Monday, April 19, 2004
Andrea M. Larocca
The Harvard Crimson
Emmy Award-winning talk show host Montel Williams was honored Saturday by the Association of Black Harvard Women (ABHW) with its Vanguard Award, making him its 2004 Outstanding Man of the Year.
Williams addressed an audience of over 200 in the ABHW’s fifth annual Tribute to Black Men.
The event, held in the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse in downtown Boston, also honored one black Harvard administrator and six Harvard black male undergraduates for their contributions to the black community on campus.
The Harvard student honorees were Jon E. Gentry ’07, Lawrence E. Adjah ’06, Brandon M. Terry ’05, Charles M. Moore ’04, Shaka J. Bahadu ’04 and Richard G. McGeary ’04.
“It’s always a wonderful experience to be acknowledged for contributing to society, and it’s a validation that there’s an organization out there that is recognizing African-American men, which is done so infrequently,” Williams said of the tribute. Williams was recognized for his service and leadership within the greater black community.
“I can’t tell you how happy and how honored I am to be in your presence,” Williams said to the student honorees, choking back tears as he expressed his pride of the black Harvard men.
Williams also spoke about his own success and about the importance of sharing success within the black community. He offered advice about self-determination and how to remain true to the black community while pursuing success.
“The only reason I stand before you today and am so successful is because I alone own the definition of who I am. Let me say that again so you remember it: I alone own the definition of who I am,” he said.
Gentry said Williams’ presence and words were an inspiration.
“Montel’s personality is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. He’s so confident, and he tries to convey that to us. The gist of his message is, you can do this, too,” Gentry said.
This year’s Tribute to Black Men also saw the inauguration of the Dr. S. Allen Counter Distinguished Faculty and Administration Award, given this year to its namesake. Counter is director of the Harvard Foundation, a University intercultural foundation.
Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 and has a foundation to fund research of the disease. Counter chairs an advisory board of Williams’ foundation and is a good friend of the television personality.
Before the tribute, Williams introduced an ABHW panel that focused on the struggles and successes of the black community.
Boston City Council member Charles Turner and David L. Dance ’74, director of programs for the Phillips Brooks House Association at Harvard, fielded questions from an audience of about 30 people.
Turner was late for the panel and Williams filled in until he arrived, eliciting applause from the audience.
“Where are the Harvard black men in this room?” Williams asked the audience, which included only eight black men. “We need more brothers out here,” he said, calling for black men to be a more vocal presence in their communities.
The ABHW began the Tribute to Black Men five years ago as a response to such sentiments, with the aim of recognizing and encouraging the successes of the black men on campus.
“There’s a two-to-one ratio of black women to black men in colleges, so yes, we need to honor these black men,” said David L. Evans, senior admissions officer at Harvard.
Chimel Idiokitas, a black senior from Boston Latin Academy, received the high school achievement scholarship during the Tribute to Black Men.
All tribute honorees received a glass plaque and a kente cloth, which
is a colorfully striped traditional African garment worn around the neck.
Copyright © 2004, The Harvard Crimson Inc.