The 365Black® Awards
Honors Youth

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  • Author
    Taurean Smalls

Inspiring the Next Generation of Leaders

It’s not every day you see black young adults recognized for their community service. That’s why I was thrilled to see youth environmentalist Charles Orgbon III and young businesswoman Leanna Archer honored alongside living legends like entertainment icon Gladys Knight and supermodel Beverly Johnson. These four honorees were in good company as well. World-renown educator Dr. Steve Perry, Chicago White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams and Owner Operator Roland Parrish rounded out this year’s 365Black Awards honoree class.

Although Archer received plenty of recognition for her groundbreaking entrepreneurial endeavors, she appeared humbled by McDonald’s recognition.

“The [365Black] award is everything I’ve been aiming for and more,” she said. “This is a symbol of a job well done and encouragement to continue what I do.”

She told me how a family recipe grew into a small home business created unimaginable opportunities. It was a chance trip to Haiti to showcase her products that changed everything for her. She would then begin a mission to provide resources to many kids of that country.

“I saw so many children just like me but born in a different environment,” she said.

Archer and Orgbon’s heroic efforts in community service are inspirational especially considering they’re only 17 years old. But Orgbon made it clear that anyone can make a difference.

“You don’t have to start an organization to do heroic things, you don’t have to have millions of dollars to do heroic things, and you don’t have to be on television to do heroic things,” he said. “Do what you can with what you have in the situation that you’re in and that’s really what a modern day hero is.”

Orgbon never thought his commitment to community development and educating people on corporate responsibility would award him a nod from McDonald’s. He told me he greatly appreciated this honor and looks forward to using this platform to continue to spread his message.

Looking back, this experience seemed surreal. It wasn’t because I was surrounded by celebrities or got to watch amazing live performances. It seemed surreal to experience such a life changing and inspirational event. I felt motivated to get involved and give back. This show wasn’t just a celebration—it was a call to action.

To learn more about these motivating individuals, be sure to visit our 365Black® Awards page where you can check out their bios and watch highlights from the show.

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Gladys Knight (2013)

Singer, Actress, Humanitarian

The great ones endure, and Gladys Knight is one of the greatest. Few singers over the last fifty years have matched her unassailable artistry. An eight-time GRAMMY Award®-winner, her hits have topped the charts in Pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary, and she has triumphed in film, television and live performance. A tireless performer whose inspiring music and live shows earn standing ovations worldwide, she is currently working on a new album with producer Randy Jackson and continues to collaborate with the Saints Unified Voices gospel choir.

In addition to her busy live performance schedule, Knight currently stars in the syndicated sitcom, "The First Family," on BET/CENTRIC as the mother of the President. This fall, she will appear in the second season of CENTRIC's original series, Apollo Live, giving guidance to hopeful contestants. Other recent television and film credits include the Tyler Perry film I Can Do Bad All By Myself, a cameo on the Emmy Award- winning hit comedy 30 Rock and a guest judge appearance on American Idol.

A humanitarian and philanthropist, Knight is devoted to worthy causes, including the American Diabetes Association, for which she is a national spokesperson, the American Cancer Society and the Boys & Girls Club of America. She has been honored by numerous organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and B'Nai B'rith. A mother, grandmother and great-grandmother with a spiritual outlook on life, she affirms that faith in God has been the driving force behind all her endeavors.

Roland Parrish (2013)

McDonald's Owner/Operator Chairman and CEO, National Black McDonald's Operators Association

Currently serving his second term as chairman and CEO of the NBMOA, Roland Parrish owns 26 McDonald's restaurants in North Texas. His company, with more than $60 million in annual sales, has been recognized by Black Enterprise magazine's BE 100 as one of the largest 100 Black-owned businesses in the U.S.

Like many franchisees, Parrish pursued McDonald's franchise ownership after a successful corporate career, rising in management and earning awards at Exxon Corporation. Parrish's career and success are founded upon his passion for education and support of the community. He serves on the Board of Directors for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater North Texas and supports high schools in his community of DeSoto, Texas, along with many civic and cultural organizations.

A member of the President's Council at Purdue University, he received a Bachelor of Science in management and a master's degree in business administration from Purdue's Krannert School of Management. He recently donated $2 million to support the renovation of the former Management and Economics Library, which re-opened in April 2012 as the Roland G. Parrish Library of Management and Economics.

His many honors include several distinguished awards from Purdue: the Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Award, Krannert's Business Leadership Award (the highest honor given by the business school) and the Pinnacle Award (the highest honor given to an alumnus). Parrish and his wife Jewel have a son, TV personality Ro Parrish, and a daughter, Jade.

Dr. Steve Perry (2013)

Revolutionizing Education in America

Dr. Steve Perry's heart pumps passion and produces positive change. Featured in CNN's Black in America series, he is one of the most talked- about, innovative educators on the scene today. Dr. Perry is the founder and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut, cited by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top schools in the country. Capital Prep has sent 100 percent of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006. Dr. Perry is in a hurry to transform the community.

Born into his family's third generation of poverty on his mother's 16th birthday, he believes that the success of a life is determined by where you end up, not where you start—a philosophy that inspired him to transform the lives of poor and minority children by providing them with access to a college education. Dr. Perry is a strong advocate of personal and civic responsibility in all aspects of life, so that the next generation can be better contributing members of society.

