In a day and time when African American men are rarely celebrated, Morehouse College, the nation’s only institution of higher learning designed to educate African American men, held its twenty-fourth annual black-tie gala, Candle in the Dark.

The primary focus of this affair is to pay tribute to African American men who are well-accomplished in their respective fields, awarding both alumni and non alumni alike.

Over the years the college has recognized such notable non alumni figures as actor Denzel Washington, actor Danny Glover, baseball’s Hank Aaron, scholar Cornell West, syndicated radio host Tom Joyner, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and actor Harry Belafonte.

Some of the alumni who have been honored at this gala have included filmmaker Spike Lee, actor Samuel Jackson, U. S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan, U. S. Surgeon David Satcher, Atlanta’s Mayor Maynard Jackson, Ebony’s Lerone Bennett, civil rights activist Lonnie King, civil rights activist Julian Bond and Olympian Edwin Moses.

And while this affair usually highlights African American men, the school made an exception a few years ago, honoring media mogul Oprah Winfrey for her commitment to educate hundreds of future and current Morehouse Men.

Unlike in the history of the event, this year only five well-deserved men, including Morehouse College president Dr. Robert Franklin, who recently announced his retirement, were honored, making this the smallest class ever to be inducted.

Moreover, for the first time, Toyota committed to this year’s event, becoming the exclusive automotive sponsor. This was due to the leadership of Jim Colon, the automaker’s first and only African American to serve as the vice president of sales in the states for both Lexus and Toyota. Like a ‘Morehouse Man,’ Colon has served as a beacon of light in his field.  Less than a handful of African Americans have held such prominent roles in the history of the entire auto industry.

Toyota, like Colon, prides itself on not only being the number one brand as it relates to new-vehicle sales in the African American community, but also being quite charitable too, as it relates to supporting today’s HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).

Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over Follow him on Twitter @jeffcars