On Friday night, in the midst of the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Convention’s festivities, and on the eve of the weekend’s “Take a Knee” protests, a group of about 700 Americans of all races, ages, and political leanings came together to celebrate entrepreneurship, public service, and the American Spirit.
About a month ago I had a vision. What if, during this annual celebration of African Americans in government, we held an event bringing together both sides of the aisle and honoring some of our nation’s most loyal public servants and change-makers?
With the divisiveness and the current climate of the country, there were some who didn’t think Reaching America could pull off this first ever event. But we kept working to make it happen, and it turns out my vision was a good one. Contrary to what we see on TV on a daily basis, there is much more that unites us as Americans than that what seeks to divides us.
In one room we had both Sean “Diddy” Combs, one of the most successful black entrepreneurs in American history, and the white president of a conservative non-profit. We had Chris Garcia, The National Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Minority Business Development Agency, alongside young people of all races who work in government and in the private sector.
We honored Kay Coles James with Reaching America’s Lifetime Achievement Award for over thirty years of service to the United States of America. Mrs. James is a black woman who served in the George W. Bush administration, and young people of all races who look up to her as someone who has made a business of blasting through glass ceilings.
The event was held at The Park at 14th which is owned by Marc and Ann Barnes. I’ve known Marc and his wife Ann for more than twenty years. Marc is well known in DC for being an incredible host and developing world-class event venues. His venue, The Park, with its incredible food and service, was the perfect backdrop for our inaugural black caucus event. We honored Marc with Reaching America’s Power and Influence Award, for his more than twenty five years of excellence and providing jobs and opportunities in our Nation’s Capital. Marc a husband and father of five is known for getting things done. And he did it big for our event. It was through his influence that we were able to enjoy the company of Diddy in the first place!
Our emcee for the evening was DC native and entertainment industry executive, radio host and business mogul Kenny Burns. Like our other honored attendees that night, he is an African American who has made his mark on the world through grit, determination, and innovation. Mr. Burns also served as the Senior Vice President of Brand Development for Combs Enterprises, the entrepreneurial arm for Sean “Diddy” Combs.
As the president of Reaching America I work every day to help eliminate the barriers in front of African Americans so they can more easily be as successful as Sean “Diddy” Combs, Kay Coles James, Marc and Ann Barnes, and Kenny Burns.
These are topics like criminal justice reform, energy poverty, occupational licensing, and educational opportunity that don’t only affect black communities, but in too many cases they affect us in a disproportionate way.
I am so thankful for the men and women who have gone before me in doing this work, and if there’s one thing they taught me it’s that Americans will only win if we win together. The unity I saw Friday night in DC has me more excited than ever to push forward in this fight and to keep Reaching America
Will you join me?