Essence presents “An Evening of Excellence”

Essence magazine celebrates its 40th anniversary year with an Evening of Excellence.
The glossy geared toward women of color hosted its 2nd Annual Evening of Excellence awards gala during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 2010 annual conference. The event honors African-American powerhouses in business, philanthropy and the arts.
The star-studded gala was headlined by Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt-Murray and Grammy-nominated R&B group, En Vogue (photographed above with Essence‘s top editor in the center).
(Me and Holly Robinson-Peete)
The eveing’s honorees included actress and Celebrity Apprentice alum Holly Robinson-Peete along with her husband, retired NFL quarterback Rodney Peete. They were recognized for their work in raising awareness about autism through the HollyRod Foundation.
I spoke with Holly about her work in autism at the after party, where it became clear to me that her passion to help families affected by the illness runs deep. She spoke to me, not as a famous celebrity, but as a mother with an autistic child who genuinely wants to help other parents and children cope.
Holly told me that she and husband Rodney have plans to open up a camp for autistic children and teens in Los Angeles in the near future. Details to be posted on
(NFL’s Warrick Dunn strikes a pose with gala attendee Tracy Scott)

NFL Running Back, Warrick Dunn was also honored for giving away more than $500,000 to help single parents across the nation put down payments on their first homes through the Warrick Dunn Family Foundation.
Dunn, who had to raise his siblings at the age of 18 when his police officer mom was shot and killed on the the job, said he was humbled by the award.
BET co-founder Sheila Johnson and television’s Judge Glenda Hatchett were also honored for breaking barriers in entrepreneurship and the field of law, respectively.
And while the honorees shed light on some pretty heavy topics, the Evening of Excellence was more celebratory, than serious…
Lady comediennes: Kym Whitley and Niecy Nash brightened up the red carpet.
6th Housewife of D.C.? I share a laugh with Bravo TV’s Paul Wharton.

Mobile Phone Cam: I get the lowdown on En Vogue’s sexy stilettos.


En Vogue’s Terry Ellis walks the Red Carpet after presenting friend Holly Robinson-Peete with an award.

For 40 years Essence has been to women of color what so many other magazines have not. The magazine, in a sense, has served in the role of the big sister who taught us brown-skinned girls how to do our hair and make-up… the stylish friend who told us how the fall fashions would fit our bodies… that comforting auntie who handed down tried & true recipes… the favorite teacher who showed us how to get our finances in order… the workout partner who inspired us to get in shape… the sister-mother-cousin-auntie-friend who helped us get through life when so many others didn’t even have our lives on their radar.

With a circulation of more than 1 million households the world over, Essence has also been the launching pad for many African-American female scribes, including Terry McMillan and the late Bebe Moore Campbell. It is also a place of opportunity for all women, as the magazine has recently hired its first non-black fashion editor, Ellianna Placas, which has sparked some controversy.
I, myself, have written several articles for the mag. When so many other magazines told me, “No,” Essence said, “Yes.” And, as a result, most of my articles have ended up being cover stories.
It is because of this, and what the magazine has done for so many others, that I am so passionate about it. With out an Essence, would Cosmo have put my story on their cover? Would Marie Claire dare to show me how to do my hair?
And would their be a woman who looked like me reporting from the White House press room if there wasn’t Essence magazine’s Washington Correspondent Cynthia Gordy? I hope the answer would be a resounding, “Yes!”
But thanks to Essence, I’ll never have to wonder.
Markette, on Twitter @dconheels
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