Susan Taylor Holds National Cares Mentoring Movement Gala/Fundraiser at Cipriani's in NYC January 30 - A ReHuge Success!

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

On Monday, January 30, 2017 Susan Taylor presented her Second Annual Fundraiser/Gala for the National Cares Mentoring Movement, a national initiative she started in 2006, in response to an inspired call to serve the needs of thousands of African American children throughout the United States desperately in need of love and guidance.

SUSAN TAYLOR - CEO/FOUNDER National Cares Mentoring Movement - Greets the Audience  

Leave it to Susan to come up with such an idea, and then to drop everything to heed the call – including stepping down as Editor in Chief of Essence Magazine, the premiere Black Women's magazine, to make it a reality. I was at one of the first events Susan presented in Brooklyn, co-hosted by then Assemblywoman Annette M. Robinson. It was held at a local church, and the place was packed – who doesn't love Susan Taylor – the epitome of elegance.

Well, fast forward, 11 years later, and Cipriani's was likewise packed to the walls – not another seat to be had – standing room taken up – enthusiastic supporters all there to celebrate the success of this wonderful endeavor and to raise funds to ensure it's continuation and expansion.

It was certainly a star-studded night – with super stars rubbing elbows with mentors, mentees, supporters, and well wishers – one that made you feel (know) that you were in a privileged space, and God was smiling down on all the participants and guests.

Elegant as ever, Susan took a slight departure from her favorite orange hues to don an elegant, short cropped metallic leather jacket, over a multicolored blue and purple evening gown. She floated among her guests, with that always bright and beautiful smile, accompanied by her handsome hubby and love of her life, Khephra Burns.

(L-R) Charles D. King, Exec. Producer of Fences, Terrie Williams of the Terrie Williams Agency, Asha Bandele, Head of Communications, National Cares; Chrystal  McCrary, Hon. Co- Chair of Gala, Susan Taylor, Founder & CEO - National Cares Mentoring Movement, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Founder/CEO Rainbow/PUSH Coalition - Wall Street Project, Chivonne Williams, Exec. Dir. National Cares, Michael Eric Dyson,  Author, Public Speaker, Minister, Educator & Co-Host of the Evening's Festivities 

Before I go into the who's who and who was there, let's get serious about what it is that Susan Taylor has been able to accomplish in just over 10 years: The National CARES Mentoring Movement was founded in 2006 and is a pioneering community-mobilization initiative, established to propel impoverished Black children to succeed in school, in careers and in life. It is the only organization dedicated to holistically securing and transforming the lives of Black children nationally through culturally grounded, trauma-informed and curriculum-based group-mentoring. National CARES envisions a world in which African American children and families are deeply rooted in mutual love and the history of Black people; and where they are respected for all that their foreparents withstood and contributed to enrich the nation and the world. While National CARES focuses on African American children and mentors, we turn away no child in need, nor any qualified adult, and our programs are easily adaptable to other cultural contexts.

Now, what does that mean? It means that Susan Taylor, who has always been a deeply compassionate, spiritual and resourceful sister, took those wonderful character traits and applied them to a pressing problem that has been plaguing the Black community for decades, and, in so doing, inspired others to follow her example and make a considerable and indelible difference in the lives of more than 200,000 children nationally – and counting. And she did it the hard way – going from city to city meeting with community leaders and regular people; parents and educators – persuading them to join her in this magnificent mission.

Gloria Dulan-Wilson (me) and Sister/Soror/Friend SUSAN TAYLOR 

This Gala set out to raise $150,000 – a paltry sum when you think of the intrinsic value rendered via this Magnificent Movement. And while doing so, participants were wined, dined, entertained and made aware of the crying need for even more to be done if our children are to survive and thrive in an environment and culture that has for far too long been allowed to cannibalize them. National Cares Mentoring Movement is a lifeline, a gift that keeps on giving; for as these children grow through the process, they are able to reach back and bring others forward as well. (In case I forgot to mention it earlier, Susan Taylor is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.)

Tamron Hall and Michael Eric Dyson served as co-hosts for the evening, which highlighted and honored three Black men for their accomplishments and contributions to the African American community – Russell Simmons, Charles King and Lonnie Bunch III. To some these are household names and you are well acquainted with their accomplishments. 

But to others, who may have heard these names in passing, but have no real concept of who they are and what their claim to fame is all about, let alone why they should be the recipients of the NORTH STAR AWARD, I'm sharing their brief, but comprehensive bio – can't help it, I'm a total history buff, and think it's absolutely essential we know the historical significance and contributions our Black brothers and sisters have made an continue to make – and since it's so often underrated and overlooked (or distorted) by the meanstream media, allow me to take the liberty of including it in my Blog. And please share this with your children and your peers – so we can't say that nobody told us.

