New Pittsburgh Courier

Courier’s ‘Men of Excellence’ pivots during pandemic, but show ultimately goes on

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.

No problem.

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

THOMAS BURLEY

Community Leader—Retired, Westinghouse

Electric Power Systems

 

JOHNNIE BURTON

Owner, BFF Arbor & Lawn

 

STEPHAN DAVIS

President & Executive Coach, Davis &

Associates

 

DERRICK DAVIS

Founder & CEO, H.L.R. Entertainment,

LLC

 

LUTHER J. DUPREE JR.

Service Coordinator, Pittsburgh Mercy

— Producer/Host, Steel City Sports

World

 

KELTON EDMONDS, PH.D.

Professor, California University of Pa.

 

VINCENT D. ELLIOTT

President, Western PA Council of

HBCU Alumni

 

GEORGE FLEMING

Program Supervisor and Outreach

Specialist, Fathers Involved Now

Program, Allegheny Family Network

 

ROY BLANKENSHIP JR.

Community Outreach Manager, Hilltop

Alliance — Founder, Blankenship

Estate Enterprises

ALLAN FRANCETTE

Owner, Big Al’s Unisex Hair Salon

 

BRANDON WHITE

Vice President & Senior Recruiter,

BNY Mellon

ROGER W. DAVIS, ED.D.

President, Community College of

Beaver County

 

ERIC GIBSON

Senior Executive Career Coach,

Nazareth Prep

 

DAMON GIVNER

Owner, R&R Trucking, LLC

 

BRENT JERNIGAN

Assistant Head of Schools, The

Neighborhood Academy

 

ELIJHA DAVID KING

Owner & Director, Oakland Fashion

Optical

 

 

TAYON MITCHELL

President & CEO, Engrade Financial

Group

ALTON MITCHELL

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

Engagement Consultant

MICHAEL BARNES

Owner, Roux Orleans Catering

CHRIS HOWARD

President, Robert Morris University

KELLY E. MORRISSEY

Law Enforcement, Federal and State

of Pennsylvania

 

SHABAKA PERKINS

Co-Founder & Director, Sankofa

Village for the Arts

 

ANTHONY W. PIPKIN

Assistant Principal at Pittsburgh Morrow,

Pittsburgh Public Schools

 

MICHAEL POTTER

Founder and CEO, Black Brew Culture—

Co-Founder, Blacktoberfest

 

JACE RANSOM

Out of School Time Manager, Office

of Community Services, Allegheny

County DHS

 

LELAND SCALES

Nonprofit Partner Field Manager, 412

Food Rescue

 

GEORGE C. SPENCER SR.

President, Greater Pittsburgh Area

MAD DADS Chapter

 

CHRISTOPHER W. ROBINSON

Associate Professor, Community

College of Allegheny County

LELAND SCALES

Nonprofit Partner Field Manager, 412

Food Rescue

 

 

SHAWN THOMAS

Entrepreneur Lending Director,

Bridgeway Capital

 

 

WILLIAM SIMMONS, M.D.

Associate Professor, School of Medicine,

University of Pittsburgh—Past

President, Gateway Medical Society

 

TERRY SMITH

Founder, President & CEO, M-Powerhouse

of Greater Pittsburgh— Founder,

Wisdom, Work & Wealth, LLC

 

 

MARK STUCKEY

Chief Technology Officer, Pittsburgh Public

Schools

 

 

DANIEL TAYLOR

Executive Vice President, African American

Chamber of Commerce of Western Pa.

 

ROBERT D. WALKER

President & Co-Founder, Exurbia Home Healthcare,

LLC

 

THOMAS WASHINGTON JR.

Community School Site Manager, Homewood

Children’s Village

REP. JAKE WHEATLEY JR.

Representative of the 19th Legislative District,

Pennsylvania

 

 

MARLIN WOODS, CPC

Executive Chairman, BenefitsPLUS

 

DANTE WORKS

Owner, The House of Veterans, LLC

 

CURTIS UPSHER JR.

Retired, Community Care Behavioral Health

Organization

 

ROBERT B. FULTON

Equal Opportunity Specialist 2, Commonwealth

of Pennsylvania Department of General Services,

Bureau of Diversity Equity, Inclusion and Small

Business Opportunities

STANLEY BELL

Local 154 Boilermakers

 

JUSTIN NWOKEJI

Director of Development of the Business, Math,

Science and Technology Division, Office of Institutional

Advancement, Morehouse College

 

RONALD SAUNDERS

President, Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch, ASALH

RYAN S. SCOTT

Executive Director, Social Justice Institutes,

Carlow University

 

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)