The performances at this year’s Ford Freedom Awards gala in Detroit complemented an evening filled with empowering stories about men who exemplify courage. The theme — Men of Courage: Advancing the Narrative of African American Men— celebrated the achievements of men who span various generations, including businessman and former mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing; New York Times best-selling author and criminal justice reform advocate Shaka Senghor; and University of Missouri graduate student activist Jonathan Butler. Additional honorees were the late philanthropist Reginald F. Lewis (posthumously); and former Detroit Lion and businessman Kerlin Blaise. The event also highlighted other men within the community who accomplished their goals despite daunting obstacles.
Multiplatinum-selling singer-songwriter Angie Stone saluted the men of courage with a passionate performance of her signature hit, “Brotha,” an ode to the strong men who uphold our community. Stone also served as an award presenter during the ceremony. In honor of this upcoming Father’s Day, “The Voice” alumnus Avery Wilson gave a soul-stirring performance of Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father.” Although he didn’t perform, mega superstar, Usher shared his engaging sense of humor as he and Detroit Piston Andre Drummond presented Bing with the Ford Freedom Scholar Award.
In a moving tribute to music icon Prince, Wilson sang “Purple Rain” and Los Angeles tap dance band, Chloé Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies, delivered a dynamic performance to Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and “Kiss.” The Syncopated Ladies recently gained international exposure from their viral video covering Beyoncé’s, “Formation.”
Hip-hop legend and the “World’s Greatest Entertainer,” Doug E. Fresh shut it down when he closed the show. Attendees from young to old were on their feet as Fresh got them hype with old school hip-hop and R&B jams, along with his own hits, “La Di Da Di” and “The Show.” He told the audience that he was the originator of the popular dance, the Dougie, and demonstrated how it’s really done. Fresh’s performance was the final moment of the night when generation gaps were transcended and men of courage triumphed.
Photos by Raquelle Harris