by Brian W. Carter, Contributing Writer
Los Angeles Sentinel
On Thursday, June 25, the Black Business Association (BBA) celebrated 50 years serving the Black business community and recognizing Black Music Month with this year’s theme, “The Business Behind the Music.” The 2020 honorees included: Gail Mitchell, Sr. Editor, Billboard Magazine, Stevie Wonder’s KJLH Radio Free FM 102.3 and the late Richard “Dick” Griffey, founder of Solar Records.
The virtual celebration kicked off with a moving montage of images from the various Black Lives Matter protests with musical artist Siedah Garret singing “The New Frontier (Say Their Names).” The tribute video highlighted protests throughout the last decade, up until recent protests sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement. Andre Ray, former lead singer of LTD, was host and master of ceremonies for the evening.
“In interests of today’s environment, we are practicing social distancing because of COVID-19, we have to do what we have to do, but the message is still the same— the Black Business Association’s salute to Black music in recognition of Black Music Month,” said Ray.
“What we’re doing tonight is very important,” said Earl “Skip” Cooper II, president and CEO of the BBA. “We are celebrating Black Music Month and we know Black folks made it happen in terms of Black music.
“What’s also important is Black lives matter and we need to always remember that—Black lives matter. Also, [what’s] very important is Black business matters—support Black business because it’s very important.
“As you support Black music, Black lives matter, please support the Black Business Association, make that donation, we need your support, thank you.”
Local politicians and clergy congratulated the BBA on its anniversary and acknowledged the honorees for their contributions and accomplishments.
“Happy Birthday to the Black Business Association and I want to congratulate your 2020 honorees for the phenomenal contributions that they’ve made to African American music,” said the Honorable Herb Wesson, councilman district 10.
“We really can’t imagine modern music without the influence of Black artists; we wouldn’t have modern music today without African American influences.
“Lastly, I have to give a big shout out to Skip Cooper, my dear friend for several decades; he’s been the tip of the spear for this organization.”
“We know that we find ourselves in perilous and tumultuous times, yet, during these times, we all know the powrful role that Black music plays uplifting and encouraging us,” said Reverend Kelvin Sauls, board chair of Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “Whether it is singing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ ‘We Shall Overcome,’ ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud,’ ‘What’s Going On,’ and even ‘I Can’t Breathe,’ Black music has always been a source of empowerment and enlightenment.
“Music has also played an intricate part in our faith and as we come together to celebrate Black music, to honor it and to bring it together with Black business, we know the importance and significance that Black business plays—Black business and music inviting us to continue to usher in the work of freedom that God wants for us to experience.”
“I just wanted to pause and congratulate Skip Cooper, Gwen Moore and the other members of your board of directors of the Black Business Association,” said California State Senator Holly Mitchell.
“Fifty years! Fifty years of committed dedicated service to providing professional development and training to help expand Black businesses here and across the great state of California.
“I want to acknowledge your amazing honorees for tonight’s celebration. I tip my hat to Gail Mitchell, KJLH Radio Free 102.3 and Richard “Dick” Griffey, the founder and president of Solar Records—all institutions in and of themselves, as we recognize the significant role Black music and the business of Black music has played in documenting the movement and every aspect of our lives.
“So, tonight, I’m goin’ say, ‘Say it loud,’ we Black and we proud!”
“I want to congratulate the Black Business Association on your 50th year anniversary, but more importantly, in honoring Stevie Wonder and all the wonderful djs and staff at KJLH Radio, the bedrock and foundation of music, entertainment and talk in the City of Inglewood,” said Inglewood Mayor James Butts.
“We are so proud of all you and we’re proud to be part of what you have built.
The Outstanding in Excellence Journalism Award was presented to Gail Mitchell and the breadth of her work at Billboard Magazine over the last 20 years. She shared her gratitude and thanks with the BBA and her love for the music industry.
“First, I’d like to thank the Black Business Association and president/CEO Skipp Cooper for giving me this prestigious award,” said Mitchell.
“Thanks to my Mom and Dad. I grew up a music fan first before ever thinking of becoming a journalist, let alone, thinking I could build a career out of writing about something that I love. I’m also humbled to be honored alongside late music pioneer, Dick Griffey and Stevie Wonder and his KJLH radio crew.
“Now, here we are on the frontlines of a revolutionary reckoning as the music industry has been called upon to end the systemic racism that has been the norm—and I’m here ready to tell those stories.
“A special shout to my daughter Alexis and son, Benjamin for their love and patience on my fantasitc journey.”
The Historical Black-Owned Radio Station Excellence Award was awarded to local and iconic radio station, Radio Free 102.3 KJLH. Program director, Aundrae Russell accepted the award on behalf of Wonder and KJLH crew.
“Thank you, Mayor Butts and the Black Business Association, for this wonderful honor and congratulations to you on 50 years of service,” said Russell.
“To all the other honorees and participants, we honor you. Thank you especially to Mr. Skip Cooper for your dedication and commitment to assist business owners in our community. That’s fabulous, we really salute you for that.
“For us, Black music matters, of course, right? Black lives matter right? And Black business matters, so we thank you so humbly for this award and we really appreciate you for supporting Radio Free 102.3 KJLH, the only Black-owned radio station west of the Mississippi.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to the late pioneer in music, Griffey, the founder, president and CEO of Solar Records. Artists, industry vets and colleagues shared heartfelt words, memories and allocades.
Those who spoke on behalf of Griffey included manager, Dina Andrews, music producer, L.A. Reid, Grammy award-winning artist and producer, Leon Silvers, musical artists Reggie and Vincent Calloway, Grammy award-winning artists, Wallace and Walter Scott of The Whispers and musical artist, Otis stokes of Lakeside. The musical group Klymaxx presented a segment of live footage of a performance of “I Miss You” and Howard Hewett sang a few lines, live acapella of “Say Amen” in memory of Griffey. His daughter, Carolyn Griffey, accepted the award and offered her gratitude on behalf of her father and Solar Records.
“My father was a man with a great vision, with a strong love for our people and an innovator for our culture,“ said Griffey. “He truly believed that Black lives mattered.
“He committed his entire life’s work to fighting for and creating opportunities—helping others to succeed. He blessed us with a mighty legacy, not only in the music industry, but introducing and mentoring African American brothers and sisters to other careers, that at the time, weren’t on the radar such as film, digital [applications], poltical platforms and that’s just to name a few.
“He knew that [entrepreneurship] was the key to end our slavery, as he would always say, ‘you teach them how to fish, they’ll never be hungry.’ He led by example, wearing so many hats that one couldn’t believe that one man could accomplish so much in one lifetime.
“So, I want to thank you Black Business Association, the oldest active, ethnic business organization in the state of California for honoring my father, the late, great Dick Griffey with this Lifeime Achievement Award, and it is with great honor and gratitude that I, in representation of the entire Griffey and Solar Records family, accept on his behalf.”
You can view the entire virtual celebration on the BBA Facebook page and for more information on the organization, please visit www.bbala.org