ATLANTA — Real Times Media Inc. presented the 16th annual Who’s Who In Black Atlanta gala amid an overflowing crowd at the Hyatt Regency in downtown ATL. The exclusive soiree paid homage to, and cast a bright loving spotlight, on the hundreds of African Americans in this international metropolis who have strived, achieved success, broken barriers, became pioneers and set new standards for the next generation, including revered celebrities Kim Fields (“Real Housewives of Atlanta”) and Jermaine Dupri (“The Rap Game”)
With CBS 46 News anchor Sharon Reed (above, right) serving as mistress of ceremonies, the gala was also an opportunity to unveil the Who’s Who in Black Atlanta publication that illuminates the kind of mind-boggling success in the black community that is all too often glossed over and deliberately ignored by the misguided mainstream media, which, as an example, has a proclivity to be obsessed on the 1 in 4 black men who have some affiliation with America’s penal system. As Real Times Media’s Chief Executive Officer Hiram Jackson proclaimed before the overflowing auditorium, Who’s Who In Black Atlanta (as well as the Who’s Who franchise nationwide) shines the light on the other 3 out of 4 black men — and women — whose amazing talents and achievements have changed history in this thriving city, this state and the nation.
“For some reason, you don’t’ see that on the 6 o’clock news. The first five minutes of the 6 o’clock news doesn’t define us. We’re a proud people and we do well. Somebody at some point needs to take a step back and say that’s not us,” he said resolutely and proudly, passion dripping from his every word.
“So tonight we want to show you who we are,” Jackson, pictured above at the podium, continued on. “We’ve been doing this for 25 years. Real Times Media is also the largest owner of the African American newspapers around the country and one of the largest producers of African America content in the country. So we appreciate you coming out tonight and celebrating with us. It’s important for your kids and your grandkids to see positive images of African American achievement. And that’s what tonight is about.”
Jackson’s sentiments were shared by Ernest Greer, a St. Louis native who is now the Co-President of Greenberg Traurig, LLP and who was granted the honor of writing the forward to the Who’s Who in Black Atlanta publication.
“I remember I came this way from St. Louis in 1992, a river town that didn’t have much in the way of opportunity. It was the African American business community (in Atlanta) that rallied around me as a young lawyer, who believed in my belief, that if I was given the opportunity, I could drive change. I’ve been blessed to be in Atlanta, Georgia. And I’m so blessed to be aligned with people like Hiram Jackson, who I met over 20 years ago, who, too, believed in African American excellence and believed in African American entrepreneurship,” Greer said. “When you work in white institutions as a black man, there are always accolades, but I will tell you there is no bigger accolade than your people affirming your work. So I was honored to write the forward.”
One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the Trailblazer Award to the late, legendary Herman “H.J.” Russell, a man of astounding achievement and vision and whose real estate and construction empire included in its illustrious portfolio the vast expansion of Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport and the building of both the Georgia Dome and Philips Arena, among many other distinctions. In short, Russell is the man who played a major role in configuring the spectacular skyline of downtown Atlanta.
Accepting the award was one of the heirs of the construction dynasty, Jerome Russell, who traipsed to the podium to a thunderous standing ovation. Russell said his family is contributing $5 million for the establishment of the Herman J. Russell Center for Innovation. “Were’ going to create a place where my father’s (H.J. Russell) legacy will live,” he said. “We will take this environment around technology and innovation and create a place where people of color can come and live their dreams, whether it’s entrepreneurship, whether it’s getting support to start a business, whether it’s networking or collaborating or aggregating ideas, this will be the place to really change this city. And we’re very blessed to be here and we’re going to build off that legacy of his serial entrepreneurship,” Jerome Russell added.
Jermaine Dupri was awarded for defiantly building his game-changing So So Def in his hometown, where “The Rap Game” reality TV producer churned out an assembly line’s worth of child stars, including Kris Kross, Da Brat, Lil Bow Wow and produced hits for a young TLC.
“I want to thank you guys for acknowledging my efforts to help this city compete (musically) with the other cities,” Dupri said as he looked over the sea of achievers in the room. “People here in the city always told me that have to move to New York, you have to move to L.A. to be really successful. And I really didn’t believe that. And I was just trying to make sure this city would be a city that they would be talking about as long as they have been now. I just want to thank y’all and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
The gala was buttressed by Real Times Media’s and Who’s Who in Black Atlanta’s partners such as Publix, Cricket Wireless, the Atlanta Hawks, Grady Health Systems, The Fulton-DeKalb Health Systems, Clark Atlanta University, Greenberg Traurig, Davis Bozeman Law, Georgia International Convention Center, Atlanta-Jackson International Airport, Radio One, Kiss 104.1 FM and JAZZ 91.9 WCLK.
Take a look at the photo highlights, as well as view the names of the award winners, dignitaries and interesting personalities at the gala by clicking below.