What a week it has been for me. I have to get up early and run around Prospect Park, but before that, I had to share my experience about the much talked about NYABJ awards this past week.
Now I know many of you non-journalists didn’t even know the New York chapter of the Association of Black Journalists existed until your timeline was filled with headlines about Beyonce receiving an award at the event. I’ll get to that later. However, this was the chapter’s 24th awards dinner, so this annual event is almost as old as I am and with it being sold out for another year, it’s not slowing down anytime soon.
The event was held at the lovely Shabazz Center in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. The lobby served as a pre-dinner reception area where journalists, students and industry execs conversed and networked with each other. In the press room, the red carpet was busy with big names of various industries talking with journalists and taking photos. Some of the well-known figures in attendance were singer/songwriter Melanie Fiona, author/producer/wife to Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee, Editor-In-Chief for Essence Magazine, Constance White and the daughters of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, Malaak and Ilyasah Shabazz.
The dinner celebrated the acheivements of many of today’s hardworking journalists, but also to pay homage to the industry’s trailblazers as well. Diversity advocate Robert Naylor received the Lifetime Achievement Award and a heartfelt speech by former NYABJ President Eric Tait was given to honor “Like It Is” host, the late Gil Noble.
The night was filled with humility and pride as award recipients approached the podium to receive their awards in the magazine, digital, newspaper and TV news categories. Essence Magazine, TheGrio.com, Amsterdam News and News 12 came out dominating their respective fields. However, one award recipient had received more press coverage than the actual article that was written. Beyonce’s award winning article, “Eat, Play, Love,” had given the chapter a bad rap as many journalists and those not in the career field alike felt she shouldn’t have received it. Luckily, to avoid insult to injury she wasn’t there to accept the award, but on her behalf the entire Essence staff was there. The magazine’s EIC spoke on the issue and stood firm with her decision, along with the entertainment editor Cori Murray who edited the piece. I was so busy photographing the event I didn’t get a chance to record her comments, but her words were sincere and very much jabbing at the critics who questioned her publication’s credibility and reasoning for submitting the article for an award.
There was music entertainment, courtesy of Xavier Lewis, “The Antidote to R&B.” He sang a cover to Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” along with an original song, one that had Melanie Fiona bopping her head to. There were many highs to the night, but none can top at the end of the evening where high school students received scholarships for their devoted attendance and participation in the organization’s weekly journalism workshops. Seeing young students pursue their career before enrolling in their first college class is very admirable and a step in the right direction. Only thing I didn’t like is how some people left the dinner before the end after the red velvet cupcakes were served and they received their awards, while these young women gave speeches about what an inspiration journalists are to them. #shade
After having a heated debate about the Beyonce award at brunch yesterday my only response is if you want change, be a part of it. I attended this ceremony and saw who won the other awards. I have attended meetings and known members of the new executive board for some years now (this is not the board that was serving at the time Beyonce won the award, nor did NYABJ choose the award winners. The Dallas chapter did. #imjussayin) I see what postive and fresh direction the organization is going. Next year, I plan to submit pieces for awards because that’s what the awards is about. Become a member, submit articles for awards, support the organization. After all that’s what these organizations exist for, to be the voice of the people they represent.
Another day Back n’ Brooklyn…