Charles D. King: 

Charles D. King is Founder and CEO of MACRO. Launched in 2015, MACRO is a disruptive entertainment company that sits at the intersection of content, technology and brand curation. With a focus on creating premium film, television and digital content for African American, Latino and multicultural (ALM) audiences, this next generation, multi-platform media company is perfectly positioned to capitalize on the explosive growth in this important market.
Formerly, King was Partner/Agent in the Motion Picture Department at William Morris Endeavor (WME).  He was the first and only African American to rise from the mailroom to partner in the 118-year history of the company.  His career as an agent spanned over 15 years, during which he was known for his innovative deal making and his strategic planning in developing brands for and around his clients.
Most recently, King was Executive Producer of the multi-award winning film Fences, directed by and starring Denzel Washington.  Based on August Wilson's Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning play, the film, that also stars Viola Davis, is in theaters nationwide now.  The company's next film, Mudbound, directed by Dee Rees, and digital series "Gente-fied" featuring America Ferrera, is being featured at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival this week.
King has been featured in numerous national media outlets and publications, including Fortune magazine, who named him one of the nation's most influential Latino, Asian or African-Americans.  He is also an active angel investor in synergistic ventures at the nexus between the technology sector and the media content business.  A graduate of Vanderbilt University and Howard University's School of Law, King resides in Los Angeles with his wife Stacey, a fashion designer/executive and their two sons.

Russell Simmons: 

Entrepreneur, author, activist and philanthropist Russell Simmons has launched scores of groundbreaking careers and innovative enterprises in arenas as varied as music, film, television, fashion, comedy, poetry, digital platforms, theater and finance. His lifelong mission has been to give voice to extraordinary talent and to empower underserved communities as they in turn shape the mainstream of culture. After having produced or managed artists including Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, Whodini and Jimmy Spicer, Simmons joined forces with producer Rick Rubin to found Def Jam Recordings. Under Simmons’ leadership as Chairman, Def Jam signed acts including the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Jay Z and Kanye West. 

Simmons’ long-running HBO series Def Comedy Jam helped make household names of comics including Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart and JB Smoove. Def Poetry Jam also on HBO, won a Peabody Award and a Broadway version netted Simmons a Tony®. Simmons’ numerous big-screen hits include The Nutty Professor, which grossed more than $273 million.

Simmons is a best-selling author of three books with a newly released book, The Happy Vegan, which was published in 2016. He has also launched a multitude of diverse business ventures including pop-culture website Global Grind, UniRush Financial Services, Simmons Jewelry, Run Athletics and clothing subsidiaries Phat Farm, Baby Phat, Argyleculture and American Classics. Most recently, he has been building All Def Digital, a premium, multi-platform digital media company and entertainment hub, curating, developing and connecting a new generation of content creators to global fans. He also co- founded the digital marketing firm Narrative. 
A longtime champion of social justice and equality, Simmons was honored with the 2011 GLAAD Excellence in Media Award. He is also a leading animal rights activist, having been named PETA Man of the Year in 2011. His charitable endeavors include the Diamond Empowerment Fund, a global  organization that supports educational initiatives for disadvantaged people in diamond-producing  African nations, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which gives young people opportunities to create  and appreciate art, and Foundation for Ethnic Understanding which he serves as chairman promoting  understanding and cooperation between and among ethnic groups to help reduce the existing tensions  among diverse racial and ethnic communities.  A native of Queens, NY, Simmons has two daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee.

Lonnie G. Bunch III: 
Image result for Lonnie Bunch III

Historian, author, curator and educator, Lonnie G. Bunch III is the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.  In this position, he set the museum’s mission, coordinated its fundraising and membership campaigns, developed its collections, established cultural partnerships and oversaw the design and construction of the museum’s building. Even before the building's construction, he designed a high-profile program of traveling exhibitions and public events, ranging from panel discussions and seminars, to oral history and collecting workshops.

The museum, the 19th to open as part of the Smithsonian Institution, is located on the national Mall, where Smithsonian museums attracted more than 24 million visitors in 2005.  It stands on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument and opposite the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.  The museum opened to critical and public acclaim on September 24, 2016.

Image result for Lonnie Bunch III
 National Museum of African American History and Culture
As a public historian and a scholar who brings history to the people, Bunch has spent nearly 30 years in the museum field where he is regarded as one of the nation’s leading figures in the historical and museum community. Prior to his July 2005 appointment as director of NMAAHC, Bunch, served as the president of the Chicago Historical Society - one of the nation’s oldest museums of history. There, he initiated an unprecedented outreach initiative to diverse communities, and launched a much-applauded exhibition and program on teenage life titled “Teen Chicago.” 
A prolific and widely published author, Bunch has written on topics ranging from slavery, the Black military experience, the American presidency and all Black towns in the American West; to diversity in museum management and the impact of funding and politics on American museums.  In 2010, he published the award-winning book “Call the Lost Dream Back: Essays on Race, History and Museums.”  “Slave Culture: A Documentary Collection of the Slave Narratives” was published in 2014, and in 2015 he published “Memories of the Enslaved: Voices from the Slave Narratives.”
In service to the historical and cultural community, Bunch has served on the advisory boards of the American Association of Museums, the African American Association of Museums, the American Association of State and Local History, and the ICOM-US.   Among his many awards, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Commission for the Preservation of the White House in 2002 and reappointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. In recent years, Bunch has been honored with: Visionary History Award, DC Historical Society (2016), Rainbow Push Torchbearer Award (2016), Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Remembering Our Heritage Award (2016), and National Newspaper Publishers Association Torch Award (2016). In 2016, Bunch was listed as #1 in the Washington Business Journal’s Power 100 ratings and in Vanity Fair’s Hall of Fame.
Born in the Newark, N.J. area, Bunch has held numerous teaching positions across the country including The American University in Washington, D.C. (1978-1979); the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth (1979-1981); and The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (1989-2000).  He received undergraduate and graduate degrees from The American University in Washington, D.C. in African American and American history.   He is married to Maria Marable Bunch, a museum educator.  They have two daughters, Sarah and Katie.

