LAS VEGAS – Steve Harvey’s voice sounded like a hooptie on its last legs during a climactic moment at the 9th annual Ford Hoodie Awards as he coughed, choked, stuttered, stopped, cranked back up and choked on his words again. He was reciting the powerful irony that he, once a faceless Ford factory worker in Cleveland back in the day, had achieved such national stature that the Ford Motor Company sought to align with his growing community awards program.
And that snapshot served as the perfect backdrop for why Harvey launched the Hoodie Awards in the first place: to give deserved shine to people who have played starring roles in their communities for years, yet toil under the thick cover of relative anonymity. The fact that this once single-day event has mushroomed into a five-day extravaganza is a testament to how this flicker of an idea has turned into a flurry of activities that consume the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort.
Despite the constellation of stars in attendance that included Jill Scott, Kevin Hart, Kirk Franklin, Hill Harper, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Tichina Arnold, Sheryl Underwood, Terrence J, LeToya Luckett, Will Packer, Strawberry, Nephew Tommy and many others, the stage and the awards belong to businesspeople, teachers, community activists, choirs and churches who perform at the highest levels, yet do not receive recognition commensurate with their portfolios. This is why Campbell-Martin, a “Martin” alum, was wracked with emotions backstage speaking of how the Hoodie Awards really touches her heart, while her former “Martin” co-star Arnold’s eyes were red as she sang Harvey’s praises for bringing such a national program to fruition.
“I’m always amazed with an idea that you have, but when God get’s a hold of it, what He does with it,” Harvey said, his voice thick with emotion. “Which really proves my point that maybe it wasn’t my idea to begin with. I’m just a vessel [this idea] is floating through, and I’m trying to make it happen.”
Here is what some of the other celebrity friends had to say about Harvey and the Hoodie Awards:
Terrence J: “It’s all about a dream. That’s what the Hoodies represent. It’s not about doing films and doing television. It’s for people who are the best at what they do across the country. That’s what I’m about. I’m about the people who are craftsman and are the best in whatever field they are in, and I’m just real happy that Steve showcases that talent before our people and our culture.”
Will Packer, co-founder, Rainforest Films: “Steve makes these awards about real people. So I’m just real happy to be here. These people deserve to be celebrated. This is the time to take the spotlight off of the celebrities and onto the people who are making real change in the community.”
Toccara: “This is my first year being here and I’m really honored to be here. This is really amazing because this is about the people In the community who help to shape us and make us who were are. So I have to give back and we have to celebrate them. And I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
Ed Gordon: “I was at the first Hoodies, and I can tell you it was nothing like this. I keep coming back because of the commitment that he has. I know what the real commitment is. And I know how much he wanted to build it to what it is today. And whenever you can state your dream and reach it, it is an incredible thing to see.”