After a two-year pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, among the many events scheduled for the return of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Byron Allen’s ‘A Seat at the Table: A Celebration Of Black-Owned Media’ was the most coveted.
Produced by Marc Wilson and Jane Events Consulting, Media mogul Byron Allen’s theGrio presented a star-studded night at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. The gala was hosted by actor and comedian Chris Tucker and featured a performance from Grammy Award-winning and Oscar-nominated artist, actress, and producer Mary J. Blige and legendary DJ D-Nice.
The night also commemorated White House correspondent April Ryan’s 25 years of Presidential Coverage as well as her historic fourth-row seat assignment in the White House Brady press room for the theGRIO.
While the night included A-list guests and politicos, Allen took the opportunity to stress the importance of not just Black media, but Black-owned media. He detailed what he learned from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow and Civil Rights leader, Coretta Scott King. According to Allen, Mrs. King told him of the four major challenges the African American community faces: ending slavery, ending Jim Crow, achieving Civil Rights, and achieving economic inclusion.
“She said, ‘They didn’t kill my Martin over the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,’” Allen told guests. “‘They killed him over the speech he gave in February of ’68 in Stanford University, “The Other America.’”
King’s “The Other America” illustrated the stark economic differences between white and Black America at the time. King pushed for the merging of both Americas into one. Two months later he was assassinated. Allen cited that conversation as the catalyst to effectuate change for the greater good, by building the world’s biggest media company. Allen acquired theGrio in 2016.
“There are media companies that work every day to divide us,” he said. “We have to have a seat at the table. We must control our images. We must have our voices widely heard and distributed or we’re not a part of this democracy.
Allen transition from the importance to Black-media ownership into honoring the Black journalists at theGRIO, but specifically April Ryan for her 25 years of service as a White House correspondent. The mogul highlighted that he envisioned the success of theGRIO with Ryan as a centerpiece. Allen told guests how he leveraged an introduction to Beyonce to grab Ryan’s attention. “I said ‘April, this is my mobile number. If you ever need anything, you call me,’” Allen said.
Just a few short months after the encounter, Ryan has been laid-off and made the call to Allen.
Allen said during the call he told Ryan, “This is your luckiest day. I’m going to pay you whatever you want to be paid, and I never say that, but you and I going to get a deal done and we’re closing now.”
At 54, Ryan is both a White House Correspondent and theGRIO’s Washington Bureau Chief. In 2017, the National Association of Black Journalists named her as the “Journalist of the Year.” Earlier in the evening, during the WHCD, Ryan received a standing ovation in recognition of her 25 years covering the White House through 5 presidential administrations.
The Baltimore native and Morgan State University alum, graciously took to the stage and thanked her family, children, fiancé, and friends. She honored the man that gave her, her first job at the White House, radio executive Jerry Lopes. It was Lopes that coined and first saw her “April Magic.” She noted Lopes passed the week prior at 72 years old.
Ryan closed thanking Allen for always supporting her.
“Byron has been there for me from day one, and I will always respect and support Byron,” she told the crowd. “Even though a president has gone after me, I still faced some of the worst moments, but you know what? The Bible says, ‘Your enemy will be your footstool.’”