’s shown us How to Get Away with Murder. She helped us find our Roots. And among her countless awards and nominations, she was recently presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” King said. “Bottom line, what else is there to say other than that this woman is a national treasure to us all.”
Tyson, in turn, shared an emotional story that remains dear to her heart regarding the first time she met EBONY and JET founder, John H. Johnson and what he will forever mean to her.
“John Johnson has been indisposable to me throughout my entire career and to say that I am indebted to him and what he has done for me, personally, and what he has done for all of us, is indelible. I am grateful that he left a legacy and someone to deal with it and carry it on so that it is not lost. We need someone to show us who we are, what we are, and what we can be.”
Attendees of the stellar event included entrepreneur and fashion designer Tina Lawson, singer Kelly Rowland, entertainment industry mogul Mathew Knowles, director John Singleton, actor Laz Alonzo, cast members from the hit show Queen Sugar, and actress Pam Grier, who teared up while sharing that “EBONY is a national treasure.”
Miles Brown of the ABC series, black-ish showed off his pop-locking and hip-hop dance skills and emerging pop group, Lion Babe performed a three-song set that moved the crowd.
Guests hopped to their feet dancing away as Rodgers, who called himself a “naturally shy guy until I get the guitar in my hands” brought legendary soul band Chic to the stage with a medley of hits he produced ranging from Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out,” to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” Daft Punk and Pharell Williams’ “Get Lucky.” To boot, the multiple Grammy Award-winning composer, producer, arranger and guitarist brought his performance into the social media age by broadcasting it on Facebook Live.
After the audience jammed out with the band, it was all followed by an afterparty where guests danced to the sounds of DJ D-Nice.
Sponsors included Nationwide, who a strong five-year supporter of EBONY; Cadillac; United Airlines; and Hilton Worldwide. Fashion Fair Cosmetics and Twitter were also onboard as partners for the event.
Executives with EBONY Media Operations, the parent company of EBONY, EBONY.com and JETMag.com say the Power 100 Gala offer historical context into Black life – where we’ve been, the legends and who’s next to climb the ladder of Black Excellence.
“We are not helpless. We are not hapless. We are not hopeless. We’ve got the power,” said EBONY Editor in Chief, Kyra Kyles. “Now, what we do with it, that’s up to each one of us.”
LaToya “Toi” Cross is the Senior Editor/ Entertainment and Culture for EBONY, EBONY.com and JETMag.com. Follow her at @ToizStory on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.