ESSENCE Essential Heroes Awards: A Car Give Away, Must-See Performances & More Moments That Will Leave You In Tears!

These unforgettable moments from the ESSENCE Essential Heroes Awards will warm your heart and leave you smiling from ear to ear!


The second edition of the 2020 ESSENCE Essential Heroes Awards was a magical night filled with unforgettable moments that came to life beautifully as we partnered with AT&T, Disney Parks, Disney Studios and Hyundai to honor a host of essential workers who have gone above and beyond in their communities this year.

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To open the show, host Eva Marcille took us on a quick stroll down memory lane to revisit the first edition of the ESSENCE Essential Heroes Awards, where we honored dozens of healthcare workers who helped pull us through the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eva then introduced our first category of the night, which heard heartwarming stories from five amazing mothers who have dedicated their life’s work to bettering their communities in extraordinary ways. Courtesy of our partners at Disney Parks, deserving parents Roz Sandifer of LitMom, Mickol Bryant Franklin of Cheer Image Iconz, Rodnesha Ross of Youth Community Agency, Yolanda Carson of When Jade Smiles and Trinket Lewis received the surprise of a lifetime—and their reactions were absolutely priceless! Check out the video above to hear their stories and see how it all unfolded.

During our second category of the night, AT&T joined us in highlighting essential workers who are impacting change in the mental health field. Shanti Dias of Silence The Shame, Kim Young of Dope Black Social Worker, Jennifer Mullan of Decolonizing Therapy, Nicole Russell of Precious Dreams Foundation and Dr. Joy Harden Bradford of Therapy for Black Girls each shared their inspiring. Watch the video below to hear a little of their stories.

Our third category of the night shined a spotlight on educators who have carved out spaces for children in their communities to learn, thrive and grow, despite the limitations placed on them throughout this trying year. With a little help from Disney Studios, Jamie Foxx and Jon Batiste, we celebrated the priceless contributions from Deryck Toles of Inspiring Minds, Danyelle Jones of Mindfully Inc, Ashanti Murdock of KIPP Indy Public Schools and Dr. Peter Archer. Watch the video below to learn more about their impactful journeys.

A true highlight of the evening was the final honoree category presented in part by Hyundai, which recognized the work of community change makers. Among those celebrated were Shirley Raines of Beauty 2 The Streetz, Jackie Nickleberry of Global Gift Registry, Karen Washington of Rise & Root Farm and Phillip Shung, Dr. Keith White, Kenneth Montgomery and MaliX of Brooklyn Combine. To close out the night, our partners at Hyundai surprised Shirley Raines with a brand new Hyundai Elantra to thank her for her work providing hot meals, hot showers and makeovers to homeless individuals throughout the pandemic. Watch the video above to see the joyous moment.

The evening also featured honoree tribute performances from June’s Diary and Jon Batiste, as well as a special tribute moment to all of the hardworking poll workers and ballot counters. In other words, it was a night to remember!