36th Annual Taping of UNCF Evening of Stars® to Air on BET April 26, 2015 (Sunday) 10P/9C

The 36th Annual United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Evening of Stars®  was a celebration of accomplishments, an evening of generosity and  great entertainment.

Anthony Anderson (Blackish) and Kem on the Red Carpet at the 2015 UNCF Evening of Stars
(left) Anthony Anderson (Black-ish) and Kem on the Red Carpet at the 2015 UNCF Evening of Stars

I almost lost my voice at the event. The awarding of scholarships was akin to a roll call at the Essence Music Festival.  Instead of cheering for your hometown the audience applauded their alma mater.

This year’s show highlighted 20 students and presented more than one-half million dollars to those attending historically Black colleges and universities.

Moreover,  Grammy Award Winning Recording Artist/Actress/Author Toni Braxton and her son Diezel Ky Braxton-Lewis presented a $10,000  scholarship to Terence Brice an autistic young man to further his education.

Getting caught up in the moment, Big Sean donated $25,000 to UNCF while  Actor/Comedian Anthony Anderson and Recording Artist Ronnie DeVoe of Bell Biv  DeVoe  joined forces to payoff  the  $11,867 balance of a graduate’s student loan.

During the show, Anderson awarded a total of $25,000 in scholarships to two students attending HBCUs. Those students are Shanise Nycole Dantzler of North Carolina A&T University and Edwin Alexander Simpson of Claflin University. Anderson also provided financial support to scholarship runners–‐up Katrinan Rosemond of North Carolina A&T University and Cierra T. Graham of  Bennett College for Women.

Rapper/Actor Ludacris from "Fast and Furious 7"
Rapper/Actor Ludacris from “Fast and Furious 7″

An Evening of Stars also included special taped appearances by Kevin Hart who awarded four students $25,000 each , Chris Paul NBA Player from the Los Angeles Clippers awarded a student a $10,000 scholarship, Pharrell Williams awaded a student a $50,000 scholarship and Usher through the UNCF/Usher Raymond IV New Look Scholarship awarded $100,000 to a student.   The $100,00 will be distributed over a period of 4 years.

As it so happens, celebrities totaled an estimated $300,000 in contributions to UNCF scholarships.

Aside from the spirit of giving was great entertainment. A defining moment of the evening was the performance by Estelle and Jussie Smollett (Empire) of “Conqueror.” Other great performances include Yolanda Adams, Big Sean, Toni Braxton, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Mickey Guyton, Kem, K. Michelle and not to be outdone Morris Day and the Time who choreographed their poses for photographers.  It took me a minute to catch on.

Yolanda Adams
Yolanda Adams

Presenters include Ludacris (“Fast and Furious 7″), Tri Byers (Empire), Jermaine Dupri, Ne-Yo, Grace Gealey (Empire), Dania Ramirez (Devious Maids) and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.  Keshia Knight Pulliam(Tyler Perry’s House of Payne) made a guest appearance and comedian Jonathan Slocumb was on hand to warm up the crowd.

UNCF/ Target’s Rising Stars are Frank Adams, Clark Atlanta University; Donnie Pulliam, Morehouse College; Tatiana Holder, Benedict College; JaJuan Sanders, Oakland University;  and Dennis Richmond, Claflin University.

Daria Jordan from Spelman College, is the recipient of the UNCF/Buick Achievers Scholarship.  The scholarship funded her entire college career.

Other scholarships recipients are Ayannah Woods, Keven Hart Foundation Scholarship; Amber McGill, Bennett College; Alexus Mitchell, Usher’s New Look Foundation Scholarship; Isis Tarrats, Walton Family Foundation Scholarship; Tracy Prather; Terence Brice; Shanira Garvin, Kevin Hart Foundation Scholarship; Sarah John, Howard University; Nathan Gordon, Miles College, Sean Anderson Foundation Scholarship; Krystal Watson, Wiley College, and Evan Smith, Kevin Hart Foundation Scholarship.

