October 23, 2017, On Friday, as numerous colleges kicked off their Homecoming festivities, black excellence was front and center at the inaugural HBCU Power Awards presented by Morehouse College. Guests gathered at Martin Luther King Jr International Chapel in Atlanta to celebrate eight individuals who have made significant achievements in their respective fields: actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who received the HBCU ” Icon Award;” Coltrane Curtis (founder, Team Epiphany); Kyle Hagler (president, Next Management); Nzinga Shaw (Chief Diversity Officer, Atlanta Hawks); Keinon Johnson (VP, Urban Promotions, Interscope Records); Phylicia Fant (SVP, Publicity, Warner Bros Records);
Beverly Anderson (EVP, Cards & Retail Services, Wells Fargo); and Rob Rumley (Chair, Atlanta Housing Authority).
Co-founded and executive produced by Morehouse alums Derek “Fonzworth Bentley” Watkins (c/o ’96), Jash’d Kambui Belcher (c/o ’99; movie producer, A Boy. A Girl. A Dream: Love on Election Night starring Meagan Good and Omari Hardwick) and Roderick Hardamon (c/o ’98), the HBCU Power Awards was full of exceptional moments: an opening “Swag Surfin'” performance by the Morehouse Glee Club and Horns section.
The hhost Deon Cole keeping the audience laughing; the crowd singing along to “Focus” during R&B singer H.E.R’s performance; an impromptu stroll in the aisles from an Omega Psi Phi frat; the music by DJ Trauma; Coltrane Curtis’ emotional tribute to his late father; and Jada Pinkett Smith’s moving words on the dynamics of power and the responsibility we all have to manage it wisely.
Smith’s recognition comes on the 30th anniversary of the seminal series “A Different World,” where she played the feisty “Lena.” The first of its kind on national television, “A Different World” ushered in an era of HBCU pride and shaped a positive perception of black college life that inspired many to join its ranks.
Special guests included producer Will Packer, supermodel Jessica White, actor Michael Jai White, style expert Tai Beauchamp, Atlanta Hawks Foundation EVP David Lee, Morehouse College President Harold L. Martin, creative consultant and entrepreneur Taiye Samuel, radio/tv personality Gary “With The Tea” Hayes, actor Mike Merrill, singer Dondria Nicole, rapper Silento, author Zane and many more.
Many thanks to sponsors Morehouse College, the Atlanta Hawks, Radio One, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Experience Grands Rapids, the Lowman Group/ dba the Athletes Foot, Amway Hotel Collections, and Hush Beauty Bar & Lounge.
Photo credit: 1) Jada Pinkett Smith,. 2) Derek Watkins. 3) Coltrane Curtis and mom Gail Curtis. 4) HBCUPower. 5) Dr. Ron. 6-12) HBCUPower. 13) Nzinga Shaw. 14) Rob and Makara Rumley and family. 15) Michael Jai White. 16) Ted Cloud. 17) Will Packer. 18) By Marcus Ingram