With an outpouring of gratitude to supporters and sponsors, Urban League of Metropolitan Denver President and CEO Landri Taylor welcomed guests to the 2013 Whitney M. Young, Jr. Annual Dinner held Saturday, June 22 at the Marriott Hotel City Center.
Radio and TV personality Gloria Neal served as mistress of ceremonies and kept the guests’ attention with her trademark saucy attitude and banter. More than 400 guests gathered to celebrate the Urban League’s history, leadership and recognition of four honorees with the McKinley Harris Distinguished Warrior Award with the theme “Redeem the Dream.”
Taylor emphasized that the mission of empowerment and educational access remains high on the priority list. Event Chairs Bob Willis and Rita Kahn oversaw presentation duties with support from community leaders and the spouses. Honorary Co-Chairs Eula and Janet Adams headed the event planning committee and, in a program notes, urged members to remember the organization’s roots of access to business and government opportunities. “We firmly believe that the League’s work to ensure diversity is not only good for Colorado, but good for society at large.”
The awards recognize organizations or individuals who exhibit strong commitment to youth, education, community or The Urban League in general. This year’s awards went to: Christine Benero, president/CEO of Mile High United Way; Moses Brewer, director of multicultural markets, Miller Coors; Valencia “Faye” Tate, vice president & director of Global Inclusion and Diversity for CH2MHill; and Jerome Davis, regional vice president of Xcel Energy. Later in the evening, the Al Matthews Civic Engagement Award was presented to Morris Price, Jr., district director for Congresswoman Diane DeGette, and attorney and League Board President Wayne Vaden. Musical entertainment was provided by the Motown Revue featuring top soul and R&B hits performed by vocalists Julius Williams and Sheryl Renee.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock recognized past League leaders and volunteers throughout the room and praised the group’s advocacy for underserved Denver youth. Several past Urban League directors, board members, and volunteers were also present. Gaylene Harris, widow of Denver civic leader and businessman McKinley Harris, and retired cable executive Gayle Greer‑- past director of the Fort Wayne, Indiana Urban League and past deputy director of the Houston Urban League– helped present this year’s awards. Also present were former Denver Urban League directors Annelle Lewis and Sharon Alexander-Holt. At 29 Hancock made history when in 1999 he became the youngest president and chief executive officer in the Urban League’s 38-state network of 114 affiliates.
The event is named after Kentucky-born Whitney M. Young, Jr., often cited as one of the “Big Six” in the African-American civil rights movement and a champion for employment opportunities, access to higher education, a proponent of working within the system, and forging alliances with businesses. In 1961, at age 40, Young became executive director and quickly revived the organization as a more pro-active and collaborative organization working with U.S. Presidents from both political parties. In 1971, Young died of a heart attack at 49. Today, his daughter, Lauren Young Casteel, serves as vice president for philanthropic partnerships at the Denver Foundation and helped produce “The Powerbroker,” a PBS documentary released this year about her father’s civil rights legacy.
It’s been 42 years since Whitney Young passed away but the mission remains the same, said Event Chair Bob Willis, who quoted Young’s as once saying: “I’d rather be prepared for an opportunity that never comes than have an opportunity come and not be prepared.”
Now 67 years old, the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver keeps rejuvenated through diverse community support and sponsorships. For more information visit www.denverurbanleague.org or call 303-377-2790.