Each year, the Chicago Defender takes great pride in recognizing African American men in our community who inspire others through excellence, vision, leadership, exceptional achievements, and a vast commitment to empowerment in multiple ways. We are proud of the achievements of our men in Chicago and beyond who are doing many wonderful things across broad spectrums of society.
Yet, African American men are often maligned by mainstream media outlets. These outlets far too often come to conclusions about black men that are not accurate, often painting negative images and writing false narratives of black people in general, and black men in particular. Such flawed findings often conclude that black men are associated with crime, unemployment, and live in poverty. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that most black men will not be incarcerated, are not unemployed, and are not poor.
This is why, 13 years ago, we wanted to find a way to highlight the magnificent stories, accomplishments, and achievements of our men. It was with this mindset that the Defender created and annually presents the Men of Excellence (MOE) Awards. These men define excellence in various walks of life, including community, civic, business/entrepreneurship, religion, law, politics/government, education, entertainment, and other areas.
Thinking back to the very first Men of Excellence Awards, when we honored 50 extraordinary black men, there were people who believe it or not, who thought we would run out of men to honor. However, with the 600 men that we’ve honored since the inception of MOE, I can honestly say that we’ve just scratched the surface of black excellence. Since those first awards in 2007, we’ve had the honor of recognizing such notable Chicagoans as Congressman Danny K. Davis; Larry Huggins of Riteway Huggins Construction; Spencer Leak, Sr. and Spencer Leak Jr. of Leak Funeral Home; legendary radio personality, Herb Kent; and Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.
Every day we see strong black men working in various fields for the betterment of themselves, their families, their communities, and their careers. Of course, there are some black men mired in the stereotypes that are often placed on our race. Nevertheless, things are getting better on multiple fronts in the black community. More must be done, and black men must lead the way. First, by not listening to bias reports and surveys, such as “we live in poverty,” because poverty among black men has fallen from 41 percent in 1960 to 18 percent today. And, black men in the middle or upper class – as measured by their family income – have risen from 38 percent in 1960 to 57 percent today. Numbers matter, but empirical and visual facts are vitally and equally important. This means there are many black men who are factually doing excellent things in every sector of this city. And that’s what MOE is all about. It’s highlighting and spotlighting black men who exemplify excellence in many ways. And trust us, there’s no shortage of black men that meet the criteria and definition of excellence in this city, county, state or nation.
Speaking of excellence, at the upcoming MOE Awards ceremony, the Chicago Defender will host award-winning journalist and author of Conversations in Black: On Power, Politics, and Leadership, Ed Gordon as the keynote speaker. Gordon is the epitome of the type of men we honor; men who have done and continue to do excellent things.
Please join us as we honor this year’s class of Men of Excellence. The 2020 MOE Awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, March 26, 2020, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago located at 151 E. Wacker Dr. Click here for more information and to view the full list of honorees.