Now you can say “WOW – I didn't know that!!”

There were some other heroic young men who are making their mark on the world, including young student ambassador, Teonte Miller who, three years ago, was in a gang and aspired to be a drug seller when The Rising program was started in his school on Chicago’s South side. 
Teonte Miller 

 “The Rising saves lives! It saved my life,” the now 21-year-old said, before sharing that in March he will have achieved his associate’s degree and he has plans to complete his bachelor’s immediately thereafter.

Here are some other accomplishments you may not be aware of: Since 2006, National CARES has recruited, trained and connected more than 200,000 Caring Mentors to local youth-serving programs in 58 U.S. Cities, from Seattle to San Diego; Boston to Chicago; and New York to Atlanta.  Funds raised at this year’s gala will directly support these efforts and other programs, including The Rising: Elevating Education, Expectations and Self-Esteem, University for Parents, and HBCU Rising - a program that mentors middle-school children in STEM and literacy, and prepares college students for career success.

Tamron Hall made the call for online donations – teasing Russell Simmons and challenging others to match his donation – but she brought a sense of seriousness and reality to the event as well by asking donors to drop their success mode for the moment and “imagine they were a kid in Brooklyn who thought no one was rooting for you. Imagine you lived in Alabama and you thought that there was no way that Jesse Jackson came out tonight for you. Or you're a kid in Flint, Michigan and you think they don't even care if I have water. So Susan Taylor brought us all here to show Black children need adult love and caring; and this is the first step that we can take.”

Johnny Furr, Jr. (Anheuser Busch) and first Board Chair of the organization, stated, “Susan believed that if each of us, who are fortunate and blessed could just give a little from our overflow, we could help end the pain and poverty that some of our children are struggling with. Since she first shared that thought, National Cares has grown to become the only organization to provide holistic support to (Black) children living in poverty.” Furr announced that because of a grant made to the organization by Sylvia and Eddie Brown, founders of Brown Capital Management (recipients of the first North Star Award in 2016), they were able to hire, Chivonne Williams, a top-tier executive director dedicated to ensuring the sustainability and growth of Cares.

Chivonne Williams, newly minted Executive Director of the National Cares Mentoring Movement, quoted some strong stats about the effectiveness of the organization and its impact on the youth it serves: “Nearly 90% of our children increased their critical thinking skills. The same amount felt a new pride in themselves, their heritage, and a sense of self worth and hope for their future that they had never felt before. All of this is as the result of repealing the effects felt from socio-economic poverty in one youngster at a time, and making their new focus academic success.” 

This lead to the realization that they needed to impact their very first mentors – their parents. They established a program that trains moms and dads to become mentors to their children by establishing a parent mentorship university. They are also focusing on STEM education to help young people establish themselves and compete in the global marketplace. “The mission of Cares is to end the cycle of intergenerational poverty, and the harm that it causes them, so that all of our children can live the full measure of their dreams. With your help, and despite any political agenda, we will realize our mission.”

Rev. Al Sharpton, who gave the blessing for the meal, had some accolades of his own to impart:
“Before we dine we must recognize the contribution of Khephra Burns, her husband". 
Image result for khephra burns
Susan Taylor and Hubby, Khephra Burns

He continued after the applause:

"This power couple has taught us how a man and woman can work together and support one another. The power of their mentoring is the that they give and they give real Black love, and that should not go unnoticed. In this time when young people in our community – some that have never ever seen this nation before like they see it now, we need to support this national effort that's affecting them. 

There are some so young that they are used to looking at a Black family in the White House, that are now feeling for the first time something that is strange and hostile. So we need stability that Susan Taylor has given us.

 So as we bless the food, let us also remember that the stability she gives in an unstable time – a time where they're trying to deport some, an vet others – after vetting the former President of the United States for six years, now they want to vet everybody else – Susan, we need you more than ever. We've got to put our money where our mouth is - look at your neighbor and ask how much are you going to donate. Don't just eat, go into your pockets and bring out some unhidden figures (audience cracked up with laughter). I've been asked to give the blessing and prayer – I've been doing a lot of praying since November 8.”