(left) Trai Byers and Grace Gealey from "Empire"
(left) Trai Byers and Grace Gealey from “Empire”

Student performers include the Atlanta University Center Orchestra, Dillard University, Miles College and Talladega College.

Target is UNCF An Evening of Stars® scholarship and official sponsor.  Other national sponsors include McDonald’s, Wells Fargo, and Buick.  The City of Atlanta, iHeartMedia and BET Networks serve as the city and media partners, respectively. The Walton Family Foundation is a philanthropic partner.

The program was taped at the Atlanta Civic Center, Atlanta GA on April 12th. UNCF An Evening of Stars®, hosted by Anthony Anderson (Black-ish), will air nationally Sunday April 26, 2015 10pm Eastern/9pm Central on the BET Network.  #great show  #please give #uncf

Toni Braxton on the Red Carpet with her sons Denim (left) and Diezel (right)
Toni Braxton on the Red Carpet with her sons Denim (left) and Diezel (right)
Toni Braxton and son Diezel Ky Braxton-Lewis
Toni Braxton and son Diezel Ky Braxton-Lewis


(left) Target's Laysha Ward dressed in Lilly Pulitzer available at Target for a limited Time.  On the right, UNCF President and CEO Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D.
(left) Target’s Laysha Ward dressed in Lilly Pulitzer available at Target for a limited Time. On the right, UNCF President and CEO Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D. Target is the scholarship and official sponsor of UNCF An Evening of Stars.


Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed


Dr. Carlton E. Brown and Mrs. T. LaVerne Ricks-Brown President and First Lady of Clark Atlanta University
Dr. Carlton E. Brown and Mrs. T. LaVerne Ricks-Brown President and First Lady of Clark Atlanta University


Clark Atlanta University Men-of-the-Year
Clark Atlanta University’s Men-of-the-Year


(left) Grant and Tamia Hill with UNCF  Dr. Lomax
(left) Grant and Tamia Hill with UNCF Dr. Lomax


Dr. Beverly D. Tatum, Spelman College President.  Dr. John S. Wilson ,Jr., President of Morehouse College was in attendance as well.
Dr. Beverly D. Tatum, Spelman College President. Dr. John S. Wilson ,Jr., President of Morehouse College was in attendance as well.
(Left) Rapper Artist Big Sean
(Left) Rapper Artist Big Sean
Estelle and Jussie Smollett (Empire)
Demetria McKinney (Real Housewives of Atlanta)
Dania Ramirez (Devious Maids)
(left) Comedian Jonathan Slocumb UNCF An Evening of Stars 2015


UNCF Announces its Star Studded Lineup for the 36th Annual Evening of Stars

United Negro  College Fund (UNCF) announces its star studded lineup for its 36th annual UNCF An Evening of Stars.  Scheduled to perform are Big Sean, Toni Braxton and Babyface, Mickey Guyton, K. Michelle, Yolanda Adams, Estelle featuring Jussie Smallett and Morris Day and the Time.

The program will also include special taped appearances by Kevin Hart, Chris Paul, Pharrellll Williams and Usher.

Presenters include Ludacris (“Fast and Furious 7″), Tri Byers, Jermaine Dupri, Grace Gealey, Dania Ramirez and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Anthony Anderson (“Blackish”) will host.

UNCF is an organization that supports the education of African Americans by providing young adults who strive to get ahead with scholarships, internships and mentorships.

An Evening of Stars is a fundraising endeavor that supports the work of UNCF.  It is also a celebration of achievement where celebrities show their support and dreams come true. Over its 36-year history, UNCF An Evening of Stars has raised more than $200 million that has helped hundreds of thousands of students attend college and graduate.  At this year’s event, five students will each be awarded a $25,000 scholarship.

Target is UNCF An Evening of Stars scholarship and official sponsor.  Other national sponsors include McDonald’s, Wells Fargo, and Buick.  The City of Atlanta, iHeartMedia and BET Networks serve as the city and media partners, respectively. The Walton Family Foundation is a philanthropic partner.

UNCF An Evening of Stars will air nationally Sunday, April 26, 2015 10P/9C on the BET Network. The program will be taped in Atlanta on April 12, 2015.  For ticket information, visit www.uncf.org.


