HONOREES GLADYS KNIGHT and BEVERLY JOHNSON
McDonald’s, a sponsor of the Essence Festival in New Orleans for the past 10 years, chose the site of the annual event that brought nearly 500,000 to the crescent city Fourth of July weekend for the 10th time to present its 365 Black Awards. Honoring luminaries like R&B singer Gladys Knight and Supermodel Beverly Johnson, the awards show will air on the Black Entertainment Network Aug. 25 at 11 p.m.
The annual awards program based on the McDonald’s “Deeply Rooted in the Community” 365 days a year campaign, was launched in 2003 to recognize people who are making positive contributions to strengthen the African-American community. Honorees were awarded in categories of Arts and Entertainment, Business, Education, Sports, Influential Youth and Lifetime Achievement.
“It is an honor to be recognized alongside these remarkable individuals,” said Knight who received the Lifetime Achievement Award. “By lending a hand to others, we can all help create environments of strength and compassion that enrich our neighborhoods, regardless of who we are or where we live.”
In addition to Knight who began singing as Gladys Knight and the Pips in the ’50s and Johnson the first African-American model to grace the cover of Vogue magazine, honorees are: education speaker and “TV One” talk show host Dr. Steve Perry; Kenny Williams, executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox; Ronald Parish, McDonald’s owner/ operator of 25 locations in North Texas and chair and CEO of the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association; teen entrepreneur Leanna Archer, the 17-year-old CEO who started her own natural hair and body care products when she was 9 and who plans to open a school in Haiti with her Leanna Archer Education Foundation for underprivileged children and youth environmentalist Charles Orgbon who began a green environmental organization Greening Forward in 2008 at the age of 12.
“We applaud this year’s honorees for their tireless dedication to serving others. Truly, the contributions of these individuals are integral to strengthening communities on the whole,” said Rob Jackson, McDonald’s U.S. marketing director. “From McDonald’s owner/operators to global superstars, past and present 365 Black Awards recipients prove that benevolent work yields positive results.”
An impressive list of celebrities performed during the show including recording artists Angie Stone, Erica Campbell, Estelle, Jordin Sparks, Deborah Cox and Yolanda Adams. Several notable actors and performers from Omari Hardwick to singer/actress Brandy and singer/songwriter LeToya Luckett presented awards during the taped show as well. Award winning actress Taraji P. Henson served as show host and Actress/Comedian Kym Whitley hosted the golden carpet arrivals. Comedian Jonathan Slocumb had the duties of opening the show.
McDonald’s also had a booth in at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center featuring major ecording artists and sampling of the latest McCafé smoothies, including Blueberry Pomegranate, Cherry Berry and Mango Pineapple.