Soledad O’Brien Received Bremond/Bakewell Award
Charisse Bremond-Weaver, Soledad O’Brien and Danny J. Bakewell, Sr.
Â As the recipient of the award, she continues the tradition of excellence that symbolizes its meaning and why it is now named after the founder and the builder.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
Last Friday evening, the Brotherhood Crusade unveiled the Bremond/Bakewell Pioneer of African American Achievement Award at its annual dinner and awarded it to Soledad O’Brien, the internationally- renowned CNN correspondent. Her recent series, Blacks in America and Latinos in America have catapulted her beyond news reporting to a peak of excellence in journalism. In keeping with the Brotherhood Crusade’s mantra of self-help, dignity and respect, O’Brien was the ideal choice to debut the award, which was presented at the awards dinner.
In explaining the motivations behind her signature piece, Blacks in America, O’Brien said, “I was first brought to the documentary unit to look at stories that were under cover,” she began, “and quickly we realized that stories in communities of color don’t get a lot of coverage by the media; the stories are pretty much ignored.
“So one of the things we were interested in doing was, in the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was to look at, first of all, the assassination, but second and third part of that story, was to look at Black America, ‘where are we today’ was the question we were trying to answer. [In] Blacks in America 2, we focused on people who are both pioneers, on the eve of the election of the first African American president, and also people who are going to be the new leadership as things dramatically change historically for African Americans.”
She then went on to explain what propelled her to do the next major piece, Latinos in America. “At every single screening of Blacks in America, someone would stand up and say ‘when are you going to tell the story of Latinos?’ One of the most incredible compliments I got during the screening of Latinos in America is people that saying when are you going to do Pakistanis in America, when are you going to do gays in America, or bi-racial in America. Because I think people are saying that these stories get ignored; could you do those stories too.”
During the pre-dinner cocktail hour, O’Brien spent time with the media and mingled with the early-arrivals, basking in the radiance as the honoree of the prestigious award. Continuing her interview, she related that she knew about the Brotherhood Crusade before being chosen as the evening’s honoree. “My girlfriend, Kim, has a long history in New Orleans,” she said referring to the renaming of the award, Bremond/Bakewell, the latter name in honor of Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., who is from New Orleans. “It’s such an amazing thing to get an honor from an organization that’s so grass-roots and has done so much in the community for so long. That in itself makes it stunning. I had no idea the name was changed and that I am the first; that is really amazing.”
As for the future, following the success of Blacks in America, O’Brien said, “We’ll do more; we’ll do another Blacks in America. We’ll be looking at education in America because I think education is the next civil rights movement. We’ll do more stories either a series or documentaries; there are so much more stories to tell.”
Chris Schauble was the master of ceremonies for the evening and he gave the dinner guests many enjoyable moments during the interims as he introduced speakers for the evening. Bishop Carolyn Guidry, gave the invocation; Dr. George Mc Kenna, representing the Brotherhood Crusade’s board of directors, was eloquent as he explained the board’s decision of renaming the award. And Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke on his long standing relationship with the Brotherhood Crusade and being a fan of the honoree as a national reporter. Afterwards he presented her with a proclamation from the city along with Bakewell and Charisse Bremond Weaver.
Musical legend Eddie Levert, the evening’s entertainment, also known as the lead singer for R&B sensation group The O’Jays, belted out many of the group hits. He scored big time with his audience, many of whom took to the floor and rocked to his music.
One of the emotional moments of the evening Marquis Liggins, a student at El Camino College and a product of the work of the Brotherhood Crusade. He spoke of being rescued and mentored by people associated with the Brotherhood Crusade. He named Bremond-Weaver, her husband, George Weaver and Khalid Shah, founder of Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace Foundation whom he said were instrumental in him currently being in college.
Bakewell and Bremond-Weaver each spoke of their time and service at the helm of the Brotherhood Crusade and thanked the guests for their continued support in making their work possible.
For over 40 years the Brotherhood Crusade has been serving the community and during that time it established the annual event that reinforced many of its primary values: to provide necessary resources, supportive services and a voice of advocacy to traditionally underserved communities.
Charisse Bremond-Weaver has been at the helm of the institution for the past five years and she has continued the work of her predecessors and has added her footprints to its history, promoting health and wellness; enhancing educational opportunities; cultivating economic growth; and building community agencies and institutions. Bremond-Weaver has described her work as “sowing seeds of change by building the community.”