The National Council of Negro Women on Friday honored famed singer and songwriter Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds for his charitable work throughout his career.
Edmonds was recognized at the council’s 14th annual “Uncommon Height Gala” at the Washington Hilton Hotel in D.C., a black-tie affair to celebrate the organization’s 80 years of fostering the growth and development of women, children and families worldwide.
The musician, who was given the Uncommon Height Crystal Stair Award for his philanthropic work in the areas of brain disorders, organ transplants, prostate cancer and childhood diabetes, said he was bit overwhelmed by the honor.
“I sit and I think to myself, ‘how did I get here?’ A little black boy from Indianapolis, Indiana,” he said. “My mother, Barbara Jean O’Bannon, was a great woman. She had a rough life but I did everything in my power to make sure my mom had a great life like every black child whenever we get money.
“The thing I got from my mom is she fought to the end. She is the reason I am a black, successful, respectful man to this day,” he said.
The award — named for iconic civil rights and women’s rights activist Dr. Dorothy Irene Height — recognizes leaders from various industries who demonstrate a commitment to community service and excellence. Past recipients of the award include Congressman John Lewis, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones.
“In the vein of our past honorees, Babyface has used his opportunities and blessings to uplift many others,” said Ingrid Saunders Jones, NCNW chair. “His life’s work outside of the music industry exemplifies his heart for helping humankind, which is what the Crystal Stair Award is all about.”
Radio personality Donnie Simpson served as emcee for the evening, which featured entertainment by comedian Jonathan Slocumb and Valerie Simpson of the legendary duo Ashford and Simpson.
Friday’s gala also unveiled the late Height’s famed hat collection, which will be a traveling exhibition titled “Messages of our Mothers.”
Thelma Daley, gala co-chair, said Height “was one of Edmonds’ greatest champions.”
“She was proud of the work he contributed to the United Negro College Fund and Border Babies,” Daley said. “She also helped him raise funds for the Washington, D.C.-based transitional home, The Little Blue House.”
Alexis Herman, gala co-chair, also lauded Edmonds for joining an esteemed group of honorees.
“He is a more than a producer, songwriter and singer. He is a trailblazer, advocate and role model for the African-American community and beyond,” she said.