On November 13, 2015, the YWCA Greater Los Angeles (YWCA-GLA) hosted their 14th annual Rhapsody Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Rhapsody Gala, the organization’s main fundraising event, provides assistance to the area’s most at-risk population; emancipated foster youth, and other underserved individuals in the YWCA GLA’s program areas: Workforce/Youth Development, Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Child Development, and Senior Services.
This year, the YWCA-GLA celebrated the extraordinary achievements of Debra L. Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET Networks recipient of the Media Visionary Award, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas as Man of the Year, and Toyota’s Tracey Underwood recipient of the Corporate Champion Award.
As Chairman and CEO of BET Networks, Debra L. Lee, is considered a vanguard for African-American news and entertainment and an inspiration for women everywhere. In awarding the Media Visionary Award to Lee, YWCA- GLA’s President and CEO Faye Washington said, “Ms. Lee sets patterns of excellence for the entire spectrum of media with her programming and corporate efforts.” “We are honored to present her with the Media Visionary Award. Lee provides inspiration for young people to celebrate life by defining and exploring their own personal assets,” Washington said. Recording Artist, Actress, and Television Personality Kelly Rowland presented the award to Lee.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was honored as Man of the Year. Honored for spearheading programs that advance the welfare of the least privileged children in Los Angeles County, Ridley-Thomas, recently guided the completion of the new $210 million Martin Luther King Jr., Community Hospital which serves more than 1.5 million residents. YWCA-GLA President Faye Washington said, “His continued vision for new ways to improve economic and workforce development, health care, public safety, and education for citizens of LA County is unmatched.” Dr. Elaine Batchlor, CEO, Martin Luther King Jr., Community Hospital presented the award to Ridley-Thomas.
Designed to celebrate business practices specifically undertaken to achieve social benefit, the Corporate Champion Award went to Tracey Underwood who oversees Toyota USA’s Social Innovation Division. Underwood led Toyota’s partnership with the Special Olympics World Games, serving as the official automotive partner; providing 400 vehicles for competition use. Underwood also coordinated the nearly 600 Team Toyota volunteers for the Games and commissioned three permanent murals in the city celebrating the spirit of the games. Underwood spearheads Toyota’s signature defensive driving education series for educators, teens, and their parents, “Teen Drive 365,” and Toyota’s first-ever philanthropic social media campaign entitled “Toyota 100 Cars for Good.” Jan Perry, General Manager of Economic, and Workforce Development for the City of Los Angeles presented the award to Underwood.
Cheryl Boone-Isaacs, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and YWCA-GLA Advisory Commissioner; Kathy Ireland, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist, and YWCA-GLA Ambassador; and Fabian Wesson, Chair, California Science Center and Exposition Park served as Event Co-Chairs. Also in attendance were Entertainment Tonight’s Nischelle Turner (who served as the evening’s emcee), Jacqueline Bisset, Jane Seymour, Tia Mowry-Hardic, Tichina Arnold, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., Dana Gourrier, and Tiffany Haddish.
For over 120 years, the YWCA-GLA has addressed the elimination of racism and the empowerment of women in the greater Los Angeles area. Presently, the YWCA-GLA is pioneering a model of community centers and housing, with diverse stakeholders to transform lives, build self-reliance and strengthen communities. YWCA-GLA President Faye Washington in providing a conspectus of the evening, said, “We are excited to celebrate our service to the Los Angeles community and our continued efforts to provide resources and solutions to improve the lives of women, children, at-risk youth and seniors.
For more information about the YWCA-Greater Los Angeles, visit www.ywcala.org.