By Micha Green
The second annual Urban One Honors, which celebrated 40 years of the African American media conglomerate, was held on Dec. 5 at the MGM National Harbor, and it was truly a night of Black excellence personified.
Guests donned gorgeous gowns and swag-filled suits, walked the purple carpet and filled the MGM theatre as leaders in music and Hollywood were honored for their contributions in their fields. While the media company commended the awardees, each honoree emphasized the major impact of Urban One Media and its 40-year influence on, not only African American media, but to the world as a whole.
“It’s still very difficult for Black-owned media to grow. I never thought when I started that we would even be the largest. When I started I had a little station… WOL. WOL is still going strong and still disseminating information you can’t get anywhere else,” Cathy Hughes said.
The media mogul explained how Urban One became what it is today.
“I think that the first thing is: you don’t try to build an empire. You try to do what’s right. Follow your mission, and you put the community first, and then God turns it into an empire,” she said. “I never sought to build a business, or become the largest media company in America. I sought to help my community and be a voice, and now a voice and a face, for my people. I was rewarded. I looked up one day and all of a sudden so many other Black businesses had gone out.”
Hughes along with comedian and actor Chris Tucker hosted the ceremony.
This year’s honorees included: music executive Sylvia Rhone (Lifetime Achievement Honor); Grammy Award-winning recording artist and producer Missy Elliott (Music Innovation Honor); Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx (Entertainment Icon Honor); Grammy Award-winning artist Chance the Rapper (Represent Change Honor); and star of “Pose,” Ryan Jamaal Swain (Represent Pride Honor).
In addition special recognitions went to music executive legend Clarence “The Black Godfather” Avant (Represent Opportunity), civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton (Represent Leadership), and Emmy Award-winning actor Billy Porter (Represent Excellence).
Singers Ne-Yo, Eric Benét, Chanté Moore, and Al B. Sure participated in a special music tribute to the late Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter James Ingram.
There were also additional performances that brought audiences to their feet such as from Grammy Award-winning singer and actress Brandy, Grammy-nominated rapper Wale and newcomer Jac Ross, who is compared to Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye.
Even for this reporter, the evening was full of surprises, overwhelming joy and truly a night to remember.
Chance the Rapper’s award was one major surprise, not featured in the Urban One Honors press conference or releases and he didn’t even walk the purple carpet.
Another astonishing moment was when Grammy-Award winning singer Anita Baker shocked the audiences and took the stage to Cathy Hughes with her famous, “Giving you the Best that I Got.” Adding to the wonder of the Baker surprise was when celebrated singer Lala Hathaway, Porter and Foxx joined the songstress in her presentation to the Urban One Media maven.
In addition to the surprises, there were also touching moments that left audiences and honorees in tears.
Media personality Corinne Foxx presented the Entertainment Icon Honor to her father Jamie Foxx, who, during his acceptance speech, told the audience despite the accolades that his best role ever is being a father.
Rapper Lil’ Kim’s presentation of the Music Innovation Honor to Missy Elliott left the honoree in tears as she accepted her award. Supporting her through the tears and awe-inspiring honor were her friends, colleagues and rap sisters, Lil’ Kim and Da Brat.