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NAJEE’S NOTES: Urban League to host Whitney Young Awards Dinner

The Los Angeles Urban League will host the 45th annual Whitney M. Young Jr. Awards Dinner May 11 in the prestigious Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Center.

This dinner has been one of the premiere community awards programs known for celebrating outstanding philanthropists, corporate executives, civil rights pioneers and community and business leaders whose contributions have had a tremendous impact on underserved communities locally and across the country.

Previous recipients of the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award include legends of Hollywood and leaders in education, politics, faith and business such as Bishop Charles E. Blake, Steven Bochco, Mayor Tom Bradley, Sammy Davis Jr., Dr. Winston C. Doby, Ella Fitzgerald, Deborah Flint, Berry Gordy, Hill Harper, Earvin “Magic” and Cookie Johnson, Quincy Jones, Gladys Knight, Norman Lear, John Mack, Sidney Poitier, Dionne Warwick, Denzel Washington, Stevie Wonder and John Wooden.

For 97 years, the Urban League has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals in Los Angeles through their workforce, economic and business development programs and initiatives and Los Angeles Urban League President and CEO Michael A. Lawson continues to lead the charge with his own style of leadership and has continued the legacy of leadership that retired John Mack left in place.

This was important after the departures of Blair Taylor and Nolan Rollins who both served terms as the head of the local Urban League after Mack’s retirement in 2005. There were some in South L.A. who wondered what direction the Urban League would move in the age of Black Lives Matter and would it continue to be viable.

The answer is a resounding yes. The Urban League continues to be on the front lines. I’m grateful to be able to say that John Mack mentored me and has been a friend of mine for over 25 years. This is the dinner that Mack built.

What also makes this dinner special is Van Jones is one of the honorees. Jones is a social entrepreneur, CNN political contributor and host of “The Van Jones Show” on CNN, which I watch weekly to keep up with the hottest issues of the nation.

Jones has founded and led numerous social enterprises engaged in social and environmental justice.

They include the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which promotes criminal justice reform; Color of Change, which works for racial fairness through its over one million members; Rebuild the Dream, a 21st Century “think tank” that champions innovative solutions to fix the U.S. economy and uplift the next generation; and Magic Labs Media, founded by Jones and where he currently serves as its president.

Jones is a Yale-educated attorney. He is the author of two New York Times best-selling books, “The Green Collar Economy” (2008) and “Rebuild the Dream” (2012). The second book chronicles his journey as an environmental and human rights activist to becoming a White House policy advisor.

He was the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act. Signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, the Green Jobs Act was the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term “green jobs.” During the Obama administration, the legislation resulted in $500 million in national funding for green jobs training.

In 2009, Jones worked as the green jobs advisor to President Barack Obama.

The Urban League also will bestow the distinguished Dr. Winston C. Doby Community Coalition Award to Theresa Price, founder and executive director of the National College Resources Foundation; and City Year Los Angeles. Price is a visionary leader who has inspired thousands of youth across the country to pursue higher education and awarded millions of dollars in scholarships and grants.

City Year L.A. is a champion for education that activates their AmeriCorps members in selected schools to improve the academic achievements and graduation rates of students. The Dr. Winston C. Doby Community Coalition Award is given to outstanding individuals and organizations that partner with the L.A. Urban League for community change across cultural lines. Doby was a passionate educator, student advocate and the longest serving chancellor of student affairs at UCLA.

The dinner committee, led by co-chairs Mattie McFadden-Lawson and Norm Nixon, have planned a memorable evening that kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with the red carpet and reception following with the awards dinner, which begins at 7 p.m. as veteran broadcast journalist and CBS2/KCAL9 news anchor Pat Harvey welcomes guests as the evening’s emcee. The keynote speaker for the evening will be California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The Los Angeles Urban League helps improve the lives of the underserved in South L.A. This is one fundraiser we should all support.

The dinner is almost at capacity. Ff you want to attend or donate, contact Bonnie Thomas-Jeter at (323) 299-9660, ext. 2212, or visit


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