Written by | Ray Cornelius

It was all about HBCU love Friday evening during the inaugural “HBCU Power Awards” presented by Wells Fargo, Radio One and The Atlanta Hawks. The ceremony was held at Morehouse College’s historic Dr. Martin Luther International Chapel and was hosted by “Black-ish” star and comedic actor Deon Cole and runway diva Jessica White.

The “HBCU Power Awards” were co-founded by Derek “Fonzworth Bentley” Watkins, Jash’d Kambui Belcher and Roderick Hardamon and recognizes the achievements and accomplishments of HBCU alumni and supporters who are making innovative and leading-­edge achievements in business, sports, philanthropy, media, music, technology, TV, film, politics, civil service and fashion.

This year’s honorees included Coltrane Curtis (founder, Team Epiphany), Kyle Hagler (president, Next Management), Nzinga Shaw (Chief Diversity Officer, Atlanta Hawks), Keinon Johnson(VP, Urban Promotions, Interscope Records), Phylicia Fant (SVP, Publicity, Warner Bros Records), Beverly Anderson (EVP, Cards & Retail Services, Wells Fargo) and Rob Rumley (Chair, Atlanta Housing Authority).

TV and film actress, singer-songwriter and philanthropist Jada Pinkett Smith was also honored with the first Icon Award for support of HBCUs and for her portrayal of “Lena” on the groundbreaking 80s sitcom “A Different World.”  The popular NBC series is credited with inspiring generations of African-American students to attend historical black colleges and universities.

Smith, who appeared like an angel in white, encouraged the men of Morehouse during her acceptance speech to not fall prey to the pitfalls of power, entitlement and admiration:

“Respect every contribution made to your life whether you can count it or not because you’re entitled to nothing! Be grateful. Be grateful. Do not let power strip you of your gratitude because you’re not entitled to love, consideration, acknowledgement or even kindness. So when it is given to you, it is a gift…in all its forms.

This feeling of entitlement can also lead one to the power of false admiration that concerns us with how many followers we may have, how many material possessions or strategizing different ways to gain praise and therefore importance because you think that is an expression of love and acceptance and that is a tragic pitfall. Take it from me!

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have admiration, I’m saying it’s not a healthy thing to desire. Desiring admirations, recognition, followers are a false sense of power that is a breeding ground for losing your precious self. You must remember, WE ARE NEVER the thing to be admired only ever allowing how the Most High is working through you to be admired!”

Check out all the red carpet photos below:

Will Packer 

Honoree – Nzinga Shaw

Michael Jai White

Honoree – Phylicia Fant

Jessica White 

Honoree – Keinon Johnson 


Honoree – Coltrane Curtis with his mother Gail Curtis 

Gary Wit Tha Tea

Icon Award Honoree – Jada Pinkett-Smith

DJ Trauma 

Honoree – Rob Rumley and his family

Mike Merrill

Honoree – Beverly Anderson 

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com