by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
The New Pittsburgh Courier’s “Men of Excellence” awards celebration was put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it was never “canceled.”
How could an occasion that spotlights some of the most accomplished African American men in the nearly two million residents of the Pittsburgh region just…not happen? Sure, it may have been put on hold for, oh, 500 days (but who’s counting), but on April 16, the awards show that’s got the men showing up in their Sunday Best finally took place.
Savoy Restaurant was the location—owned by an African American man and former Courier “Men of Excellence” honoree, Chuck Sanders—as about 13 men per hour came to the lounge to accept their award, four hours total. Everyone wore masks, the crowd was socially distanced, and, all in all, the Courier’s first event in its history that occurred during a pandemic went off without a hitch.
The Self-Starters — The Motivators — The Overachievers — The Changemakers
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
— Former President Barack Obama
“To be in the number amongst this group of excellent men is something that I’m thankful for, and I’m grateful to God for any bit of recognition for the things I might do or say across the country,” voiced Marlin Woods, CPC. Woods is executive chairman of BenefitsPLUS, an advisory board of professional healthcare and benefits decision-makers which discover health and welfare benefits innovations, products and services for procurement opportunities. He also authored a book, “Courting The Employ(H)er: A Business-To-Business Romance,” and is a national public speaker on sales behavior and motivational messaging.
HONOREE ROBERT D. WALKER, with his daughter, Randi.
“I love doing the work I do, helping the community,” said Luther J. Dupree Jr., whose day job is service coordinator at Pittsburgh Mercy, and true passion is his Steel City Sports World TV show that’s been running for years on PCTV-21. Oftentimes, Dupree features Black high school athletes in Pittsburgh’s City League that otherwise would not get recognition. “I’m going to continue to do what I do and just work and strive to make this place a place to live where everybody’s accepted.”
“I’m humbled and I’m honored to be presented with such a prestigious award,” echoed Eric Gibson, the senior executive career coach at Nazareth Prep, a private Catholic high school that has a majority-Black student population. “Essentially every day in my job and my career, I’m trying to make a positive impact, I’m trying to make a big splash in service to others. When you serve, you move action forward.”
Gibson, the Ambridge resident who’s married with two sons and a daughter, said he found his calling 30 years ago to be an inspirational motivator, working with hundreds of youth from unfortunate backgrounds of neglect and abuse.
HONOREE SHABANA PERKINS receives his Men of Excellence award from New Pittsburgh Courier Editor and Publisher Rod Doss. (Photos by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)
This special Men of Excellence “Class of 2021” also featured a number of entrepreneurs. Michael Barnes moved to Pittsburgh from New Orleans, and created Roux Orleans Catering, bringing the Southern Creole flavors up North. Robert Fulton has owned Fulton Home Building & Remodeling for more than a generation, where he’s especially proud to employ youth from Pittsburgh’s Black community. And Damon Givner owns R&R Trucking, LLC, telling the Courier he’s “always had a passion for trucks.” He told Larissa Lane, the Courier guest correspondent for the event, that if someone wants to get into the trucking business, it’s “10 toes down. It’s a hands-on business. You need to learn the trucks…it’s a rough business. It can go either way. Just as well as it makes you a lot of money, the trucks, if you’re not able to maintain them, it’ll take you down.”
MEN OF EXCELLENCE HONOREES TERRY SMITH AND MICHAEL POTTER.
Among this special class were some men with entire universities on their shoulders. Chris Howard, the president of Robert Morris University, was an honoree, as was Roger W. Davis, the president of Community College of Beaver County.
HONOREE CHESTER D. THOMPSON, DSc, right. (Photos by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)
Courier Editor and Publisher Rod Doss opened the event by welcoming each set of honorees to Savoy, then Courier Advertising Coordinator Ashley Johnson thanked the event’s sponsors. Lane, who is an entrepreneur in the fashion and beauty industry, interviewed a number of honorees throughout the four-hour event, as the festivities were recorded so that a “virtual event” could be watched online beginning May 20 at 6 p.m. on the Courier’s Facebook page and website, newpittsburghcourier.com.
The April 16 event at Savoy didn’t allow outside spectators to attend, such as family and friends, due to the pandemic.
The legacy honoree for this year’s Men of Excellence was Bishop Loran E. Mann, senior pastor at Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ in East Liberty. He was unable to attend the April 16 event, and it saddened many in the Pittsburgh area who learned of his passing on May 2. Bishop Mann was 74, and was a pioneering figure in Pittsburgh media as the first Black full-time news anchor on KDKA Radio, then had a 20 year run as a reporter on WPXI-TV.
MEN OF EXCELLENCE CLASS OF 2021 LEGACY HONOREE
Bishop Loran E. Mann
Aug. 8, 1946—May 2, 2021
The New Pittsburgh Courier expresses its most heartfelt condolences to the family of the revered late Bishop Loran E. Mann.
Each time that the Courier holds its Men of Excellence Awards Ceremony, we honor a legacy honoree who, usually for decades, has been an immovable force in Pittsburgh in his profession and in his benevolence. We couldn’t think of a more deserving person for the award than Bishop Loran E. Mann, whose larger-than-life presence and voice was heard first on KDKA Radio (1020) and then WPXI-TV (Channel 11) until his retirement in the early 1990s.
But there was more to Bishop Mann than the microphone and the video camera.
