By Victoria Jones (NNPA/DTU Journalism Fellow, The Washington Informer)
A mix of successful entrepreneurs, social activists and actors came together for one night during “Icon Talks,” an evening of empowerment with intimate discussions, insight and performances at the Mead Center for American Theater in Southwest Washington, D.C.
Honorees included media mogul Cathy Hughes, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson, and actor Omari Hardwick.
The performances and conversations at “Icon Talks” explored paths to success and provided a platform to engage, entertain and inspire. Four Black men, John Burns, John Hartsfield, Rudyard Hilliard and Mike Burns founded “Icon Talks” on the principal that an icon is someone who inspires others with their talents and manifests their purpose and passion in how they live their life and touch the lives of others.
“Our goal is to empower young men, women and children and to use this platform to support a non-profit that we have called ‘ICON to ICAN,’” said co-founder Rudyard Hilliard. “The focus is to provide a means for folks to overcome their challenges.”
The ICON to ICAN Foundation gives disadvantaged and disabled children the chance to meet and spend time with prominent role models and also provides mentorship and empowerment programs for disadvantaged and disabled youth in order to overcome physical, social and economic barriers.
The icon of the moment was Omari Hardwick, an actor known for his roles as Andre in BET Network’s “Being Mary Jane” and James “Ghost” St. Patrick in the Starz hit show “Power.” The previous honoree at “Icon Talks” was Chaka Khan, who spoke in January in San Antonio, Texas.
“We are excited to have a talent of Omari’s caliber to join us for this event,” said co-founder John Burns. “His story is incredibly amazing and he will definitely impact and inspire the audience.”
During the ceremony, Hardwick had a one-on-one conversation with John Burns about his experience, inspiration and words of wisdom. After the conversation, Hardwick performed two original spoken word pieces for the audience, which were met with resounding applause.
The founders and some of the attendees believe that “Icon Talks” not only helps to provide insight from various icons, but the event also helps to show and celebrate the success of African-Americans in various fields. Hilliard believes “Icon Talks” shows a different side of the Black community that is frequently not shown in the media.
“There aren’t many of us doing this. You look around the world, there aren’t many Black people who are on different levels who are doing well,” said Hilliard. “We don’t see that in the media. All we see is crime and poverty. The narrative isn’t there about [Black people] who are succeeding. It’s not newsworthy.”
Black author Zane thinks that “Icon Talks” is important in order to celebrate and discuss the success of others in the Black community.
“I think it’s important to celebrate and discuss our success in the African-American community, and I think it’s wonderful to see people celebrating it,” said author Zane.
Jesse Parker, a member of the 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, D.C. said that “Icon Talks” not only celebrates icons in the Black community, but it also shows that African-Americans can be versatile and have different roles outside of what the media portrays.
“This event is important because it salutes a very credible and talented young man. [The 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, DC.] have young people coming in to actually do the presentations,” said Parker. “It brings a level of class and I think that’s important. It demonstrates that we can be in all quarters, not just basketball and football. We can be cultural things as well. Everybody knows that, but sometimes it’s just good to show it.”
Victoria Jones is a 2016 NNPA “Discover The Unexpected” (DTU) journalism fellow at The Washington Informer. The DTU journalism fellowship program is sponsored by Chevrolet. Check out more stories by the fellows by following the hashtag #DiscoverTheUnexpected on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about the program at www.nnpa.org/dtu.