Uplifting. Remarkable. Exhilarating.
Just a few words to describe Applause Africa?s fourth annual African Diaspora Awards. Held on Saturday, Nov. 15 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at the City University of New York (CUNY) John Jay College, this star-studded event eulogized the efforts of the innovative individuals of the African Diaspora.
Co-hosted by award-winning actor from Broadway hit ?Fela,? Sahr Ngaujah, and actress, producer and writer Ebbe Bassey, the dynamic duo kept the crowd alive and laughing with their effortless jokes and indisputable chemistry.
This year?s theme was ?Homecoming Revolution,? where its objective was to encourage Africans to invest in the diaspora, and ?taking the brain drain the other direction,? said Ngaujah. With the Ebola outbreak being the most talked about topic as of late, Bassey brought the conversation to the African Diaspora Awards and wanted to make it known that predicaments like this shows the importance of giving back.
The 2014 honorees were Actor of the Year: Ger Duany; Creative Artist of the Year: Kemi Adetiba; Entrepreneur of the Year: Meck Khalfan; Community Leadership Award: Semhar Araia, Dawn Inc.; Musician of the Year: Somi; Friend of Africa: Bernadette Paolo; Advocate of the Year: Dr. Olajide Williams; Designer of the Year: David Tlale; and Company of the Year: Ogilvy & Mather.
Meck Khalfan, CEO, entrepreneur and tech developer of Puku LLC., was honored when he found out that he won Entrepreneur of the Year, not just for the recognition, but because of those who held the title the previous year.
?You cannot say technology without mentioning Chinedu Echeruo, who just sold his company (HopStop.com, a MTA mass transit app) last year to Apple for multi billions,? said the Tanzanian entrepreneur. ?He?s definitely someone I know, and seeing that he can do it is a big motivation for any person ? and he was Entrepreneur of the Year, last year. I hope to not only receive awards, but to go above and beyond.?
Some of the presenters of the night were American actor from hit movie ?Lottery Ticket,? Gbenga Akinnagbe, who presented the Creative Artist of the Year award; Nigerian American journalist, Lola Ogunnaike, and America?s Next Top Model contestant from Cycle 12, Aminat Ayinde.
Ayinde, who presented David Tlale, Designer the of Year award, was dressed in one of Tlale?s pieces that night.
?David is killing it for the African diaspora, for South Africans, Africans all over the world. He just knows how to make a woman feel sexy, confident, elegant, classy, yet fun. I think his brand his image and his designs are going to be reaching all different markets,? the former Top Model Contestant told TNJ.com. ?Africans are fabulous –whether you?re born there, from there, around there, or want to be a part of.?
While each honoree gave their spiel of how important it is to follow your dreams, give back to your community and the be unified, it was Tlale?s speech that had the audience in one accord when speaking about the hardships of being in the fashion industry, and how his mom, to this day, played a vital role in his career.
?I?m blessed to be raised in South Africa because we know heart, we know diversity, we know struggle, we know survival, and we know how to make it,? Tlale said. ?I?m saying to all the designers out there, don?t try to compete ? just excel at what you do, and your work [works] for you.?
To end the inspiring night was a performance by Afrobeat crooner Shayi Shey, who sang her hit song ?Murda,? which had the crowd grooving, and singing to her African inspired beats.