On a day the Fort Wayne Urban League praised companies and individuals for diversity, a story playing out on the national stage proved a polar opposite.
Parkview Health, Fort Wayne Community Schools, City Councilman Glynn Hines and IPFW diversity outreach coordinator Andre Patterson were recognized Tuesday during the inaugural Business Opportunity Day Awards luncheon.
About 50 people attended the event at Grand Wayne Center.
Award recipients were praised for championing equal opportunity and economic development in Fort Wayne.
In New York, about a couple of hours after the awards presentation, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the NBA for life in response to racist comments he allegedly made in a recorded conversation.
Silver also fined the billionaire businessman $2.5 million and will seek to force him to sell the basketball franchise.
Herman Lessard, a senior vice president with the National Urban League in New York, was in Fort Wayne on Tuesday to kick off the awards ceremony.
He said his organization is buzzing about the Sterling situation.
Among other things, the owner reportedly chastised his girlfriend for being with black people in public.
I can’t say I was shocked, but surprised, Lessard said, speaking about the secretly taped recordings of Sterling. It’s obvious he’s living in the past and is a dying breed. The people and companies, like the ones we’re honoring, are the future.
Parkview and FWCS received the Fort Wayne Urban League Diversity and Leadership Award that recognizes individuals, organizations or corporations for dedication and commitment to equality in the workplace, supplier utilization and community investments.
Aside from being among Fort Wayne’s largest employers, Parkview and FWCS make diversity in the workplace a priority, said Jonathan Ray, president and CEO of the local Urban League.
What is especially encouraging about the two employers is that they embrace hiring people of various ethnic backgrounds at all levels within their organizations, he said.
Hines received the Trailblazer Award for showing commitment through initiatives and exemplary service. Patterson was honored with the Rising Star Award. It is presented to a young professional who demonstrates exemplary leadership and community service through volunteer work.
Patterson is chairman of the new incarnation of the Fort Wayne Commission on African American Males. Originally formed in the late 1990s, the commission disbanded for several years until city officials resurrected it last June.
Male achievement is the most important issue in the African-American community, Patterson said. Many of these young men are coming from poverty and face obstacles to their success. We have to keep them a priority because the kids growing up in these environments tend to do what their peers do.
Gov. Mike Pence was the keynote speaker at the event. He praised the Urban League for its dedication to equality and said he is looking forward to the group celebrating its 100th anniversary in Fort Wayne in 2020.
Officials said Hines deserved the Trailblazer Award for his efforts to improve business conditions on Fort Wayne’s southeast side.
It’s just good to know that the community recognizes the contributions you’ve made, Hines said.
The city councilman said his focus Tuesday was on the achievements in Fort Wayne, but he is interested in how the NBA is dealing with Sterling.
Racism is a learned behavior, Hines said. I think as adults, we have to show our young people how to treat all people with dignity and respect to erase the hate.