Earl “Skip” Cooper II, who stepped down as president/CEO of the Black Business Association (BBA) after more than 46 years, was honored at a “50 Years of Service Celebration Dinner and Roast” on August 20, at the California Science Center.
The evening also commemorated August 20, which was designated by the city and county of Los Angeles, as Earl “Skip” Cooper II Day and Black Business Day. The date marked the 35th anniversary of the Black Business Day being proclaimed by Mayor Tom Bradley at the request of Cooper in 1987.
Fifty years ago to the day, the Black Business Association honored Cooper for his life’s work. This year, several people joining the celebration including Sarah Harris, current BBA president/CEO; Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., chairman of The Bakewell Company and executive publisher of the L.A. Sentinel; Carl Dickerson, founder of Dickerson Insurance Services; Gene Hale, CEO of G&C Equipment Corporation; Ezekiel Patten Jr., CEO of Patten Energy Enterprises and BBA parliamentarian; and Rosalind Pennington, president/CEO of Red River Enterprises and BBA treasurer.
André Ray, former lead singer for the R&B band, L.T.D., served as emcee. The event boasted a 1970s theme, which inspired many well-wishers to dress in Afro wigs, bell bottom pants, dashikis, miniskirts, and all the glitter.
Other special guests were Councilmember Curren Price, State Senator Steven Bradford, former Councilmember Jan Perry, Public Works Commissioner Mike Davis, and Judge Mablean Ephriam, a longtime supporter of the BBA.
Southern California Edison, the Greater Los Angeles African Chamber of Commerce (GLAAACC) and the California African American Chamber of Commerce (CAAACC) served as platinum sponsors. Other sponsors were SoCalGas, Healthy Hearts Nation, Councilmember Price and The New Ninth District, Red River Enterprises, and Patten Energy.
The evening’s sentiment was best described up by Gene Hale, who said, “I’m not roasting you, Skip. I’m celebrating his life commitment for selflessly serving the Los Angeles community with love and compassion.”
The dinner was catered by Chef Marilyn serving an abundance of soul food. Attendees put their diets on hold as they dined on greens, mac ‘n cheese, oxtails, chicken, beef roast, fish, green beans, red beans & rice, sweet potatoes, dressing, and salad with all the fixings.
The dessert bar contained red velvet, coconut, and chocolate cake; sweet potato, coconut cream, lemon and apple pies; peach cobbler, banana pudding, brownies, cookies, puddings. Desserts were also provided by Crystal’s SoCal Catering and Gwen’s Specialty Cakes.
“For more than 20 years, Skip has been a treasured mentor and friend. As a business owner and consultant, It’s been an honor to have worked with him on pivotal projects concerning the BBA and, as his successor, I look forward to continuing with the same passion and drive to advance the status of Black businesses everywhere,” said Harris.
“We are glad that Skip will continue to provide his wisdom for best leadership and advocacy practices and served as our resident historian as Chairman of the Board. Our salute to “Skip” on today is a true celebration and we are delighted to have the community join us for a funky good time,” she added.
In response, Cooper said, “The BBA is very fortunate to have such a dedicated and committed person to lead the BBA into the future.”
Cooper earned a master’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship from USC. This influenced his determination to make a difference in the area of Black businesses.
He spent his lifetime as a committed advocate for the advancement of minority business enterprise, a voice for the underserved, and a recognized civic leader throughout the state of California and the nation.
A100% disabled Vietnam Veteran, Cooper was named BBA president/CEO in 1976. In this capacity, he joined forces with other Black men and women to meet with then-Assemblyman Willie Brown to encourage him to create a Black business program for California. As the chair of a key committee, Brown couldn’t make the program Black, but he did make the program for small businesses, which affected small businesses all over California. Also, the BBA worked closely with Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke, the first Black woman elected to Congress for California.
Now, Cooper will focus on his work at the Earl Skip Cooper Foundation. To support the work of the Foundation, visit bbala.org.
For more information or to join the Black Business Association, call the BBA office at (323) 291-9334 or email [email protected].