Sahr Ngaujah Co-Hosts African Diaspora Awards Recognizing Extraordinary Individuals from the Diaspora
In one of the most electrifying and highly anticipated awards shows, some 400 attendees came out in full force to salute exemplary individuals who are working towards the advancement of Africans in the Diaspora and in Africa at the 4th Annual AFRICAN DIASPORA AWARDS, held on Nov. 15 at Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College in New York City.
The 2014 ADA Honorees were: Actor of the Year: Ger Duany, star of "The Good Lie" [South Sudan]; Creative Artist of the Year: Kemi Adetiba [Nigeria]; Entrepreneur of the Year: Meck Khalfan, Puku Charger [Tanzania]; Community Leadership Award: Semhar Araia, Dawn Inc. [Eritrea]; Musician of the Year: Somi [Rwanda-Uganda]; Friend of Africa: Bernadette Paolo, The Africa Society [U.S]; Advocate of the Year: Dr. Olajide Williams, Hip Hop Healthcare [Nigeria]; Designer of the Year: David Tlale [South Africa]; and Company of the Year: Ogilvy & Mather [U.S.].
World-class entertainers, fashion mavens, entrepreneurs, and scholars from the Diaspora attended the evening affair that lifted up the awards theme "Homecoming Revolution", which drew attention to positive and inspiring movements of Africans in the Diaspora who are driving the revitalization and economic progress in the global African community.
"Tonight we celebrate, tonight we honor those who are making a significant difference in the African community in the U.S. and Africa. Tonight we inspire one another. This is the most important generation ever, this is not the generation of freedom fighters, this is not the generation of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela or Mobutu Sese Seko or Kenneth Kaunda," said Debo Folorunsho, co-founder of Applause Africa.
"This is the generation of thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs and builder. This is the generation of Gbenga Akinnagbe, this is the generation of Ger Duany and David Tlale, this is generation of Eunice Omole and Aminat Ayinde. Generation of Ngoli Okafor and Dr. Adenike Folorunsho, Millen Happiness Magese," Folorunsho said.
Michael Ikotun, co-founder of Applause Africa added:"The honorees are a testament to the progress in the African Diaspora. We believe that it is important to celebrate leaders of today in order to inspire leaders of tomorrow."
Co-hosted by Tony Award nominee Sahr Ngaujah and actress and producer Ebbe Bassey, iconic tributes from honorees to their mothers, spouses, children and their faith for their success were highlights at this year's awards show.
South African fashion designer Tlale humbly accepted the Designer of the Year award and in his acceptance speech thanked his mother, who has grown to support him in his career endeavors as a fashion designer, "although she doesn't understand what I'm doing." "Today, she is my number one fan," he proudly exclaimed.
Tlale encouraged African youth who desire to become designers to always compete with themselves. "You have the potential and the ability..." he advised. "Excel and raise your standards higher and higher because no one can beat you at yourself."
In a moving tribute, Dr. Olajide Williams, a Nigerian-born neurologist and advocate who uses hip hop music to promote healthy living to youth through his organization Hip Hop Public Health Foundation, dedicated the Advocate of the Year award to his 15-year-old daughter.
"I say to you, never let anyone tell you that you cannot make a difference, because you can," said Williams to his daughter, who was seated in the audience. "Knowing the good, you must do it. Knowing the beautiful, you must serve it. Knowing the truth, you must speak it. Do what needs to be done together...."
"Do it for yourself and do it for the world, because the moment darling that you stop doing it, it will never be done," said Williams, who is also head of Columbia University's neurology department.
Celebrities and VIPs from New York to Los Angeles turned up donning stylish dresses and suits to walk the Red Carpet before a cadre of photographers. Special guests and presenters attending the awards show included Saycon Sengbloh, lead of "Holler If Ya Hear Me and "Fela on Broadway!"; Gbenga Akinnagbe, actor of HBO original series "The Wire"; Aminat Ayinde, America's Next Top Model; Les Nubians R&B Grammy nominated duo; Ngoli "Ngo" Okafor model, actor and Golden Gloves boxer; Nyasha Zimucha, entrepreneur, TV Personality and humanitarian; Eunice Omole, The Apprentice Africa; Millen Happiness Magese, fashion model and humanitarian, and actresses MaameYaa Boafo, Esosa E, Nana Mensah from the cast of 'An African City'
Previous ADA Honorees include Noble Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee; tech entrepreneur founder of HopStop.com Chinedu Echeruo, and Grammy Award-winning singer Angelique Kidjo, among other accomplished individuals.
"FELA" on Broadway star Ngaujah's opening performance set the inspirational tone for the awards show and Nigerian recording artist Sheyi Shay kept the crowd on their feet with her high-energy Afrobeat song to close out the event. Comedian Seyi Brown had attendees laughing out loud during his set.
Against the backdrop of the devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the awards show featured a public service announcement and special presentation by AFRICA RESPONDS, a group of Africans from the Diaspora who are mobilizing the community to urgently respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. To give to Africa Responds, visit africaresponds.org.
Ngaujah and Bassey sported custom-made African attire featuring Vlisco fabric and designs by Yaovi Marius Ahiale. Madiba Restaurant provided a delectable spread of South African cuisine for the VIP reception.
Event sponsors were Vlisco, Arik Airline, Madiba Restaurant, and John Jay College.
An After-Party with DJ FOLS spinning Afrobeat hits continued the celebration into the early morning.
PHOTO CREDIT: Solwazi Afi Olusola