AFRICA RISING: LEON SULLIVAN HONORS THREE AT DC KENNEDY CENTER GALA
BY Gloria Dulan-Wilson
What do a Harvard Professor, an actress of stage, screen and television, and a 14 year-old boy have in common? They’ve each made monumental impacts on the lives and well being of thousands of Continental Africans. Their dedication and action brought them together to receive the LEON SULLIVAN HONORS, which celebrates advocacy, humanitarian efforts and contributions to the poor and disadvantaged.
Rev. Dr. Leon Sullivan, an iconic trailblazer, had a major impact, both nationally and internationally, through the establishment of his Sullivan Principles and business enterprise training programs. The SULLIVAN HONORS were inspired by his life and principles, which continue to be promulgated by The Leon H. Sullivan Foundation, which promotes the “political, entrepreneurial and intellectual leadership of the African Diaspora and friends of Africa,” as well as to advocate on behalf of Africa’s most vulnerable.
Each year the Sullivan Foundation host a week-long African Summit Conference in a different country in Africa that is working to advance the principles for which the organization stands. The effectiveness of Dr. Sullivan’s legacy shines brightly through his daughter, Hope Masters, who serves as President/CEO of the Foundation, and who MC’d the fifth annual LEON SULLIVAN HONORS at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C, The Sullivan Awards recognizes individuals who have had major impact on the lives of African and African American people. Held in the Eisenhower Auditorium, the elegant event brought individuals and dignitaries from all over the world, to celebrate the work, life and times of Dr. Leon Sullivan and his influence on African leaders.
For those not familiar with Rev. Dr. Sullivan, he initially founded the Opportunities Industrialization Center or OIC, which provided free professional job and career training to African Americans and people of color. Originating in Philadelphia, the program quickly spread to neighboring states (including Brooklyn), and provided the appropriate skill sets that made it possible for participants to obtain career-track positions, or become entrepreneurs with businesses and employees of their own.
While OIC still proliferates throughout the United States, though the Brooklyn branch is no longer viable, and there is no OIC in any other part of New York (one has to wonder why that is?). In the mid sixties, as Africa was liberating itself from oppressive colonialism, Dr. Sullivan saw an opportunity to develop business and manufacturing relations between African and African Americans and soon began making regular trips to different parts of Africa to interface with leaders who likewise saw the need and value.
The 2009 award recipients include Henry Louis Gates, Scholar and educator; Actress/Activist Mia Farrow and Founder, Wheels to Africa, 14 year old Winston Duncan. Dr. Gates, who noted how stunning Ms. Masters was, (the statuesque spokesperson wore a stunning red fish-tail evening gown with white rhinestone trim); he spoke of the intense need for a continued relationship between African Americans, Africans and the rest of the world.
He credited the capacity of DNA testing now to provide direct linkages to ancestral lineages heretofore unavailable to scientist. Interested individuals should contact the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African & African-American Research. Ambassador Andrew Young, Chair Board of Directors for the Sullivan Foundation, and Chairman of Good Works Inc., made the presentation.
Ms. Farrow, who spoke of the importance of becoming mentioned that she had adopted several African American children. She is integrally involved in providing food and services to African villages. "To ignore their plight would be to turn your back on half your family, to not be involved in the rescue of Africa from oppression is unthinkable." Having made two visits to Darfur as well as nine visits to refuge camps, she writes consistently for the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and other online programs about the plight going on in such areas as Rwanda, Chad, Darfur, Central African Republic, Congo, and other terror ridden areas. (http://www.miafarrow.org/ in case you’re interested in reading or contributing to her efforts).
Neither last, nor least, is the rising star of Winston Duncan, a young man who actually founded his charitable organization at the age of 11, after having visited South Africa with his father and seeing a lot of people having to walk everywhere they went, because of the lack of public or private transportation facilities. After learning that it takes one day for someone to walk from one locale to another, and paralleling that with the fact that his grandmother often needed wheels to get around, he began taking his birthday gift money, and monies from his college fund. He sent his first bikes to Africa in 2006, and to date has sent thousands of bikes to Africa.
He is now looking to expand his organization world wide to begin getting contributions from all over the US to even more African countries. (dDuncan@comcast.net in case you’re interested in contributing to his effort).
In addition to the awardees, the introduction of the 2010 Sullivan Soldiers: Gene Banks, Asst. coach of the Washington Wizards, Raheem DeVaughn, Grammy nominated singer; Dr. Marc Hill, Assoc. President of Columbia University, Jeff Johnson, Social Activist, and T.J. Holmes, CNN news anchor. Entertainment provided by local groups included South African vocalist Ana Mwanalagho, the Prestige Steppers, Spoken Word artists and choreographers, Status Quo; KanKouran, West African Dance Company, Motown artist, KEM.
The newest concept to come out of the Sullivan Foundation is that of the AFROPOLITAN. The concept of the “Afripolitan” has evolved to describe the swelling ranks of those who care about Africa and are engaged in efforts to advance the continent and its countries in joining the global economy of the 21st century. The term is a melding of “Africa” and “metropolitan.” Africa, of course, centers this concept on those who see the continent’s importance to the world at large.
The metropolitan aspect conveys the sense of worldliness that understands the interconnectedness of all societies and the need to ensure that no society is left to languish. But the Afripolitan does more than see Africa; he or she makes an effort to help in whatever way they can.
Those who may be interested in becoming an Afripolitan, can contact Howard Sullivan of the Sullivan Foundation at http://www.sullivanfoundation.org/.
Previous recipients of the Sullivan Honors include President Kikwete of Tanzania, and Congressman Donald Payne, Chair of the Congressional Committee on Africa.
Gloria Dulan Wilson
AFRICA RISING: LEON SULLIVAN HONORS THREE AT DC KENNEDY CENTER GALA