Jackie Robinson's son, David, making the rounds.
"Since its establishment in 1973, this organization has provided educational and professional opportunities to more than 1,400 disadvantaged students of color throughout the country. The Foundation's sterling reputation is well-deserved: 97% of Foundation scholars graduate from college - while the value of the experiences, mentorship, personal development, and practical training that the Foundation provides to its scholars has proven immeasurable." So says New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a letter welcoming all those attending the Jackie Robinson Foundation's Annual Awards Dinner.
So, needless to say, I was quite excited to attend this highly anticipated star-studded black-tie evening at NYC's famous Waldorf Astoria hotel, and I wasn't disappointed.
The evening began with access to the VIP cocktail party where Major League Baseball commissioner Allan (Bud) Selig and Grammy award winning opera singer Jessye Norman were joined by a plethora of captains of industry that hobnobbed prior to dinner.
During dinner, Bill Cosby hosted the formal event and introduced the award recipients:
With a compelling story, Allan (Bud) Selig was given a Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution to MLB's organizational structure dating back to 1992.
Next, a ROBIE achievement in industry award was given to Joseph Plumeri, Chairman and CEO of Willis Group, one the world's leading insurance brokers. On a side note, Willis Group recently purchased the tallest building in the western hemisphere - the former Sears tower in Chicago.
Another ROBIE achievement in industry award was given to Paul Polman, CEO of mega-company Unilever. It was interesting to hear how this company has been expanding its sales force using women in third world countries; in effect, helping them create their own employment and improve their standard of living.
Finally a Robie humanitarian award was given to Jessye Norman, performing artist. Norman has received many esteemed awards in the United States in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the arts.
These joined a long list of award winners, which includes notables such as Robert Redford '09, George Lucas '08, Spike Lee '07, and Hillary Clinton '06.
At this point you’re all probably wondering what the coffee angle is to this story? As you may know, Carson (c'est moi) is a coffee guy. You are probably aware that Jackie Robinson, on top of being a world-class baseball player, also broke the MLB's color barrier in 1946 by being the first African American professional baseball player in the Major Leagues. He was also quoted as saying 'the value of a man is determined by one thing: the size of his contribution to the world.'
Jackie Robinson's son, David, must have heard that mantra many times. Believing in this too, he gave up the comforts to which he was accustomed and moved to Tanzania and entered the world of coffee farming. David has formed a coffee cooperative of approximately 650 small coffee farms which, rather than selling its raw coffee to multinational buyers in Tanzania, is marketing it's product directly in North America. The name for this venture: Sweet Unity Farms - touted as the 'Cabernet of Coffee' by the New York Times.
David is spearheading a new model for progressive economic development that transforms poverty into equality. In the shadow of his father's legend, David Robinson's Sweet Unity Coffee is a great story and a great cup.
The entrance to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where the Annual Awards Dinner was held.
The excellent line-up of speakers for the evening.
To view more photos from the Jackie Robinson Foundation Awards Dinner, please visit the new CoffeeMarvel flickr stream.