Sign up to stay connected
Get the top stories of the day around the DMV.
With delectable hors d’oeuvres and drinks flowing throughout the event, storytellers and newsmakers alike celebrated truth-telling and Black brilliance at theGrio’s second annual “Washington, D.C. Gala,” presented by Byron Allen on April 28. Held at the National Museum for African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), the star-studded event featured a dynamic performance from legendary singer Diana Ross, honored CBS journalist Gayle King and highlighted the beauty that is Black excellence.
“I had to be here this evening,” King said, accepting her award. “When we talk about Black excellence, if you didn’t see the show tonight,” she added, referring to the 2023 White House Correspondents Dinner, “please Google what Roy Wood Jr. did this evening. That is the definition of Black excellence.”
Diana Ross Wows with Hit-Filled Set
Entering on stage accompanied by background singers, a band and a screen filled with images of her likeness, Ross started her hit-filled set with her game-changing song “I’m Coming Out,” (a tune she sang as she was leaving her relationship with the record label Motown under her longtime business– and at times romantic– partner Barry Gordy).
She sang tunes by her girl-group The Supremes such as “Stop in the Name of Love,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love,” and other classic solo pieces such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Love Hangover.” The celebrated songstress and actress also sang songs such as “Ease on Down the Road,” from “The Wiz” and tunes from “Lady Sings the Blues,” and “Mahogany.”
In a bright-colored, orange, sparkly dress, equipped with a glamorous, poofy detachable skirt, Ross, 79, performed a captivating and entertaining set that heightened the overall vibe of celebrating Black excellence.
Allen, an entertainer and entrepreneur, highlighted the importance of the Black journalists and journalism in an age where U.S. citizens still face challenges with equity and truths, before proceeding to shout out some of the guests in the audience in a fashion only comedians, like himself, can do.
“We’ve got Gov. Wes Moore, here, I love your haircut,” said Allen to Maryland’s first Black governor, ironically, as the two are both bald.
He also noted other guests such as Reps. Maxine Waters (D- California), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Bobby Rush (D- Illinois).
Allen emphasized Rush’s background, sharing his involvement as a co-founder of Chicago’s Black Panther Party. Rush was supposed to be with Fred Hampton, 21, the chairman of Chicago’s Black Panther Party, the night he and fellow member Spurgeon Winter Jr., 19, were assassinated in 1969.
After telling stories of his own and highlighting the work of theGrio’s journalists, Allen honored King.
“We want to give you theGrio Journalist Icon Award and everybody on this stage owes you a huge debt of gratitude,” he said, noting the media professionals behind him, who he had just recognized. “So thank you.”
The co-host of CBS Mornings reflected on the meaning of the Journalist Icon Award at this stage of her career.
“Honest to God, I don’t feel like an icon,” she said. “I still feel that I’m growing, that I’m still learning, that there’s still so much to do.”
King said she is fortunate to still work as a “storyteller.”
“I really do see myself as a storyteller and I stand before you at 68 years old. Walter Conchrite had to retire from CBS at 65,” King said. “He didn’t have a choice. I’m not even kind of thinking about retiring.”
“I’m looking for more work, Bryon,” she added, before noting the connection between her job and the word and work of a “griot.”
“You know the word ‘griot,’ means storyteller,” King said, referencing the traditional West African tribal storyteller and oral historian.
She explained that receiving theGrio’s Journalist Icon Award in a place like NMAAHC is special.
“So when you think of ‘griot’ and’ icon,’ and being in this place, it’s a perfect place to receive an award tonight, because that’s all this building is. It’s about storytelling and truth. And so many stories, as we know, are told here,” King said.
The award-winner stressed the importance of truth-telling today.
“We’re living in a world… where mass shootings are multiplying, the world is struggling, racism is on the rise and civility is on a downfall,” King emphasized. “So my colleagues and I try to do everything we can to tell the truth– not my truth, not your truth, but the truth.”