Hundreds of people attended the USC Black Alumni Association’s Scholarship Dinner, held at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, CA. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)


Honorees include Danny Bakewell Jr., Wilma Pinder, Lloyd McKinney Jr., Diamonte “Saweetie” Harper and Jaya Hinton  

Danny J. Bakewell, Jr. received the Emé Visionary Award at the 46th Annual Scholarship Benefit sponsored by the USC Black Alumni Association (BAA).

Held April 14 at the Ritz –Carlton in Marina del Rey, Bakewell joined Wilma Pinder, Lloyd T. McKinney Jr, Diamonté “Saweetie” Harper and Jaya Hinton in being saluted for their professional achievements and contributions to BAA.

As executive vice president of The Bakewell Company, Bakewell Jr. oversees key components of one of the most successful privately-held African American real estate development firms in the nation.  Founded by Bakewell Company Chairman Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., the company has built, owned and managed more than four million square feet of commercial, industrial and residential property throughout California.

Bakewell, Jr is also one of the top execs for Bakewell Media, owners of the L.A. Sentinel and L.A. Watts Times newspapers as well as the Taste of Soul, the largest street festival in the country and a major economic generator for South L.A. and Black businesses. Over three million people have attended TOS since it launched in 2007.

Danny J. Bakewell, Jr. received the Emé Visionary Award at the 46th Annual Scholarship Benefit sponsored by the USC Black Alumni Association (BAA) (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

“Let me acknowledge USC President Carol Folt and BAA Director Danielle Harvey.  Your commitment to building a better and more inclusive USC has not gone unnoticed. I want to thank all of the BAA staff for this amazing night and all that you do for the betterment of our community,” said Bakewell Jr., who has served on the BAA Board of Directors for the past 10 years.

Acknowledging other BAA board members, Bakewell commended past and present directors including Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, William “Bill” Holland, Eric Holloman, Raphael Henderson, Cynthia Heard and Dr. Michelle Turner.

“Receiving this Emé Visionary Award is far greater than anything I ever dreamed of.  To be thought of in the same category as past honorees such as Forest Whitaker, Rev. Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray, Sandra Evers-Manly, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Linda Johnson Rice – all of these great people and to be a part of that group truly is an honor and I thank everyone here for giving me this award.”

In his remarks, Bakewell described himself as a child of a “strong and mighty village…of warriors, love, strength and determination that has made me a better man.” Recalling how he benefitted from the nurturing and care of his “village, ” he drew laughter by adding that in some instances, his village “threw me to the lions.”

Kenny Lattimore provided musical entertainment (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

But surprising many, he said that action was actually a demonstration of the faith that his “village” had in his ability to survive.  As a result, he became more resilient and better equipped to contribute to the “village.”

“The fact that the village believes that you can defeat the lion, not only makes the village stronger, but it also makes the village safer because of the strength that you have found,” insisted Bakewell. “So, I accept this award on behalf of my entire village.”

Listing the people in his “village,” he highlighted Charisse and George Weaver, Heather and Ingrid Hutt, Jones-Sawyer, Kappa Alpha Psi members, and the Sentinel staff.  He also mentioned his aunt, Pamela Bakewell, cousin Brandon Brooks, and the Mitchell sisters – Tamela, Pamela and Tracy.

“To my sister, Brandi, our journey continues to be incredible. You always talk about how much you learned from me, but the truth is you have taught me so much more. Because of you, I am a better person,” he said.

Danny Bakewell Sr. with Devyn Bakewell and Quentin Collier, celebrating Danny Bakewell Jr. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

Giving comparable compliments to his children – Taelor, Danny III, Devyn and Bryce – Bakewell noted with a big smile, “How blessed I am to be your dad! You are my inspiration. You are each individually and collectively the greatest thing I have ever done. I love you with all of my heart! I marvel at your brilliance, your compassion and the amazing things that you do.”

He went on to express his deep feelings for his life partner, Kristina Smith, whom he called ‘the love of my life.”  Explaining the depths of his affection, Bakewell said, “You are truly my strength when I feel like the lions are winning. You are smart, you are beautiful and you know how to deal with me when I’m in a mood. You make me laugh even when you are dead serious.”

Amid the cheers and applause of his recitations, he then offered commendations to his parents, Aline and Danny Bakewell Sr., calling them “the two most loving and beautiful people in my life.”

“Everything I am is because of you,” said Bakewell Jr. “You taught me about life, forgiveness, determination, responsibility and most of all, you taught me about love.  To be able to share this moment with you both is truly a blessing.

“You taught me to be a proud Black man and to do for our family and our community and our people.  I am thankful for you every single day and no words can truly demonstrate how much I love both of you!”

Danny Bakewell Jr. celebrating with his children and loved ones. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

As he concluded his remarks, Bakewell encouraged the crowd to remember the mission of BAA to “enhance the lives and experiences of USC’s Black students” by remaining diligent and committed to helping them “achieve far beyond what they ever dreamed they could accomplish.”

Former Los Angeles City Attorney Wilma Pinder, the recipient of the BAA Kilgore Service Award, shared similar expressions during her presentation.   She said, “I’m very honored to be here with everyone. When I went to USC, there were few Black students on campus. But today, African Americans are not only USC students, but also scholars and administrators and professors and any other damn thing you want to be!”

Referring to a popular campus chant, Pinder declared, “We, as a people, really know how to fight on!  USC was my launching pad.”

After earning her B.A. at USC, she received a Master’s degree from Howard University and a juris doctorate from UCLA School of Law.  She worked 30 years for the City Attorney’s Office before retiring. However, she continues to be active with BAA and traveled overseas three times with the organization.

McKinney received the BAA Outstanding Alumnus Award. An executive with Northrop Grumman, he is the senior global supply chain manager for the corporation’s Mission Systems Sector.

“I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to have been selected to receive this award,” McKinney said in expressing his appreciation to BAA. “But, I did not do my accomplishments alone. I’d like to thank my mother, my amazing daughter and many other friends for their support and love.

“I will continue my work with BAA at a higher level. If my work can make a difference, so can yours. I will continue recruiting and supporting the retention and graduation of Black students,” vowed McKinney.

Harper, a 2016 USC graduate, was presented with the Young Alumna Award. Although unable to attend, the popular recording artist was saluted for her involvement in BAA activities along with her success in the entertainment industry.  In addition to top EPs and double-platinum hits, Harper was commended for her savvy business skills, which include a jewelry line and partnerships with Revlon and Quay.

The Outstanding Scholar Award went to Jaya Hinton, a 2022 graduate of USC Marshall School of Business. Active in BAA throughout her college years, Hinton also served as co-executive director of the Black Student Assembly and assisted in the selection of USC’s inaugural chief inclusion and diversity officer.

“When I first started college, I was pre-med and when I wanted to explore other options, the BAA assisted me and the leaders introduced me to others who could help my career,” Hinton said.

Marc A. Brown, KABC news anchor, served as emcee of the banquet and Kenny Lattimore provided musical entertainment.  The program also included the invocation by the Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard and remarks by Harvey, who is also USC associate vice president for Alumni Relations; Kyle Webb, interim chair of the USC Black Alumni Advisory Council; and Donald Dean, chair of the Scholarship Benefit Committee.

The BAA was founded in 1976 by the Rev. Thomas Kilgore, Jr. to strengthen the legacy of educational attainment and excellence of USC’s Black students.  The organization provides scholarship assistance, career mentoring, and cultural advocacy through alumni networking, volunteer involvement, philanthropy and social enterprise.