This year the annual Five Starr Corporation/Champion Enterprises Black History Month event spotlighted Pittsburgh’s very own African-American authors.
“Each year, Champion Enterprises does something in connection with Black History Month and we are proud to do this,” said Bill Neal, CEO of Five Star Corporation and Champion Enterprises. “For a long time I thought there was only one African-American author in Pittsburgh. There are (more than) eight distinguished African-American authors who are here tonight and there are five who couldn’t be here, and you may know of others.”
The 37th annual Champions Forever 2012 “Tip off Reception” at Cambria Suites on Feb. 17, served as a showcase for local authors to share their work and generate interest in upcoming projects.
While the majority of writers had a sports-related focus, many also focused on spiritually.
“That’s something we should be proud of. That’s something our children should be exposed to,” said B.B. Flenory, Chairman of the Five Star advisory Board, about the high number of authors at the reception.
Among those awarded was Nashana Hickman, J.R. Holden, Rayco “War Saunders, Ayeshah Bulls, Boice Allen, Robert “Rock Robinson, John Wilborn, and Norman B. Colbert.
“The impact you all make is very important, very relevant, to what’s going on today,” said Dennis Briggs, vice chairman of the Five Starr advisory board. “Reading is fundamental today and when we talk about our Black youth today, these are the examples we need to applaud.”
Not on the list of featured African-American authors was special guest Jim O’Brien, the only Pittsburgher to be named to the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame. O’Brien has interviewed a long list of sports greats including Jackie Robinson and O.J. Simpson, who O’Brien recalled, was one of the most approachable athletes he had ever met.
“I’m here tonight, not only because I’m excited about the writers, but it’s the kind of activity I like to support,” O’Brien said. “More than half of the heroes in my book are African-American. First of all, I found them more interesting; they had a more interesting childhood and challenges. You’ve got to ask questions because everyone has a story. I think the writers here, one of the things they really need is, writers need readers.”
O’Brien is also well known for his friendship with basketball legend Connie Hawkins, a Pittsburgh native who played for the American Basketball League, American Basketball Association, National Basketball Association, and the Harlem Globetrotters. O’Brien was instrumental in his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
Special musical guest Artistree also performed. The event was co-sponsored by Citiparks, Chuck Sanders Charities, The Savoy Restaurant, Penn Avenue McDonalds, The New Pittsburgh Courier, Cambria Suites, Rayco “War” Promotions, “Neal” General Contracting Co., Legal Shield, and Bob Burt Photography. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Kenny Durrett Memorial All Star Classic and Safe Summer Youth Program.