Aurea Montes-Rodriguez and Anne Burford-Johnson strike a pose. (Rodd A. Amos/L.A. Sentinel)

UCLA Community Programs e and L.A. Inner City Cultural Center presented the 2024 C. Bernard Jackson-UCLA Bridge Builders Awards and Beloved Community Luncheon on June 11, at The Bridge in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

The awardees include Community Coalition Executive Vice President Aurea Montes-Rodriguez, and CBS Television executive producer Charles Floyd Johnson.

“The purpose of the Bridge Builders Awards is to recognize individuals who work with a diverse community of people to connect our work and our world to a deeper meaning and a higher purpose.  “The luncheon itself is to honor the legacy of Jackie Robinson,” stated the UCLA Community Service Programs Advisor.

Related Stories:

“The most iconic building on campus,” he continued, “is Royce Hall – named for Josiah Royce, who coined the phrase Beloved Community. Dr. [Martin Luther] King visited UCLA in 1965 and championed our cause.”

The Beloved Community Initiative family strikes a pose. (Rodd A. Amos/L.A. Sentinel)

Prior to his opening remarks entitled, “Where’s the Check,” Dr. Oscar Edwards, keynote speaker and Advisory Committee chair of the UCLA Beloved Community Initiative, led the gathering of roughly 30 Bruin alumni and associates into silent prayer in memory of Dr. James Lawson, a leading tactician of nonviolence within the Civil Rights Movement. Lawson taught Nonviolence and Social Movements at UCLA.

UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs alum Mandla Kayise and UCLA PhD candidate Sonya Brooks served as co-presenters of the event.

“I’m deeply honored to be considered a Bridge Builder,” said awardee and Bruin alumna Montes-Rodriguez. “As a LatinX woman immigrant who came to South Los Angeles as a child, and considering the investment made in me by community members, to receive this award is really meaningful.

“Community Coalition was founded by Mayor Karen Bass and we’re working in solidarity with other like-minded organizations that are committed to building local leadership with political power in their communities. I’m also proud of the work of our young people, who’ve brought educational equity to the needs of Black and Brown students in our community,” she said.

The awards ceremony also honored playwright C. Bernard Jackson, founder of LA Inner City Cultural Center – one of the first arts institutions in the United States to promote multiculturalism.

“[Jack] was an alum of UCLA going back to the late 50s and early 60s,” recounted fellow Bruin, Ernest Dillihay.

“He was a rehearsal pianist in the Dance Department and met Dr. J. Alfred Cannon at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. They thought the arts would be an ideal vehicle of change in improving the lives of people, especially the disenfranchised.

“Fast forward, Oscar Edwards introduced us at Inner City to the Beloved Community Initiative, and Brother Azania gave C. Bernard Jackson the honor of renaming the Bridge Builders Award the C. Bernard Jackson-UCLA Bridge Builders Award,” Dillihay said.

The awardees are flanked by, from left, Sonya Brooks, Vusisizwe Azania, and Dr. Oscar Edwards. (Rodd A. Amos/L.A. Sentinel)

The second award went to Emmy winning CBS TV Executive Charles Floyd Johnson, best known for “The Rockford Files,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Red Tails,” and “NCIS.” Anne Burford-Johnson, co-writer of the Historical Dictionary of African American Television (Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts), accepted the award in her husband’s absence.

Other notable speakers included Fernando Montes-Rodriguez, the district director for L.A. City Council President Marqueece Harris-Dawson, LA-ICCC Board Member Carmen Hayward-Stetson, and Emmy-nominated CBS TV writer and producer Donna Brown Guillaume, known for Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives.” Guillaume is the widow of stage, TV, and film star Robert Guillaume.

The awards ceremony was presented by the UCLA Beloved Community Initiative, UCLA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Department, UCLA Black Alumni Association; Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies; The Bridge at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, and more.

For more information, visit