UNCF An Evening of Stars® Will Air Nationally Sunday, April 26, 2015 10p/9c on the BET Network

Five students from UNCF Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will each be surprised with a $25,000 scholarship from Target as a part of the UNCF/Target Rising Stars Scholarship Program during the show’s annual taping on April 12, 2015. 

Target serves as the Rising Stars scholarship sponsor, investing $250,000 in this initiative since last year to support students going to college.  Target is also an official sponsor of UNCF An Evening of Stars®.

“Target is a long-time partner of UNCF because of our belief that all kids deserve a quality education regardless of race, socioeconomic status or circumstance,” said Laysha L. Ward, executive vice president and chief corporate social responsibility officer, Target. “As we work to strengthen diversity in the global workforce, we want to prepare rising stars who are already leaders in their schools to become leaders in their communities. We are inspired by the work these talented students are doing and want to support them on their path to success.

The UNCF/Target Rising Stars scholarship is a $25,000 award for current sophomores at UNCF HBCUs and is awarded across the scholar’s junior and senior years. The applicants must excel as leaders in the classroom and make a difference in their campus and local communities. “We could not do the important work we do without the help of long-standing partners like Target,” said UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax. “I applaud the new class of UNCF/Target Rising Stars for the work they are doing to positively impact their schools and communities. They inspire us all to invest in better futures for young people across the country.”  In addition to Target as an Official Sponsor of UNCF An Evening of Stars®, this year’s show is also made possible by national sponsors McDonald’s and Wells Fargo. Buick is a major sponsor. The City of Atlanta, iHeartMedia and BET Networks serve as the city and media partners, respectively. The Walton Family Foundation is a philanthropic partner.  UNCF An Evening of Stars will also air in syndication of April 25 and 26 (check local listings for dates and times).  For additional information, go to uncf.org.

 Toni Thompson

Photo dated 2014 courtesy of Ben Rose Photography

T.I. To Open Upscale Southern Cuisine Restaurant In Atlanta

Chitterlings and champagne was a menu item for a soul food restaurant, in New York City, which was frequented by locals and celebrities alike.  Although I have no idea what foods will be served, I do know that T.I. is introducing his take on this concept to Atlanta.  T.I. announced today that he has acquired a building in historic downtown Atlanta to be converted to an upscale southern cuisine restaurant.  I can hardly wait.


The Barjon Group

The Trumpet Awards Give Jamie Foxx A Nod

Xernona Clayton, creator and executive producer of the Trumpet Awards, announced the names of the 2015 honorees with Academy Award Winning Actor Jamie Foxx topping the list.  Other distinguished awardees include:  Lou Brock, Baseball Legend; Arnold W. Donald, President and CEO of Carnival Corporation & PLC; Tommy Hilfiger, Icon and Principal Designer to the Tommy Hilfiger brand; Guy Vicker, President, PVH Foundation and Senior Vice President, Global Community Relations; The Isley Brothers, Recording Artists and Songwriters; Janelle Monae, Singer, Songwriter, Producer, and Spokes Model for CoverGirl cosmetics;  Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, President and Dean, Morehouse School of Medicine; and Franklyn R. Wilson, Chairman, Sunshine Holdings Ltd, Bahamas. The Trumpet Awards, a much-anticipated event, acknowledge those who exemplify or support the  excellence of African Americans in disciplines across the board from entertainment to education. The 2015 Trumpet Awards ceremony, replete with a star studded red carpet,  will be held in Atlanta on January 24, 2015 and aired on TV One February 21, 2015. Laila Ali, four-time Boxing World Champion and award winning TV host and Dolvett Quince from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” will host.

