McDonald’s celebrated the 13th Annual 365Black Awards honoring individuals who give back to their community; not just for one day but 365 days a year. The evening began with Grammy Award winning singer Chrisette Michele where she performed her new single “Unbreakable”. The hosts of the night, actress/singer Amber Riley and Lance Gross kicked off the show by reminding the audience why they were in attendance; to celebrate the community heroes whom make it a mission to not only excel but give back to their communities and providing opportunities to their peers and the next generation.
Wendy Raquel Robinson was the first honoree awarded of the night. Actress, producer, director, host, and Founder of the Amazing Grace Conservatory received the Excellence in Art and Entertainment Award. The Amazing Grace Conservatory, a performing arts school, provides a space for young girls and boys “to build their self esteem through self awareness” and an introduction to the arts. Robinson gave an inspiring acceptance speech dedicated to “every little girl, every little boy” reminding them “if you have a dream, you go for it.”
The night continued with recognizing 16-year-old Lauren Seroyer, the first of two Community Choice Youth Award Honorees, for “being a brand that has consistently shown up in all of our communities.” Seroyer developed the Community Assistance & Resource Effort (CARE) Closet, providing students with on-site access to a school-based food pantry for students who are unable to feed themselves at home. Seroyer has continued her efforts by opening CARE Closets in surrounding high schools in the state of Georgia.
Recently retired All-Pro NFL Cornerback Charles Tillman was awarded the Excellence in Sports Awards and was followed by Lonnie Bunch III receiving the Excellence in Education Award. Founder of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Bunch gave a compelling speech taking the audience to a place of reflection. He dedicated his award to the enslaved women for making sure “the fields didn’t strip them of their humor and humanity, the families who left Mississippi for the South Side of Chicago in search of a better day, and the grandmothers who cleaned homes reminded us that the story of America is the story of Black America”.
A McDonalds event wouldn’t have been complete without multiple music performances. The first half of the awards was concluded with sounds from Anthony Hamilton & The Hamiltones performing their gospel hit “Still”.
The second half of the show opened with the introduction of The Braxton Sisters, kicking off a musical tribute to the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Toni Braxton. Ms. Braxton’s tribute included samples of her music performed by her four sisters (“Breathe Again”), Eric Benét (“Another Sad Love Song”), V. Bozeman (“Love Shoulda Brought You Home”), and Kenny Latimore (“You Mean The World To Me”). The tribute ended with Kelly Price belting out complex rifts of “Unbreak My Heart”. Toni Braxton received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her commitment to philanthropy, through her partnership with Autism Speaks and serving as a LA Lupus Board Member. While giving a tear filled speech she reflected on the trials and tribulations and how she has turned her battle with Lupus and mothering an autistic son into triumph.
After an epic Toni Braxton jam session, 13-year-old Donavan Smith received the second Community Youth Choice Award and dedicated his award to the slain African American men victims of police brutality. After overcoming homelessness, Smith decided to pay it forward by giving back to homeless shelter by raising money and donating to the organization that helped him. Currently, Smith is sponsoring St. Martins Shower Room by creating and dispensing soaps. He has donated 5,000 soaps as of today.
The last 365Black Award recipient was Owner/Operator Larry Tripplett. He was award the 2016 365Black McDonald’s Award Tripplett, who worked at McDonald’s to put himself through college and paid it forward by becoming a McDonald’s Owner/Operator, providing opportunities within his community.
As the show winded down McDonalds had performances from up and coming artist Ro James with his hit sing “Permission”, and a Hip Hop Gospel performance by Canton Jones ft. Tonio performing their hit song “I Can’t Help It”. With background dancers doing the hottest dances crazes of 2016, the show ended on an uplifting, grateful note leaving viewers with a feeling of togetherness.