The ballroom was filled with journalists who look like America at the annual Multicultural Media Correspondents' Dinner, held late last month at the National Press Club.
The black tie affair in the nation’s capital drew a well-heeled crowd of more than 400 media professionals, members of Congress, foreign diplomats, Hollywood entertainers, executives and influencers.
"I am beyond thrilled by the momentum [the event] has gained in just its second year,” said organizer David Morgan.
The gala was hailed as a way to highlight the importance of diversity in media; recognize media professionals of excellence; and raise the consciousness of the American public about the importance of multicultural media. Data shows that approximately 40 percent of the U.S. population is comprised of people of color.
That diversity was reflected on the guest list and among those who were celebrated for their work.
This year's honorees included FOX News’ broadcaster Juan Williams; Joe Madison of Sirius XM; Dr. Ben Chavis of the National Newspaper Publishers Association; Monique Nelson of UniWorld Group, Inc., and lawyer, commentator and media executive, Cherylyn Harley LeBon.
Other awardees recognized for their commitment to diverse media included: director Robert Rodriguez, who heads El Rey Networks; Suzanne Gamboa of NBC Latino; Traci G. Lee, NBC Asian America; and Lamia Rezgui, Voice of America.
The lively evening featured a host of presenters such as Jeff Ballou, who broke barriers when he became the first Black man to lead the National Press Club; and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), founder/co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Multicultural Media. Her co-chair, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), was among the Congressional advocates who were recognized.
Among the celebs in the house were actor/activist Lamman Rucker of OWN’s Greenleaf series, as well as musician Pras Michel of the Fugees fame, who along with political strategist/executive, Aaron Manaigo, helped co-chair the event. Michel, who’s engaged in global humanitarian work, shared that he'd flown in from The Sudan specifically to support the event.
“It is clear that people are responding well to our call to honor excellence in media and ignite a call to action,” Morgan added. “Numerous journalists and advocacy organizations have joined on as partners and many media stakeholders have pledged to join the fight."
The dinner and ceremony was held on the same day as a Capitol Hill summit hosted by the Congressional Caucus on Multicultural Media.
That Caucus, which Congresswoman Clarke launched in 2016, is dedicated to issues related to the state of diversity and inclusion in the media and telecommunications industries. Goals include promoting multicultural media and multi-interest participation.
To that end, the Caucus conference at the Library of Congress featured a panel discussion focused on the 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report, the fourth in a series of annual reports that examine relationships between diversity and the bottom line in the entertainment industry.
Participants in the media summit included: Dr. Darnell Hunt, Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and Professor of Sociology, UCLA; Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League; Ryan Leslie, a producer and recording artist; Robin Harrison, Acting Director, NAACP Hollywood Bureau; David Porter, Executive Director, Walter Kaitz Foundation; Maurita Coley, EVP/COO, Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council; and Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Executive Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs Univision Communications, Inc.
Although the dinner and summit were not formally affiliated, Congresswoman Clarke noted their similar themes and goals.
“It’s imperative that we not only create our own content but own our content,” she told audience members during the dinner. “… I will fight with every fiber of my being to change the status quo.”