“Scandal” Collection to Debut at The Limited in September 2014

olivia-pope-2Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress Kerry Washington and Emmy award winning costume designer Lyn Paolo in partnership with Elliot Staples, head of design from The Limited,  will launch  a fashion line inspired by Scandal’s Olivia Pope. The collection, to debut in September,  consists of tailored wide leg trousers, separate jackets with strong lines and signature trims, chic feminine blouses and outerwear with prices beginning at $49. TheLimitedScandalCollection This is the first-ever design collaboration between a national retailer, a top-rated network TV show, its costume designer and leading lady. The “Scandal” collection will be available this fall at The Limited stores and online exclusively. Photos Courtesy of LaForce + Stevens and The Limited Press Inquiries: LaForce + Stevens and The Limited thelimited@lsagency.com

Xernona Clayton is Keynote Speaker at the Motherless Daughters 2nd Annual Banquet

I have just returned from the Motherless Daughters 2nd Annual Banquet on my own, because my GPS is “messed up!” I’ll admit, the maps are outdated but I don’t understand why the  GPS steers me from highways even though that option is disabled.  I checked it twice.  This time around, when the navigation system  directed me to  God knows where, this directionally challenged person disconnected it and headed to I-85. The Motherless Daughters Foundation banquet was a fundraising event to benefit  an organization that supports girls.  Motherless Daughters offers counseling and wellness services and exposes young women to arts and sports.  They even assisted the young ladies with the creation of action boards! Let me put this in perspective. Being photographed while wearing our mother’s dresses or high heels is a commonality among women.  Much like playing with makeup or asking for your first bra. These are occurrences that many of us take for granted.  But what if, for whatever reason, our mothers were unable to provide us this guidance. Motherless Daughters Foundation reaches out to pre-teen and teenage girls, in need, to help fill this void. Xernona-Clayton-Civil-Right Xernona Clayton, civil rights activist, CEO of the Trumpet Awards and keynote speaker at the event advised attendees to have a positive outlook on life.  “Everyone has a talent, you just need to find out what it is .”  Focus on what you can do and not what you don’t have or cannot do.  She then invited the young ladies in the Motherless Daughters Foundation program to the 2015 Trumpet Awards in January.  Xernona Clayton also commended Rassalyn Willis for being the  founder of Motherless Daughters and encouraged others to follow suit by determining what our society needs then doing something about it. 5 2 In addition to the ceremony and keynote address, there were performances by Gospel Artist Melinda Watts, Regina Turner, On Point Dance Factory and Ballethnic.  Fulton County Deputy District Attorney Rewa Collier introduced Xernona Clayton.   The 2nd Annual Motherless Daughters Foundation Banquet was held on Sunday, August 3, 2014 at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. Motherless-Daughters-Founda Sponsors include T.I. and Tiny Family Hustle, platinum sponsor; KCC Kemi Construction, silver sponsor; Porsche, Inc., silver sponsor; RTYGM, silver sponsor; Violeta Morgan, bronze sponsor; Marriott, bronze sponsor; Meet College Park Georgia, bronze sponsor; C-Hearts, LLC; MTI Limousine and Shuttle; and Ballethnic Dance Company. Rassalyn-Willis-(right)-pos Congratulations are extended to the young women in the Motherless Daughters Foundation program on overcoming obstacles that are far more challenging than working with a malfunctioning GPS.  They are Atlanta’s rising stars.  For additional information on the Motherless Daughters Foundation go to www.motherlessdaughtersfoundation. org.Ballethnic-Performer3