He is an education contributor for CNN and MSNBC, an ESSENCE magazine columnist, and host of the number-one docudrama for TV One, Save My Son. A best-selling author, Dr. Perry's secrets to success and calls to action are revealed in his new book, Push Has Come to Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve— Even If It Means Picking a Fight.

Beverly Johnson (2013)

Model, Actress

Legendary Supermodel Beverly Johnson was the first African American woman to grace the cover of Vogue magazine. Johnson's remarkable career, which spans three decades, is a showcase of accomplishment: from model to mom to actress, author, activist, businesswoman, TV personality and—finally—a Global Icon. As a model in the 1970s, 80s, 90s and the 2000s Johnson appeared on more than 500 magazine covers from Vogue, Glamour and Cosmopolitan to Essence, Ebony and French Elle. A model-mogul in the health, beauty and fashion industries, Johnson has recently launched a hair care and beauty product line at Target and a full line of The Beverly Johnson Luxurious Life Style Brand products at the new Frederick's of Hollywood.

Throughout her career, Johnson has been active in charity work and speaking out about health issues. In the 1980s Johnson worked as an AIDS activist and continues to this day to support health issues affecting gay men. During the Clinton era, Johnson was appointed the Ambassador of Goodwill to the fashion industry to help with the elimination of sweatshops. In 2008 she became the national spokesperson for Ask4Tell4, a campaign that seeks to educate women about the options available to treat uterine fibroids, a painful condition that affected Johnson's life for more than 10 years. In the fall of 2008 Johnson appeared on NBC's Today Show to discuss the protocol for the Ask4Tell4 campaign.

Kenny Williams (2013)

Executive Vice President, Chicago White Sox

Kenny Williams begins his 32nd season in baseball in 2013 and his first as the Chicago White Sox Executive Vice President. In his new role, he will increase the scope and range of his involvement with the club, while continuing to maintain oversight and final approval on major baseball decisions. Williams was the first African American General Manager in Chicago sports history and the third in major-league history. In his 12 seasons as General Manager, he produced the best winning percentage by any in club history. The White Sox claimed a World Series Championship in 2005 (the franchise's first in 88 years), two division titles (2005 and 2008), five second-place finishes and four third-place finishes. The club finished .500 or better nine times, going 1,014-931 (.521) over his 12 seasons.

Active in the organization's community outreach programs for African Americans, Williams takes part in the annual "Double Duty Classic," speaking to young amateur baseball players about their role in the history of the sport. He actively supports the team's Amateur City Elite (ACE) youth baseball program, which in 2012 had 12 African American players sign Division I scholarships to play baseball. In addition, he has been active in the team's outreach efforts related to the "Becoming A Man" program, an initiative aimed at teaching young, at-risk men how to resolve conflict in a non-violent manner. Along with fiancée Zoraida Sambolin of CNN, Williams promotes prostate and breast cancer awareness, education and early screening.

Leanna Archer (2013)

Teen CEO of Leanna's Inc.

As the youngest person to ever ring the NASDAQ Stock Market opening bell, Leanna Archer is a teen CEO to watch—a beacon of hope for young teens who aspire to run their own businesses.

At age 9, she became the CEO of her own hair-product line, Leanna's Inc. With her great-grandmother's secret recipe, she bottled, packaged and sold the hair products that have been in her family for generations. Today, at age 17, Archer runs a successful enterprise with more than $500,000 in annual revenue.

A gifted motivational speaker, Archer is dedicated to the enrichment and progressive movement of today's teens. Recent engagements have included Black Enterprise's Teenpreneur Conference and the "What Makes a Young Champion" forum in Singapore.

In 2008, she founded the Leanna Archer Education Foundation, an organization devoted to providing better opportunities for underprivileged children in Haiti. Archer's goal is to build schools in Haiti, while providing a safe learning environment for students. Janet Jackson will accompany her on an upcoming trip to Haiti.

Archer has been profiled in numerous publications including Forbes, Success, EBONY, Jet, Girl's Life, Glamour and Inc. Magazine (honored as one of their "30 under 30"). Leanna has also appeared on major media outlets, including NBC's Today Show, MSNBC, ABC, FOX Business and BET.

Charles Orgbon III (2013)

CEO and Founder of Greening Forward

Charles Orgbon III is a student at Mill Creek High School in Dacula, Georgia and the CEO and Founder of Greening Forward, an organization that establishes, engages and empowers a diverse global environmental movement powered by young people.

At age 12, Orgbon noticed his school's littering problem and started a student club to take charge of school beautification projects. Orgbon and his peers integrated environmental education into the school curriculum, planted school gardens, started a composting program and led recycling initiatives. He now leads a team of 30 to help other young people be a part of the world's environmental solution.

The movement has grown to encompass more than 15 communities, engaging 2,000 young people and 10,000 community members through campaigns that have planted 300 trees, built 200 rain barrels, installed 80 compost bins and recycled 120 tons of waste. Orgbon is a proud board member of Youth Service America and Earth Force and attributes much of what he's learned to interaction and mentorship from the staffs of these organizations. Moreover, Orgbon serves on the Gwinnett (County) Children's Shelter Teen Board and is a founding officer for the Environmental Professionals of Color, Atlanta Chapter. He is also a contributing author to Just BE Cause and a blogger for The Huffington Post.