WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When credits are ultimately given for the historic rise of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States, the Black Press will be among those on the list.
That was the sentiment expressed by Corey Ealons, who served as director of African-American Media on now President Obama's Transition Team as he applauded the Black Press during a glitzy, star-studded Inaugural Gala, themed "Salute to Change" at the elegant La Madison Embassy of France on Jan. 19.
"This is a victory for President Barack Obama. This is a victory for Black America and also a victory for members of this organization," Ealons said to the audience during the fund-raiser for an NNPA News Service wing in the new Howard University School of Communications.
Ealons then told the crowd at the black-tie optional ball, co-sponsored by NNPA, Howard and the National Black Chamber of Commerce: "What we saw during this past election cycle was record turnout in the African-American community. That wasn't just because Barack Obama is an African-American. It's because they had an opportunity to learn about who he is, where he's from, what his values are and [how] he plans to improve their lives and the lives of their children. He appreciates that that could not have happened in the Black community but for the work and diligence of the Black Press."
The big party drew at least 300 guests to the embassy in Washington's Georgetown. They danced to live music by Russell Thompkins Jr. and The New Stylistics, who charmed the audience with such notable classics as ''You are Everything'' and ''Betcha by Golly Wow''. The Stylistics was an R&B group known for these classic hits during the 1970s.
Attending were Glynn Turman, who is most notably known for his role as Clarence V. Royce in HBO's hit series 'The Wire'. The audience was also wowed by an unexpected appearance by Rhythm & Blues legends Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy, who were both in town to intend inaugural festivities. They dropped in with awarding-winning Los Angeles Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell. Also in the crowd were former Denver mayor Wellington Webb and Chloe Mortaud, who reigns as Miss France 2009, the first Black woman to hold the title.
The Gala also featured performances by brother-sister duo Phredley and Howard University's Dance Major Performance Ensemble as well as featured a silent auction from the collection of artist Ted Ellis, who unveiled his latest piece ''Obama, the 44th President, an abstract depiction of Obama's signature 'hope' pose. Ellis is among the most celebrated artists of the 21st Century.
Gordy, founder of Motown Records, spoke about the importance of Obama's presidency as a hallmark of the sacrifices of past African-Americans as well as the hopeful prospects of a brighter future for generations to come. He also paid tribute to Robinson's renowned achievements in music and pop-culture in Motown's 50th year anniversary.
Despite all the star-power, it was actually the celebration of change that was most distinct in the atmosphere at the gala, primed by now-President Obama's agenda for a new and revitalized America. More than 300 dignitaries and professionals converged from around the country and several nations, serving the two-fold purpose of supporting NNPA and celebrating the historic election.
"It's truly a blessing in my lifetime to be able to see the first African-American president," said Dirck Hargraves, vice president of Vox Global Mandate, a Washington D.C. financial services and communications firm and one of the event's sponsors.
Howard's communication school, named after John H. Johnson, the late legendary founder of Ebony and JET Magazines, is embarking on the $75 million capital campaign to build a new state-of-the-art facility. A wing of the new building would serve as offices for the NNPA Foundation and its news service. Other gala sponsors were Hennessy, ISRI, Sa-Tech., Inc., Areva, EGM Services Inc., Christine's Coffee and Talkhouse Magazine.
"The Black Press of America is going to have a permanent presence in the city," said Dorothy Leavell, chair of the NNPA Foundation. "This is just our first fundraiser. We could not let this occasion pass without the Black Press taking its rightful place in welcoming our own president. So we decided to throw our own party, and a party it is!"
Jannette Dates, dean of the School of Communications, said she is working alongside the new school president, Sydney Ribeau, to push the fundraising efforts.
"We're working with the president and administration and getting more details on how to proceed under the new leadership," Dates said. The NNPA News Service, led by Editor-in-Chief Hazel Trice Edney, is currently housed in the School of Communications and assists in the development of students into professional journalists in a Microsoft-sponsored laboratory.
"It's very important. With the Black Press, it's power," says Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, who serves as a member of the NNPA Foundation board and an NNPA columnist. "Power is information and information is power. It's very important to hear the Black point of view and the real story. Telling our perspective is very vital to our culture, civilization and our future."
The NNPA gala was one of dozens of major events throughout the Inaugural weekend that welcomed millions to the nation's capital to witness what now President Obama once called, "the moment that we have been waiting for."