AmericasMart Atlanta has VISION

Tarik Ediz at AmericasMart Atlanta

It’s April market at AmericasMart Atlanta.  What can I say?  There’s a lot going on.  I was invited to attend the VISION fashion show for social occasion at Atlanta Apparel. AmericasMart is one of my favorite places to visit so I was excited to see the show. After a brief tour of the facilities, a few introductions and a couple of hors’dourves I managed to position  myself in time to see a parade of models descend the runway.  Their looks  varied from sassy and sexy to red carpet glamour.  One of my favorite designs was a bronze lace silhouette created by Sherri Hill.  When I showed a photograph of her design to a friend, he remarked “That’s soo Atlanta.”  I found his comment to be  intriguing because I am soo New York.  Perhaps his preference was European.  If that was the case, European inspired creations were featured as well. A dominate trend in the show were designs where the emphasis was placed at the back.  Models walked the runway dressed in gowns with low backs, no backs and lace backs, which made their exits as dramatic as their entrances.  Although basic black was a theme, there was plenty of room for color.  Most popular were creations in gray, green, yellow, navy and purple. It was a fabulous show of 40 looks. Atlanta’s presence in the highly competitive business of wholesale and retail cannot easily be ignored. Atlanta Apparel hosts the #1 prom market in the nation and is poised to take on social occasion with bridal not far behind. I asked an AmericasMart rep if social occasion is Atlanta’s niche in the fashion industry.  She replied ” Not yet, but we are getting there.” The VISION fashion show was held at Atlanta Apparel on April 2, 2014 during the social occasion market.  VISION’s top lines include Allure, Casablanca, Faviana, Jovani, Mignon, Mon Cherie, Nicole Bakti, Nicole Miller, Sherri Hill, Terani and many more. What’s more, designs by Badgley       Mischka were featured in a runway show held on April 4. Sherri Hill dresses Selena Gomez, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Tamar Braxton, Gabby Douglas, Paris Hilton and Carmen Electra to name a few. Although based in Austin, Ms. Hill maintains a design studio and showroom in Atlanta.

NBAF and NM Host Cocktail Party for Fine Art + Fashion

NBAF-1The National Black Arts Festival and Neiman Marcus hosted a cocktail party for the 8th Annual Fine Art + Fashion Benefit Runway Show that guests won’t soon forget. Equipped with a layout and direction, from the hosts, a building crew transformed Neiman Marcus’ Level One into an exquisite, artistic setting with a touch of whimsy so guests would not take the affair too seriously. Mannequins were replaced by jazz trios and fine jewelry counters were converted into an elegant glass bar with champagne filled flutes that sparkled like diamonds. With creativity abound, workers swapped retail signage for works of art. And believe it or not, the NBAF’s backdrop was covered with foliage. NBAF-5 Attendees chatted, laughed, networked and posed for photographs as they sipped on beverages and nibbled on gourmet appetizers and hors d’oeuvres. Patricia Janiot, award-winning journalist and senior anchor, CNN en Español and CNN Latino was on hand to greet guests prior to performing the role of host to the Awards Program and Art of Fashion Show. It was good to see people enjoying each others company and having a great time. NBAF-3 At 7:00 p.m. the cocktail party began to wind down as guests made their way to their seats on the upper level where the program would be held. Soon after, I decided to head to my car. As I was walking I noticed a color photograph of a black Barbie doll displayed in a pedestal sign frame. For some reason, the photo looked a little unsettling but I attributed my perception of it to my brisk pace and a lack of sleep. As I exited the store I waved good-bye to the gentlemen at the media check in. He said that he was glad that I was able to attend. So was I. The Fine Art + Fashion cocktail party was held on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm in Neiman Marcus Level One at Lenox Square in Atlanta. Fine Art + Fashion is a runway presentation to benefit the work of the National Black Arts Festival. It is also a platform to honor African Americas who have excelled in the arts. The art work that I saw displayed in the pedestal sign frame at NM was from a collection called Plastic Bodies by Sheila Pree Bright a Fine Art + Fashion 2014 Honoree. The artist superimposes photographs of black female faces on images of Barbie dolls to express America’s preoccupation with beauty. Other honorees include jewelry designer extraordinaire, Victor Velyan (Fashion Icon Honoree) and acclaimed art photographer and one of the nation’s leading historians of African American photography, Deborah Willis (Visual Artist Honoree).   Additionally, student designers Danielle Gordon of Clark Atlanta University, Kendra Pickney and Jessica Fulks both of Savannah College of Art + Design, were recognized at the Awards Program as the 2014 NBAF Emerging Talent Awards honorees. Established in 2010, this award recognizes individuals of African descent who have distinguished themselves as cutting edge and innovative fashion design students. Neiman Marcus is title sponsor of Fine Art + Fashion. Beverages were donated by The Coca-Cola Company, Vixen Vodka and Casa Defra.