The Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC was illuminated by the slight glare coming from the multiple screens lining the room, soft candle light from the reception tables and huge bright smiles of the 100 most-influential Black Americans who gathered this past weekend to be inducted into the Root 100 list.
Each year The Washington Post’s subsidiary, The Root, profiles 100 accomplished individuals, under the age of 45, who are making a difference in a broad range of fields. This year a celebration was added to allow these influencers to meet, network, and come away inspired to affect even greater change.
“We hope readers will keep their eyes on The Root 100 honorees, support their efforts and draw inspiration from what they’re doing,” said Deputy Editor Sheryl Huggins Salomon. “If they have children, we hope they’ll share the list with them so they’ll know that African Americans are making a difference, both in the public spotlight and behind the scenes.”
Fashion model Beverly Bond, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous and Congressman Andre Carson (D-IN) were among the honorees at this year’s black-tie event.
"I am humbled, honored and grateful to be on the list with these incredible people; it’s a fabulous recognition," exclaimed Beverly. "When you are working towards something you go where your work ethic and motivation takes you to but you don’t know that you will be recognized. The common denominator for any success is a solid work ethic, discipline, and integrity."
Benjamin believes that focused anger is what got him to where he is in his life and career and encourages all Americans to let their anger flow.
"I’m a fifth generation member of the NAACP. The first member from my family was Ed Bland. He was born a slave and died a state Senator and co-founded Virginia State and his charge was essentially to refuse to get too comfortable,” said Benjamin. “He understood that transitions that occurred in his life happened because of centuries of anger, focused on answers, progress and transforming society. Our mission should always be anger appropriately applied."
Congressman Carson is the product of a fatherless household and teen homelessness, which he says plays a strong factor into why his “anger” is focused on education and the lack of attention that is given to molding this country’s next leaders.
"It’s really about making America a place where people are educated,” said Congressman Carson. “We are graduating numerous functioning illiterate individuals and pushing them forward in our system where alternative learning styles can be implemented. We need these new tools so we can produce the next Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jacobs and so on. I would like to be a part of doing that."
While the Congressman is fighting for a smarter America he’s also in the trenches with President Obama battling on the 2012 re-elect campaign.
"I love my President. He’s my friend and my big brother. He knows that it is going to be much tougher given the deep level of hostility and the unemployment numbers, but he has done such a tremendous job and hasn’t been given the credit he is due,” said Congressman Carson. “I am a general in his army and I’m going to make sure I get people to the polls because I want to see him back in office. He is what is best for this country."
Click on the thumbnails below for larger images of the attendees.
—Marcus A. Williams