One of the most compelling pieces of the evening was this ensemble piece featuring Rosie Perez, Hill Harper, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Susan Taylor and others. It was so beautifully executed, and so full of compelling information, I'm sharing it here. Feel free to lift it and share it with your fraternaties, sororities, church organizations, civic organizations, activist groups, and peers. We all have a part to play in the salvation of our own Black people:

One third of all Black children are living in poverty
These are the facts; 6.6% of all African American births are to mothers under the age of 18
The infant mortality rate of Black babies is more than twice that of the national average.
Nearly half of all Black children and Latino children drop out before graduating high school
Every day in America more than 1000 Black children are arrested
One in every eight Black men age 25 to 49 is incarcerated
Our young Latinos are over incarcerated as well
For young Black women age 25 to 34 HivAids is the leading cause of death
The leading cause of death for our boys and for our young Black men is homicide
The are also the facts: From the Hundreds of rebellions that took place on slave ships, to
the students who sat in in Greensboro (North Carolina), and who walked out in Soweto (South Africa),
we have always fought back; we have always cared for our own; always protected each other.
Like then, what's important now is that we not retreat; not surrender our tradition of faith and that can do spirit
We can create powerful lives and end the state of emergency among our young
This is the sole purpose of the National Cares Mentoring Movement
Throughout the nation, our dedicated Cares service leaders are hard at work
They're closing that huge gap between the few Black mentors and the many impoverished Black children
in need of our encouragement.
We're working on behalf of all children who are poor and struggling
The National Cares Mentoring Movement founded recruits caring adult to serve as role models,
tutors, reading buddies, guides and deploys them to schools and organizations; and to the
academic mentoring programs Cares is building with our partners
Disproportional numbers of Black children are on waiting lists, and they're hoping that a caring
adult will soon show up.
And there is a critical need for the wisdom and strength of our beautiful Black men – THE CHILDREN NEED YOU SO!
All we're asking is this:
That you give ONE HOUR A WEEK to help save a life and heal a child
You can mentor one of the 2.4 million children
You can get five friends to register and vote
Failing schools; the carnage in our communities, celebration of thug life,
The over incarceration of Black and relentless demonization of Black males
and the demeaning of Black women!
You can demand your church be open for children after school and on Saturdays
In order to teach our kids an accurate account of their history
Reading, math, science, technology – High expectations
We are partners – these are the group mentoring support that National Cares are bringing to challenged schools
Help grow and sustain this movement by going online and making a donation
No amount is too small
Connect with your local Cares circle
We've lived through harder and harsher times than this
Like then, the most revolutionary thing we can do right now is to
Become a MENTOR
Help ensure the most beloved of our lives – OUR CHILDREN
So, I'm in! ARE YOU???

Stephen Colley – National Program Officer added that National Cares has built holistic programs for the more than 40% of Black Children born in poverty – transforming their lives. “The Rising, our transformational program, that shifts the culture of old schools with just a few mentors and a dedicated leader, salutes Principal Ramona Outlaw of Harlem Academy on the South Side of Chicago. We have also partnered with HBCUs to ensure that middle schoolers were learning critical stem proficiencies, providing wrap around support to the most marginalize moms and dads – building a web of support to break the cycle of poverty. WE ARE CALLING BACK HOME TO OURSELVES.”

Steve Colley introduced Asha Bandele stating, “I'm her brother from another mother, she's my sister from a spiritual mister, Ms. Asha Bandele. 

 There's nothing like Asha Bandele's ebullient enthusiasm to rouse a crowd – and she definitely did not disappoint: “Being from Brooklyn – Come on now! Come on now!” I've been with the Detroit team all night, when Brooklyn comes humble! I will tell you about the great Detroit writer,Pearl Cleage. She wrote an essay that I read once, years ago, about the Africans who worked with the europeans to capture other Africans, sending them through the door of no return and onto ships to ports that would become a 250 year holocaust – unlike any the world has ever known – And she posited that if they had known what their fellow Africans would face, they would have turned the ships around.


Today, we – you and I – stand here at the shorelines of unknown terrible seas, while predictable and unspeakable horrors, are visited upon our children with real world consequences, of very real adult decisions to not only mass incarcerate, but mass criminalize an entire generation – a whole generation written off sometime for nothing more than standing their past!! Deeply rooted in the guiding principles that our children must not and cannot pay for our adult errors or our silence. When Susan put out the call a decade ago, men and women – many of whom were not financially well endowed – but all of whom were endowed with hearts and determination, that could not be measured or contained, began joining us. A volunteer army – soldiers of love; each one in fifty-eight cities, carrying our message of love; helping people in their own community; the gathering of the village that stands for us and for our children; and turn these 21st Century ships around. They are calling us from Harlem, Houston, and from Washington, DC. Our affiliates are training and recruiting mentors, and together they are turning the ships around!!”

