By Danny J. Bakewell, Jr. 

Executive Editor

The Los Angeles Urban League will host the Annual Whitney M. Young Awards Gala on Thursday, May 18, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.  

This year’s honorees include Paula Madison, CEO of Madison Entertainment Group, who will receive the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award.  Martin Muoto, founder and managing partner of SOLA Impact Fund, will receive the Trailblazer Award, and Sekou Kaalund, executive vice president at U.S. Bank, will receive the Corporate Partner Award. 

The keynote speaker will be Bishop T.D. Jakes, world-renowned spiritual leader and chairman and CEO of the T.D. Jakes Group. 

The event will be co-hosted by news anchors Chris Schauble and Megan Telles. Denee Benton, Tony Award nominee singer, and actress, will provide the evening’s entertainment.  

The event, which has been sold out for weeks, is the Urban League’s major fundraiser of the year.  The John Mack Premiere Sponsors include The Smidt Foundation, First Citizens Bank and U.S. Bank. 

Paula Madison (File photo)
Martin Muoto (File photo)
Sekou Kaalund (Courtesy photo)
Michael Lawson (File photo

This year’s gala will be of special significance since current president/CEO, the Honorable Michael Lawson, announced last week that he will be stepping down as the leader of the organization at the end of the year. 

In 2018, Michael Lawson stepped in to turn the organization around and in his five years at the helm, he has done a remarkable of restoring the faith, confidence and viability of the organization.  When Lawson arrived at LAUL, the organization was facing escalating deficits, decreasing revenues, and a shortage of talent.  

He engineered a turnaround that prioritized the needs of underserved communities and provided funders with a trustworthy steward and a bold vision for making a difference in the lives and communities of African Americans throughout Los Angeles.   

The budget was balanced within three years and the organization became, once again, a driver of change, a community connection for jobs and resources, and a powerful voice against injustice and economic inequity.  

“Michael Lawson had done an amazing job of stewarding the Urban League back into viability and by doing so has given both corporate partners and community residents confidence that the organization is here to lead for the betterment of our community and will continue to be at the forefront of economic empowerment now and into future,” said Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., chairman and CEO of Bakewell Media and board chairman of the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade. 

The Los Angeles Urban League helps African Americans and others in underserved communities achieve their highest true social parity, economic self-reliance, power and civil rights.  The league promotes economic empowerment through education and job training, housing and community development, workforce development, entrepreneurship, health, and quality of life.