Emmai Alaquiva

With constant reports of violence, unemployment and more in the African-American community, especially when it comes to the men, it’s easy for one to dwell on the negativity, but many gathered last week to show that there is much positivity amidst the negativity, and to support those men contributing to the betterment of the community.

Hundreds joined the New Pittsburgh Courier on July 24 at the Pittsburgh Fairmont Hotel, as they celebrated the 50 Men of Excellence 2014, which honors 50 African-American men making strides in their prospective professions and communities.

“You have to celebrate the good. We so often dwell in the negative news and that just keeps us down,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who made a brief appearance at the event, but had to leave to attend another engagement. “Events like this remind us of all the positive things that are happening in this town and most importantly, of the people that are making (positive things) happen.”


SUPPORTING OUR MEN—Hundreds gathered to honor Black men making efforts to better their professions and their communities at the New Pittsburgh Courier’s 2014 50 Men of Excellence on July 24 at the Fairmont Hotel. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

The well attended evening, which was hosted by celebrity emcee Lynne Hayes-Freeland, general assignment reporter at KDKA-TV, and host and producer of the “Lynne Hayes-Freeland Show,” honored men from various fields and all walks of life, including entrepreneurs, lawyers, chefs, former athletes and activists.

When asked about the importance of attending the 50 MOE and events like it, Valerie McDonald Roberts, Pittsburgh chief urban affairs officer and a past 50 Women of Excellence honoree, said, “it’s two-fold. We have to support the New Pittsburgh Courier; we must always make sure those institutions that have been the main communication sources for African-Americans, and minority communities, throughout the nation stand tall.

And second, we have to support the men in our community. This is very important as we see so many negative stories going on with our younger African-American men that it is a time to celebrate our community and the men within our community to make sure that we don’t lose hope. That this is our hope—the past and the future.”

The evening included great food, music provided by DJ Stephan and a word given by retired Judge Livingstone Johnson, on behalf of himself and his brother, retired Judge Justin Johnson, both the 2014 50 MOE legacy honorees. Johnson spoke of how those who came before him were responsible for making a path for him and others today.

While it was nice to see those who have made such great strides over the years recognized, many were just as excited about the number of younger individuals making achievements within such a short span of their lives.

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity to get to know the up and coming stars in Pittsburgh, the young men, and I’m impressed,” said Margaret Smith Washington, a past 50 Women of Excellence recipient. “It’s nice to see the Johnson brothers; I’ve known them all my life. But I’m excited to see so many young men making a move in this world.”

Like Washington, Marshall Ridley and Edith Smith-Ridley were happy to see the number of young men being positively recognized, including their son Pastor Michael Smith. “I think the event went well and I was very pleased to come this evening. I think we need to celebrate more often what our men are doing in this community. They’re doing a lot and they don’t get the recognition that they deserve,” said Smith-Ridley.

Along with those from Pittsburgh and surrounding communities, there were also individuals who traveled for hours  to take part in this special occasion. Erita Moyo, whose father Josifani Munyika Moyo was among those honored, traveled from Chicago and said, “I thought it was such an inspiration to see all the African-American men being honored for their years of service and mostly for the glass ceiling that they have broke in their respective careers. It was a fantastic event.”

As nice as it is to honor those individuals doing well, it’s even more enjoyable when others can take away something from their achievements. Smith-Ridley said, “I hope our young people will take the opportunity to read about it, look at it and see that there are positive things within our lives going on everyday; if there weren’t, you wouldn’t have those 50 gentlemen. If they can take something from this to help them going forward, (I hope they) use it as a stepping stone so that when they reach this age, (they can be) on this stage receiving this.”

(Look for the recap of the 2014 Men of Excellence in the Aug. 6-12, 2014 edition of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)

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