(Of course, as you read these words just remember that her voice and enthusiasm were escalating into a crescendo so that by the end of the speech, everyone was clapping wildly. Asha Bandele does not half step.) Message delivered!

Michael Eric Dyson, who cohosted the event, commented “I ain't mad at no other woman existing on the earth, but when God created the Black woman – I ain't even got time! The shape of the universe becomes the penetrating brilliance, the edifying spirituality – that's what Black women do - all in the image of Susan Taylor, the Queen of Black America as we celebrate her tonight.

Gloria Dulan-Wilson and Attallah Shabazz 

Producer, director, author, actor and gala co-chair Chrystal McCrary – Thanked the Rev. Jesse Jackson for his leadership and vision – "We need it now more than ever; Rev. Al Sharpton, thank you for your continuity and a voice that we need now as well; and Susan – Queen Susan – thank you for all that you do. I am honored along with my husband, Ray McGuire, to be here to night. Thank you for choosing to be here tonight for this critically important event in support of this organization.” She went on to thank Susan Taylor for “always caring about us! You care about our minds our bodies; you care about doing what's right! She then thanked Russell for being there.

The Rev. Al Sharpton of National Action Network and Rev. Jesse L. Jackson of
RainbowPUSH Wall Street Proje
McCrary first met Charles King when he was still with the William Morris Agency and she was a young lawyer – he was a change maker. He was that visionary that anyone who had a story to tell, they would say have you talked to Charles King? He was in Hollywood as an agent, as a partner.” She spoke of the married partnership between the powercouple – Charles and his wife, Stacy: “Charles journey is Stacy's journey and Stacy's journey is Charles's journey. We would not be here tonight with Charles without Stacy being right here. So I also honor you for being an extraordinary woman, an extraordinary wife, extraordinary mother; and helping him along his journey.” Relating how she first met Charles in his Beverly Hills office, she was new in business.  According to McCrary, when she greeted him and asked him how he was, he responded, “I'm blessed, in a way that was humble, yet secure, and indicative of the way he has been approached by some of the most extraordinary talent, and greatest creative minds that he has represented: Oprah Winfrey, Janel Monae, B Daniels, extraordinary writers who are taking part in the canon of stories that are telling our stories and (portraying) our images in a way that is absolutely necessary.

"He is the winner of the Sag Awards for the August Wilson award winning play, FENCES, starring Denzel Washington. Denzel gave a shout out to Charles as he received his award. One of the things that Charles has said as a creative visionary is that we need to ensure that this isn't just a moment; that this will be a part of the norm. That there will be sophisticated, multi-layered, multi-dimensional movies that represent the spectrum of all of our communities, that will be both commercially successful, as well as part of the critically acclaimed conversation. One more thing, Congratulation Charles. Charles just came up from Sundance, where his film which he produced got the highest acclaim at Sundance.

This evening to honor this King among men, I am deeply humbled to bring upon the stage, the legend among legends – please join me in welcoming the woman who set the bar high in excellence, elegance, and dignity in craft and spirit - Ms. Cicely Tyson!“

Now  of course  you  know that our Ms. Cicely received a standing ovation. Stunning in her own right at 90, still beautiful, elegant, active, vivacious - can't say enough about this Diva of all Divas (Delta) – she puts us to shame without even trying and looks and acts and sounds half her age. 

Ms. Cicely Tyson 

She started out her tribute to Charles King in that wonderful melodious voice of hers: “Charles D. King, my, my, my, my!!” and then pauses with a tinkly laugh, “look at what you've done! Do you know what you've done? Do you know what you have really done? You have brought to millions the stories that tell the truth, the beauty, the complexity of who we are; what we are, and why we are. So many people might never have been able to see the play on stage; but they can see the film. And for that; for heading the great responsibility you carry as one who makes the beautiful happen, thank you!!

"Charles D. King!! – I love saying that name!  I come here tonight because what you have done is already remarkable, and it's only the beginning of what you'll do. All that I ask is that you remember, as I have tried to remember, that you are not only an heir, but a custodian of a great legacy and tradition. We are the keepers of our foreparents of their memory – and we are the earth upon which our children will either grow or perish. With every film you'll make, with each undertaking, you'll have choices set for you; and as you confront them, consider this question: Does this work honor the sacrifices that were made so that I can stand here and even have the power chose. I know you will confront those choices brilliantly Charles, because I have seen what you have already done. And having seen it tonight, I have come to join the hundreds of others to say simply this: Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!!”

(L-R) Ms. Cicely Tyson, Charles D. King and Chrystal McCrary

After being presented with the NORTH STAR AWARD for his work to insure Our Voices and Stories on Screen, King stated:

I feel like I'm having an out of body experience right now. To have a legend, an Icon like Cicely Tyson! It's unbelievable – I can't believe this is my life. Generations of our people will know the power, the richness, the tenacity, and the resilience of our people. It's an honor to be honored alongside Lonnie. And Russell Simmons, as someone who grew up in the hip hop movement – to show that we could do it our way and we can have companies. That we can do it and always pay it forward. When I graduated from Howard Law, I had a vision and a belief, so I decided to move to LA and took a job in the famous William Morris mail room, making $300 a week, with a $100K student loan, working 100 hours a week. But I went out there with a vision, knowing the power of content.