When a person is driven, led by the power of the Lord, they know that anything is possible. Before the age of 25, Bishop Mann had become a pastor at a Baptist church in Braddock Hills. But at the heart, he was always Pentecostal. He left First Baptist Church to start his own Pentecostal church—but he had no physical building. And less than 20 members.
Bishop Mann would have services underneath tents, until he was able to find a small physical location in Wilkinsburg beginning in 1971. Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ continued to grow, and eventually, a million-dollar sanctuary was constructed at Larimer Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard, where services have been held now for almost 30 years, and home to nearly 1,000 members.
Bishop Mann rose up the ranks in the Church of God in Christ, becoming Bishop of the state of Vermont Jurisdiction in 2011, a crowning achievement. And just a few months ago, Bishop Mann was elected to the COGIC General Board, a select group of 12 Bishops in the Church that set the direction and its policies. Another crowning achievement.
The Courier had its Men of Excellence Awards Ceremony at Savoy Restaurant, in the Strip District, on April 16. We learned, however, that Bishop Mann would be unable to attend. A few weeks later, on Sunday, May 2, we learned that Bishop Mann had died.
A Lying in Honor ceremony will be held on Monday, May 24, from noon to 9 p.m. at the church, 6300 East Liberty Boulevard. A Jurisdictional and Family Homegoing Celebration will be held, Tuesday, May 25, at 6 p.m. also at the church. A National Homegoing Celebration will be held on Wednesday, May 26, at 10 a.m. at Victory Family Church, 21150 Route 19, Cranberry Township.
Bishop Mann is survived by his wife, Barbara, and children, Tiana and Loran II.
Men Of Excellence Class of 2021
BYRON T. ALLEN
Project Manager, Highmark
Community Leader—Retired, Westinghouse
Electric Power Systems
Owner, BFF Arbor & Lawn
President & Executive Coach, Davis &
Founder & CEO, H.L.R. Entertainment,
LUTHER J. DUPREE JR.
Service Coordinator, Pittsburgh Mercy
— Producer/Host, Steel City Sports
KELTON EDMONDS, PH.D.
Professor, California University of Pa.
VINCENT D. ELLIOTT
President, Western PA Council of
Program Supervisor and Outreach
Specialist, Fathers Involved Now
Program, Allegheny Family Network
ROY BLANKENSHIP JR.
Community Outreach Manager, Hilltop
Alliance — Founder, Blankenship
Owner, Big Al’s Unisex Hair Salon
Vice President & Senior Recruiter,
ROGER W. DAVIS, ED.D.
President, Community College of
Senior Executive Career Coach,
Owner, R&R Trucking, LLC
Assistant Head of Schools, The
ELIJHA DAVID KING
Owner & Director, Oakland Fashion
President & CEO, Engrade Financial
Minister of Worship & Arts, Rodman
Street Missionary Baptist Church
CHARLES J. REEVES
Deputy Chief Operations Officer, Port
Authority of Allegheny County
CHESTER D. THOMPSON, DSc.
Associate Dean, School of Business,
Arts, Science and Technology, Community
College of Beaver County
REV. JOHN C. WELCH, PH.D.
Medical Ethicist and Community
Owner, Roux Orleans Catering
President, Robert Morris University
KELLY E. MORRISSEY
Law Enforcement, Federal and State
Co-Founder & Director, Sankofa
Village for the Arts
ANTHONY W. PIPKIN
Assistant Principal at Pittsburgh Morrow,
Pittsburgh Public Schools
Founder and CEO, Black Brew Culture—
Out of School Time Manager, Office
of Community Services, Allegheny
Nonprofit Partner Field Manager, 412
GEORGE C. SPENCER SR.
President, Greater Pittsburgh Area
MAD DADS Chapter
CHRISTOPHER W. ROBINSON
Associate Professor, Community
College of Allegheny County
Nonprofit Partner Field Manager, 412
Entrepreneur Lending Director,
WILLIAM SIMMONS, M.D.
Associate Professor, School of Medicine,
University of Pittsburgh—Past
President, Gateway Medical Society
Founder, President & CEO, M-Powerhouse
of Greater Pittsburgh— Founder,
Wisdom, Work & Wealth, LLC
Chief Technology Officer, Pittsburgh Public
Executive Vice President, African American
Chamber of Commerce of Western Pa.
ROBERT D. WALKER
President & Co-Founder, Exurbia Home Healthcare,
THOMAS WASHINGTON JR.
Community School Site Manager, Homewood
REP. JAKE WHEATLEY JR.
Representative of the 19th Legislative District,
MARLIN WOODS, CPC
Executive Chairman, BenefitsPLUS
Owner, The House of Veterans, LLC
CURTIS UPSHER JR.
Retired, Community Care Behavioral Health
ROBERT B. FULTON
Equal Opportunity Specialist 2, Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania Department of General Services,
Bureau of Diversity Equity, Inclusion and Small
Local 154 Boilermakers
Director of Development of the Business, Math,
Science and Technology Division, Office of Institutional
Advancement, Morehouse College
President, Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch, ASALH
RYAN S. SCOTT
Executive Director, Social Justice Institutes,
CLYBURN HALLEY (No photo requested)
Police Chief, Pittsburgh Technical College
THOMAS BURLEY receives his Men of Excellence Award from
Courier Editor and Publisher Rod Doss
MEN OF EXCELLENCE CLASS OF 2021 HONOREES ALLAN FRANCETTE AND THOMAS BURLEY, among those who received their awards at a ceremony held at Savoy Restaurant, in the Strip District, April 16. (All Men of Excellence photos by J.L. Martello)