By Shirley Hawkins
LOS ANGELES — The air was filled with excitement at USC’s Bovard Auditorium Sept. 26 when the Hart Leadership Center Foundation held its second annual Black Business Leaders Hall of Fame ceremony to honor local African-American entrepreneurs.
Founded by Ed and Laurieann Hart, the nonprofit was established to shine a spotlight on African-American businesses that are dedicated to serving the community.
“We wanted to recognize excellence and leadership in the black community that has been long overdue,” said Laurieann Hart, who added that in one year, the creation of small black businesses had grown by 400 percent.
“We are excited for you to get to know our 2018 Hall of Fame class tonight, and to honor all of you for your work in the community, in education, in your families and in the world,” Ed Hart added.
A selection committee formed by the foundation nominated 65 local businesses to compete in six categories. The winners were awarded crystal statuettes framed in a shiny blue frame.
The Excellence in Community and Philanthropy Award was presented to the Jenesee Center, a domestic violence organization and its chief executive officer, Karen Earl. The award was accepted by Leslie Belt, contracts manager for the center.
“I am glad that this organization is here to help men, women and their children who are affected by domestic violence,” Belt said.
Winning the Biddy Mason Business of the Year Award was the law firm of Ivie, McNeill and Wyatt, which was accepted by Rickie Ivie.
The Ruby Bridges Pioneer in Education Award was presented to Black Women Lawyers in Los Angeles and its president, Syna Dennis, and the Entrepreneurial Rising Star Award was presented to the Hidden Empire Film Group and its founder, Deon Taylor.
The Entertainment, Innovation and Technology Award was captured by Information Management Resources Inc., a cybersecurity business that operates worldwide.
“I want to thank the foundation for this honor,” said President Martha Daniel. “I’m a sharecropper’s daughter. My mother escaped the segregated south by moving to Memphis. One day she looked at me and said, ‘I want you to never stop dreaming. Focus on your education and never give up.’ She instilled in me the unshakable belief that nobody could turn me around.”
Participating in a fireside chat was special guest screenwriter, producer and former Black Entertainment Television President Reginald Hudlin. The entertainment executive, popularly known with his brother Warrington Hudlin as the Hudlin brothers, was interviewed by actor/director Wren T. Brown. Hudlin captivated the audience by chatting about his behind-the scenes experiences in the entertainment industry.
Hudlin first won accolades for writing and directing the film “House Party” and “Boomerang.” He worked as a producer on “Django Unchained” with Quentin Tarantino and directed the film on legendary attorney Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.” He served as the executive producer and writer of the television series “Black Panther,” which he originally created as a comic book produced by Marvel.
Hudlin said that his family, all high achievers, have been his lifelong inspiration.
“Back in the day, my father and grandfather owned their own businesses,” Hudlin recalled. “My great-uncle was Richard A. Hudlin, a tennis coach whose students were Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson and my brother, Warrington, who graduated from Yale, founded the Black Filmmaker Foundation. It is fantastic to have a family that says, ‘Wow, I’m going to do it.’ They all made a way out of no way.”