The power of the medium of film and television to shape lives, to impact lives; to create content that will represent you; to show that I am witness to who we are. I knew that if I could go into the belly of the beast, of a place like William Morris, gain the experience and the knowledge and work within the walls, ultimately I would take that knowledge and all of that experience and use that to empower us to tell our stories for ourselves. I could take that knowledge and help those students who wanted to be executives, entertaiment lawyers, producers, and agents. I think about the hundreds of executives partners in agencies, media investment bankers, tech founders, producers, publicists.

It's our duty and our responsibility to mentor and to pay it forward, and to uplift these kids. Now as I embark upon this next journey as CEO and founder of MACRO, we were able to bring capital to bear to shape and tell these stories that will reflect these kids reality; to show them that they are kings and queens; to show the richness and the complexities. Instead of constantly worrying about getting a seat at their table, we should all be thinking about how to create our own table – and perhaps than we'll invite them to join us as well.

Charles D. King of MACRO:"Instead of constantly worrying about getting a seat at their table, we should all be thinking about how to create our own table – "

So, let's think about it. The Millennials and Gen Z's are watching us; they're watching our every move. They're seeing us on social media; but they're watching what we're doing. We all know that there's strength in numbers. We need to be reaching across industry lines, financial sectors, the tech arena the political world and politics. We all know that the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been ringing the alarm bells when they started to see the disparity of what's been happening, and what's gone on in the past in Hollywood. We need to come together to have an impact with these stories and how we're portrayed – actually have an impact on how these kids see themselves, so that the next kid can know that they can do it. They can be artists, they can be story tellers, they can be media tycoons; they can be investment bankers. Let's all work together show that we can be an example to lift up one another; we will lift them up as well, and they will, in turn, do the same as we continue to pay it forward. And with that you'll know that if you have vision, faith, preparedness, focus, determination – every and anything is possible.

My parents taught me that everything is possible; to always believe in myself. Thank you to Susan and the work that you do. And I will commit to be there at least an hour, if not more, every week to continue to pay it forward to open up doors and to mentor and to be a part of uplifting this next generation of (Black) leaders.

Best featured actress in a musical, for her amazing role in HAMILTON, Renee Elise Goldsberry, introduced Russell Simmons, the next recipient of the NORTH STAR AWARD.

Renee Elise Goldsberry of Hamilton - the Musical, introduces Russell Simmons 

Renee started off with a rift of her own: “We honor Russell Simmons for the man he is. A crusader of social justicee, he made HipHop big biz. Back in '84, he lifted his label, Def Jams to new heights with that stellar stable LL, Whodini and the Beastie Boys! JayZ and he could bring the noise! Phat Farm and Baby Phat, one-two, one-three! And the Kings of Rock rock!! Yes!!

But entertainment success he just has to shine. What he does with his platform is more than just divine. The love of our children, he loves to give back. And he keeps Krush Groovin' with every track. The Vegan – all the books on meditation; waged a war on drugs and mass incarceration. Reaching, preaching – inspiring near and far to set the captives free; so he is our NORTH STAR. We are our ancestral resilience. It is not a myth – just listen to the testimony of our sister, Kemba Smith.”

Kemba Smith, who is a heroine in her own right, having gone through the tragedy of being wrongfully incarceraed for a crime that she did not commit, and had no knowledge of had a tragic, compelling story to share that had the audience both nearly in tears and angry at the same time.  

Kemba Smith - who triumphed over tragedy, gives a moving homage to Russell Simmons 

She stated that  in 2012 she had been invited to speak at women's federal prison in Danbury, CT. but could not have faced going back there had it not been for Susan Taylor, who accompanied her to give her the courage she need.   Ms. Smith had powerfully negative memories of that facility, because she had spent 5 years of her young life incarcerated for a crime she did not commit. She also related that she could not have survived being there had it not been for Russell Simmons. While incarcerated, she picked up a pen and wrote Simmons a letter: “I told you that I had been a Hampton University Student, fell in love with a man who sold drugs. Before I could say wait, please listen; I'm human being; I was about to give birth to my son, I was sentenced to 24 and a half years in prison. My little boy was born while I was incacerated. I was shackled, and handcuffed immediately following his birth; and if it hadn't been for my parents – God bless my parents who stood by my side – he would have gone into the foster care system, as so many children do. So that letter to you, Russell, I told you my story was a common one; and that this was what the drug war was doing – locking up mostly poor people, for low level, violentless crimes. And when it came to wormen – we were locked up often for nothing more than simply the crime of loving someone. I told you that even when we made a mistake – a first time, low level, nonviolent mistake – we were still sent away for a generation. Sometimes we were sent away for life. That's why I asked you to pleaae help; to please use your influence among celebrities to get out out stories. After having served six and a half years of my sentence, Bill Clinton commuted it in 2000. A miracle – it meant that I would be able to raise my child, marry, have my daughter, and go on speaking up for all of those who are still languishing in prison today.”

