Bill Bellamy, Ledisi, A.J. Calloway, author Demetria Lucas, and New York Giant Justin Tuck were just a few of the notables who attended UNCF’s annual “A Mind is…” Gala at New York’s Marriott Marquis Hotel Thursday.
The fundraiser benefits students at UNCF member institutions, like Morehouse College and Tuskegee University, by providing scholarships and emergency aid to students who are struggling financially. And education was on the menu as guests shared stories of what a thirst for learning meant to them.
Bill Bellamy, the night’s Master of Ceremonies, recalled how he became one of the first people in his family to attend college. Way before he was regaling audiences on “Def Comedy Jam” and in films like Love Jones, the New Jersey native studied economics at Rutgers University “’cause I wanted that money,” he joked in his opening remarks.
Although his route quickly veered from corporate to comedy after graduation, Bill stressed the importance of lifting — “We’re here to help someone else get an education”—as we climb. “Teachers should be making $95 million a year!” he joked.
Grammy winner Ledisi told her own story of perseverance through song: a performance of the Louis Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World” and her own hit, “Alright,” inspired by a don’t-give-up speech her mother gave her during the early days of her music career.
One of the most touching moments came courtesy of Justin Tuck who, upon accepting the President’s Award, told the audience to “be a paver” for the next generation. The two-time Super Bowl champ and his wife Lauran founded Tuck’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy in 2008 to provide children with books and educational funds. And the couple practices what they preach—Lauran couldn’t attend the ceremony, as she was off studying for her graduate degree at University of Pennsylvania.