In Pittsburgh, very few things can upstage a Steelers game. Especially a prime-time contest against your archrival Cleveland Browns.
But on the night of Sept. 22, as the Steelers were in Cleveland, about to kickoff on every TV in the city, there was another show already in progress; the New Pittsburgh Courier’s “Men of Excellence,” where each member of the “Class of 2022” was about to hear their name called, and make that precious walk to the main stage to receive an award that they will cherish forever.
Instead of checking out the game on their phones, the 400 people in the audience used their phones to take pictures and videos of their loved ones who were being honored on this Thursday night at the Sheraton Hotel, Station Square.
They cheered for people like “Brotha Ash,” Ashley Woodson, who made his mark locally with his entertainment/publication company Brotha Ash Productions/Magazine. They cheered for the Rev. Michael Smith, pastor of Destiny International Ministries in Lincoln-Lemington.
They cheered for long-time radio personality Sly Jock, real name Clifford Charlton, and KDKA-TV meteorologist Ron Smiley, one of a very, very small handful of Black men to perform weather forecasts on Pittsburgh television in the city’s history.
They cheered for each of the 50 men who received honors, along with this year’s “Legacy Honoree,” longtime community and civil rights advocate Tim Stevens, Chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project.
“I believe tonight is exceptional because everybody who is here, including myself, fought so hard to be here,” voiced one of the honorees, Leon U. Rockymore, founder of the Roxamore Network (media). “What I’m realizing now, more than ever, is that you have to overcome twice as many hurdles in order to complete the task of doing good.”
MICHELYN HOOD (KDKA-TV), TANISHA LEONARD (REAL TIMES MEDIA), ROD DOSS (EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, NEW PITTSBURGH COURIER), CHANDI CHAPMAN (EMCEE FOR THE EVENING; WTAE-TV ANCHOR/REPORTER)
With “Brother” Marlon Martin as the DJ, he played a number of R&B-based tracks to keep the mood upbeat in the main ballroom, including the moment when the honorees entered the room to a standing ovation. WTAE-TV anchor/reporter Chandi Chapman served as the evening’s emcee, and she introduced Rev. A. Marie Walker, who gave the invocation.
Following dinner, Courier sales director Ashley Johnson gave a special recognition to the event sponsors, followed by remarks from Courier editor and publisher Rod Doss.
Doss then brought Stevens to the stage, who used his time to remind the crowd the importance of voting “in each and every election.” The next Election Day is Nov. 8.
B-PEP CHAIRMAN AND CEO TIM STEVENS, with his legacy award at the event, Sept. 22.
“We must protect the rights of Black and brown people,” Stevens said. “We must make an end to violence a reality, not a conversation. We must make Diversity, Equity and Inclusion not a slogan but a meaningful contribution to equity in our region, in our nation.”
Stevens told the crowd of a sermon he heard from Dr. Johnnie Monroe, who at the time was a minister at Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church, in the Hill District, prior to Stevens becoming NAACP Pittsburgh Branch president in the mid-’90s. “He asked a question; are you a thermometer or a thermostat? And I decided that I would be a thermostat. Anybody can tell you the temperature, but not everybody helps set the temperature,” Stevens said, to a rousing ovation. “I call upon everyone in this audience, and particularly you who are being honored tonight, the Men of Excellence, obviously somebody thought you were a thermostat…but you can be a bigger thermostat, a more powerful thermostat for change.”
Chapman then introduced the honorees, one by one, who received their award from Doss and then had their picture taken by LaTonya Owens.
Samuel Gill, one of the honorees, told the Courier he was motivated by Stevens decades ago by his messages. “What he said definitely stuck with me as a person and working in the city of Aliquippa,” he said.
Gill urged younger Black men to take note of all the positive-minded Black men in one room; it shows “that we are a positive force and we can do anything we want to do.”
HONOREE REV. THEODORE E. PUGH SR., with wife, Rev. Carrie Pugh, and daughter, Ebony
Honoree Damon Carr, who writes personal finance columns for the Courier in addition to his entrepreneurial work in finance, said he felt “humbled and honored” to be recognized, and that sometimes, “you don’t understand the impact you have on other people.”
And another honoree, Malcolm Nowlin, took a deep breath, took in the scenery of the Sheraton Hotel ballroom, and told the Courier: “When I look back over my life and I just think things over, I can truly say I’m blessed.”
MALCOLM NOWLIN, with his award. He’s pictured with his wife, Wanda. (Photos by LaTonya Owens)
JUDGE KEVIN COOPER receives his award from Courier editor and publisher Rod Doss.
The New Pittsburgh Courier acknowledges editor and publisher Rod Doss, managing editor Rob Taylor Jr., sales director Ashley Johnson and graphic designer Warren King for their contributions to this ‘Men of Excellence’ special section. The Courier also acknowledges photographer LaTonya Owens for her contributions.