While she didn't know whether he ever received her letter, she watched  as he raised his voice, and caused others to raise their voice to end the drug war and the new jim crow – calling the US to be a nation of freedom. “So I've come here with my son to night to say something to you that I thought a million times – but never in a million years would I ever have the chance to say to you in person – (she broke down in tears momentarily) – thank you. Thank you for the bottom of my heart for your commitment and speaking out as you have on this issue. Thank you on behalf of the children and families – whose sentences have been commuted – because there was a movement of brave souls like you that knew that we deserved to be seen as human beings. And we deserved to be treated with dignity. Thank you Russell Simmons, and God bless you.”

Wow! What a compelling story – not only was the audience (and yours truly) visibly moved by her statement; we had to wonder what kinds of miracles it took for this to have happened at all – that Susan Taylor would be conduit through which Kemba would actually be able to personally thank him in front of an audience. I was an amazing, powerful, poignant moment. What was even more amazing was that I was sitting at the table with one of her friends and classmates, who could attest to the veracity of her story.

Renee called Russell to the stage to receive his award, “On behalf of the National Cares Mentoring Movement, we are so proud to present you with the NORTH STAR AWARD tonight.”

Russell Simmons received the North Star Award from National Cares Mentoring Movement and pledged to help Susan Taylor in future efforts to save our Children 

Russell, who was wearing his characteristic white sneakers, stated, “Most of the time when I receive awards like this I just think it's Google overstating my net worth. And I can be used – and I want to be used as much as possible to help someone do the work. And when I get these awards, it's usually because I'm a celebrity, and it's on the backs of the people who do the work. The people who show up everyday, and who really do the work. I had two mentors on the stage today – Rev. Jackson, who I met when I was very, very young; and Rev. Sharpton. And those two, along with Min. Louis Farrakhan – these are the three men who made thei way – or made their celebrity, through service. I made my service through music, and other stuff that's meaningful; but I know that celebrity is very valuable – and through it I can help do some of the work that the real activists can do, I can do some of it as well. And so her story is very compelling. I remember that push to change the Rockefeller drug laws. Both Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jackson were there as well. So, I'm here as a servant. I come and I see this program every year in Miami – and other than that, I have not been a great servant to date. As a foundation, I want to commit to do more to help you Susan. And I'm just grateful that I was given the opportunity to make the call and do some of the work, and to work alongside some of those who do. It's so hard to serve our community and serve the greater good – thank you – we have our work cut out for us. We have a white supremacist in the White House – and according to him there are no good Jews, no good African Americans, women ain't ish; Muslims – it's a real crisis we're facing – and all of us have to band together – all of us want to give each other what we want for ourselves. We have to make that our mantra. And we have to see each other the same so that we can work together to promote the better humanity and a better future.”

In the midst of his speech, Russell was interrupted by a caucasian female who obviously was a T-rump supporter, and had obviously had too much to drink – because she started heckling him for his statements.  Initially, being the gentleman he is, he paused on several occasions to respond to her - “I'm saying that we all have to work together – we'd all like to believe that there are better opportunities – I was saying - “ She interrupted him again – “I'm saying that Black people believe that opportunities are not available - “ again she challenged his statements. 

Russell, always cool, calm and unflappable responded, finally, “Well, some of us were born women, Muslims, African Americans - we're born unequal, and we'll die unequal. (Audience applauded at how he was handling her rude and ignorant behavior) and during our lifetime we go out and promote equality that we believe in, for everyone (more applause). I'm not saying that I suffer because of our condition – I go to work every day – we accept the suffering as cleansing and useful – and we go out and do the best we can with what we have. That's all I can do – I'm going to keep doing it; and hope that all of us band together in the push to make this country what they promised. That's it! I'm very happy and grateful for the opportunity to be here and be helpful. Thank you very much.”

(Note from GDW:  There's nothing worse than a white, racist, drunk female – but she came up against a strong, fine Black man who would not be thrown off course by her ignorance – which makes Russell Simmons an even greater hero and even more deserving of the NORTH STAR AWARD for not stooping to her level – as Michelle Obama always states, “When they go low, we go high. He definitely exemplified that that evening. I seriously doubt that she'll be invited back; and highly recommend that she check in with AA, and watch the entire original series of Roots – before she says anything else to anyone else Black – SMH).

Michael Eric Dyson, came out to bring order back to the room and said (paraphrasing here, because the cheers of the audience over his statement which follows literally obliterated some of the words):   
“How y'all doing out there? – that's what we call a historical attitude on the part of white supremacists, who, even when faced with the truth can't handle it and have to lash out to save their delusion of supremacy .( ..or something to that effect – the audience and I were too busy cheering Michael's rebuttle and most of what he said was drowned out by or cheers and applause). "And if you don't agree, make a contribution so that we can continue to impact their lives and change it for the better."


