Patti L

Legendary singer Patti LaBelle, recipient of the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Greater Washington Urban League’s Unsung Heroes 44th Annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Gala, delighted attendees with a special performance on March 11. See additional photos of the event in the AFRO next week. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

The Greater Washington Urban League (GWUL) held its 44th Annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Memorial Gala on March 11 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. The theme of the event was “Unsung Heroes: Celebrating Heroes in Our Community” and included such luminaries as D.C. Mayor Muriel Boswser (D) and Washington Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics owner Ted Leonsis.

Former President Bill Clinton was scheduled to attend and receive an award but he backed out because of a pressing commitment, George Lambert, the president and CEO of the GWUL, said.

The GWUL operates in the District, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and has programs that help people with employment, owning a home, and starting a business, and also provides rent and utility assistance. The GWUL was founded in 1938 and is considered one of the most active chapters of the National Urban League, with Maudine Cooper, a former aide to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and noted fundraiser, and the first chairman of the D.C. Council, Sterling Tucker, as past leaders.

NBC4 anchor Jim Vance served as the master of ceremony and WPGC 95.5’s Guy Lambert and Joe Clair served as the special announcer and live auctioneer, respectively. Corporate sponsors such as Safeway and Giant Foods gave away thousands of dollars in college scholarships for Washington, D.C. area high school students.

Bowser received the Unsung Housing Champion Award. “Our partnership with the Greater Washington Urban League helps train D.C. residents with good-paying jobs,” the mayor said. She talked about keeping the $100 million Housing Production Trust Fund as a tool to help people obtain housing and said the GWUL helps “everyone get a fair shot” in life.

Tina Frundt, founder of Courtney’s House and the Unsung Impact Award recipient, said her work in helping young people involved in human trafficking takes her throughout the city. “I live in Ward 7 but I work with youth at H.D. Woodson, Ballou, and yes, Wilson High School,” Frundt said. “The kids I serve are sometimes right next to my house and we must do all we can to help them.”

Leonsis, the Unsung Philanthropist Award recipient, said giving back to the community is not an option, but a social responsibility.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and council members Vincent Orange (D-At Large), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), and Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) attended the event. Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Robert White were also there. Former Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille attended the event, as did Prince George’s County Council member Karen Toles (D-District 7) and former Maryland Del. Aisha Braveboy of Prince George’s County.

To cap off the evening, legendary entertainer Pattie LaBelle sung renditions of her hits, “New Attitude”, “If Only You Knew” and “Somebody Loves You Baby.”