Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Our Triumph

Nov 17, 2010

It was a triumphant evening.  One by one, artists, performers, public servants, journalists and those with a keen understanding of activism hit the stage last night at the Lincoln Center in NY as National Action Network presented our very 1st annual Triumph Awards.  Honoring those in arts, entertainment and sports, the awards paid homage to those that rarely receive acknowledgement for their unique contributions in the fight for justice and equality.   As John Legend, Phylicia Rashad, Cathy Hughes, Fela! The Broadway Musical and Ms. Julie Menin received their respective awards, the capacity-filled auditorium in Rose Hall – comprised of dignitaries and those working towards progress – could not help but rise to their feet in standing ovation time and time again.

Kicking things off with a powerful musical performance from Fela!, the award ceremony focused on emphasizing the intricate relationship between the arts and social advancement.  A champion for the middle class, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz co-hosted the evening along with Emmy award-winning reporter Mara Schiavocampo.  And among the honorees were founder & chairperson of Radio One, Inc. Cathy Hughes, award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad, Grammy award-winning artist John Legend, civic leader and news commentator Julie Menin and Fela! The Broadway Musical.

Whether it’s John Legend’s work to improve our educational system, or Phylicia Rashad’s extensive work with charitable organizations, or Cathy Hughes’ dedication to minority communities, or Julie Menin’s work to expand religious tolerance, or Tony award-winning Fela!’s focus on the legendary Fela Kuti, each of the honorees understands the significant importance of utilizing culture and creativity to highlight inequities in society.  And for their unyielding dedication to something larger and greater than any individual achievement, we honored and wished them continued success in all of their endeavors last night.

In addition to the impeccable work of our five Triumph Award recipients, NAN also paid special tribute to the legacy of veteran sportsman George Steinbrenner, as well as our Chairman, Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson for his continued dedication to community service.  We also honored Governor David Paterson for his willingness to not only serve the people of NY with grace and dignity, but for his sheer ability to overcome challenges throughout his life in order to advance equality for everyone.

Supporting NAN in our effort to recognize these remarkable individuals and organizations, several of NY’s most respected elected officials joined us in sharing the moment yesterday evening.  Among them were NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, former Mayor David Dinkins, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and NY City Comptroller John Liu.  And we could not have pulled off our successful inaugural ceremony without the support of sponsors like GE, Comcast, Pepsi Co., NASCAR, Ariel Investments, Coca-Cola, Honda, NBC Universal, New Roosevelt Initiative, Wal-Mart Inc. and more.

Too often in life, history tends to focus on the political leaders and martyrs who have made tremendous sacrifices so that the nation as a whole could prosper and advance.  But what is usually glanced over is the work of those artists, painters, thinkers, writers, actors, musicians and others who help shape the dialogue of society.  Whether it’s highlighting inequalities or emphasizing the areas in desperate need for change, these unsung heroes are many a times the ignition that sparks the flame for progress.  And it is precisely in that spirit that we gathered yesterday evening with the hopes of inspiring the next generation of creative individuals who will utilize their talents for the betterment of us all.  What a triumphant thought indeed.