Now, I don't want anyone to get the idea that this sort of thing happens at Susan Taylor's National Cares Mentoring Movement events, or anything else that she's involved in.   Because it absolutely does not. The people gathered to support her causes are intelligent, benevolent, intellectual, accomplished, generous, and peaceful  Black men and women – which is why this individual thought she could take advantage of the moment with impunity. Most of the audience was just too dignified and Obama-fied to even suspect that any such individual would deign to invade a peaceloving program like the ones presented by soft spoken, elegant, Susan Taylor. And it's obvious this individual came in under false flags. However, her attempt to disrupt the event fell flat – and the program moved forward to the third and last awardee, Lonnie Bunch III.

Reginald Van Lee, Chair of the Board for National Cares Mentoring, took the stage. 

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Reginald Van Lee, Chairman of the Board of National Cares Mentoring Movement

“Tonight we are proud to make the final award to the founding director of the 400,000 square foot National Museum of African American History and Culture, Lonnie Bunch. Lonnie has dedicated his entire life to ensuring that the magnficent history of our people – the tragedies and triumphs - were told, and told by us. His work at the 1970s at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to insure that the history of African Americans in Aviation is told; to his work in the 1980s at the California Afro American Museum – where he organized award winning exhibitions, including the Black Angelinos – Lonnie has been devoted to preserving and sharing our culture. I was fortunate to grow up in a house where my parents instilled in us pride in our African American history. And I know that my parents put the pieces together, because our stories cannot be found in schools, public television, and certainly not in museums. What my parents did give us was limited – and many children didn't even get that. Many still don't. But today, there's a place where we can gather and find ourselves, and find truth beyond the truth we thought we knew. The 35,000 plus artifacts that are in the museum – and there is more to learn and more to tell. Only did through my visit to the Museum did I learn that they basically re-enslaved Black people on the sugar plantation, existed only ten miles from the home I built in Houston for my family. And that prison farm only closed in 2010, the year I began construction on my family's home. Ultimately, what Lonnie Bunch's burning vision has done is brought alive to us and let us see that it's not something far away, or disconnected from our lives. Lonnie was hoping to be with us tonight, but the flu took him down.”     

Related image

Michael Eric Dyson accepted the NORTH STAR AWARD on behalf of Lonnie Bunch III

For those who are unfamiliar with Dr. Lonnie Bunch III, I'm posting a youtube link: https://youtu.be/lDGii1epCeE

The Gala Finale ended with Jon Baptiste, and his band, rocking out  a Louisiana style version of the Black National Anthem, "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," by James Weldon Johnson -  which is 100 years old this year, followed by a  HAPPY BIRTHDAY  salute to Susan Taylor.

I am so happy to have a picture with one of our heroes - REV. JESSE JACKSON, SR.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about this event, and the wonderful work that Susan and her wonderful army of 200,000 mentors and growing, nationwide -

For those of you who are interested in becoming mentors, or making a contribution to National Cares Mentoring Movement, log onto the link below:


Make your donation today, it's up to us - the child's life that is impacted for the better by National Cares Mentoring Movement may be your own.
Now that you know, what are you going to do about it? 

Susan Fales Hill
Bethann Hardison, Russell Simmons,
Susan Taylor, Danny Glover

Hill Harper

Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Hightower
Terrie Williams, Adriane Gaines
Rachel Noerdlinger

Kimora Lee Simmons

June Ambrose & Maxwell
Susan Taylor and Jonelle Procope

Jessica Care Moore
Cicely Tyson and Terrie McMillan 
Audrey Smaltz, Vy Higgensen,
Gail Marquis (Fmr. Basketball Player)

Among the many heavy hitters and history makers in the audience were Ms. Cicely Tyson, Danny Glover, Maxwell, Kimora Lee, Audry Smaltz (fashion diva), Hill Harper,  Terrie Williams (Diva of PR), Bethann Hardison, Debra Lee (BET), Terry McMillan, Jonelle Procope (Apollo Theatre), Lloyd Williams (Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce), Lola West, Renee Elise Goldsberry (Hamilon – The Musical), Audrey Bernard (Columnist), Asha Bandele, Joe Parello, Susan Fales Hill, Deby Smith, Thelma Golden, June Ambrose, Jessica Care Moore, and so many more.  

Looking forward to the Third Annual Gala in 2018, in the mean time, however, you don't have to wait til next year to make your contribution or become part of the National Cares Mentoring Movement - right now things are in the "reactionary mode" trying to stem the damage already done to so many of our children - but the goal is to be proactive and begin to put in place the preventative and creative methods our children need so that the negative experiences become more and more replaced by positive, life affirming, empowering experiences.  And we all have a part to play in making that a reality.

As I said before:  


Become a Mentor and a Donor - 

Share your life and your love with those who need you the most:  Our Black Children

Stay Blessed & 


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