A crowd of 170 people filled the Mandela Hall at the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center on Chicago Avenue last Saturday.
They gathered for the 10th anniversary Kwanzaa Gala hosted by the Austin African-American Business Networking Association (AAABNA). The event took place on Day Three of Kwanzaa, designated as “Ujima,” meaning collective work and responsibility.
The AAABNA consists of business owners who came together in 2003 to create African-American business growth through community networking. They provide networking opportunities and other support to emerging black-owned businesses.
Malcolm Crawford (second from right), Ade Onayemi and Aleatra Jackson (left), three of the group’s founding members, received awards for their 10 years of community service at the helm of AAABNA.
During the event, the group also honored three outstanding community leaders for their passionate work in the Austin community.
Walker Harris Jr., founder and president of Harris Ice Co., received the award for Business Owner of the Year.
Officer Tonya Collins, of the Chicago Police Department’s 15th District, was presented with the Delores McCain Community Service Award.
Another Community Service Award was presented to Pastor Steve Epting of Hope Community Church for his many years of dedication to the Austin community.
The program consisted of African drumming, a dance performance by performing arts group Mate Masie, a praise dance by Quentesa Fair, a rousing recitation by spoken work artist Mama Brenda Matthews and a live jazz performance by saxophonist D’Erania.
Author and motivational speaker Garrard McClendon (left) served as master of ceremonies, and the keynote speaker was Grammy-winning musician Che Smith, popularly known as Rhymefest (right). He said that collective work and responsibility begins with the family.
He also spoke about the importance of working together to nurture the youth of the community.