On March 31, The United Negro Fund (UNCF) will introduce its Mayors’ Masked Ball to the Hampton Roads area. The star-studded Black tie fundraiser will be making its debut appearance in Virginia at The Main Hotel, in downtown Norfolk at 6 p.m.
Since 1983 when the first Mayor’s Masked Ball was held in Atlanta, Ga., the UNCF’s signature fundraising event has been held annually in various cities across the nation. The 34th annual event in Atlanta held last month was a sell-out with 1,200 attendees and raised more than $1.3 million. Funds are earmarked primarily for students attending the 37 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) served by the UNCF. Additionally, students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country are eligible for financial support from UNCF.
Other Black-tie balls are held annually in major cities with large African-American populations to include Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Los Angeles.
When the UNCF event makes its “Who’s Who of Hampton Roads” debut in Norfolk on March 31, guests will be welcomed by Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., President and CEO of the UNCF, and hosted by the mayors from five Hampton Roads cities who have signed on to support its arrival in the Commonwealth. They are Mayor Kenneth C. Alexander of Norfolk; Mayor McKinley Price, DDS of Newport News; Mayor John L. Rowe, Jr., of Portsmouth; Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr., of Virginia Beach; and Mayor Donnie Tuck of Hampton.
Serving as Honorary Co-Chairs are two noted and visible members of the local business community: Mark A. Johnson of Sun Trust Bank and Toiya Sosa of GEICO.
Johnson, who is Sun Trust’s Vice President, Community Development Manager for Hampton Roads, says he understands the importance of the event he is co-chairing.
“Working with UNCF provides a great opportunity for us to impact the next generation of leaders and decision makers. The work in this area aligns well with purpose of ‘Lightening the Way to Financial Well Being’ not only for our clients but for all individuals/families in our community.”
Sosa, GEICO’s Regional Public Affairs /Community Relations officer, says, “I am the product of an HBCU, and understand the importance of this event. I have been blessed with a successful career, and I want that for all of our youth. Ensuring that students are provided the opportunity to continue their education by offering scholarships is important for the upward mobility of our communities.”
Johnson remembers watching the popular UNCF Telethons on television and seeing the excitement of persons working to make the events successful to aid qualified students in attending college.
Along with the memorable and easily recognized motto “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste,” the late singer and entertainer Lou Rawls was the familiar face of the annual national fundraising appeal shown on TV for a number of years. The telethon aired in cities across the nation, including those in Hampton Roads. Local live events were structured around the televised program as groups, churches and individuals made pledges or donations of support.
Presently, Virginia has only one UNCF school, Virginia Union University in Richmond. However, many Hampton Roads residents are UNCF graduates and have children or relatives who presently attend these 37 schools which are located mainly in states throughout the South. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country.
The inaugural fundraising goal for the Hampton Roads gala is $150,000. The event is being directed by the Charlotte, North Carolina UNCF Office, and Tiffany L. Jones, Area Development Director. In the 70s and 80s, residents will remember the late Emma Hoffler as the familiar face of UNCF in Hampton Roads. Hoffler, who maintained her office in Richmond, was the state’s coordinator.
Five awards will be given during the gala; individual awards to Dr. L.D. Britt, EVMS, and Developer Bruce Thompson, Chief Exceutive Officer, Gold Key/PHR. Corporate awards will go to the Access College Foundation, The Decker Family, and Sentara Healthcare,
Ball highlights will feature a silent and live auction; a VIP Masked Reception; celebrity guests; a parade of stars and dignitaries; elegant dining; and dancing by the Fuzz Band.
This event is strictly formal and is made possible by sponsorships at various levels. A limited number of individual tickets at $150 also are available.
The reception begins at 6 p.m., followed by the ball at 7 p.m.
Early reservations for prime seating and sponsorships are now being accepted. For more information, call UNCF at 804-359-1581 or contact Tiffany Jones at tiffany.jones@UNCF.org.
UNCF (the United Negro College Fund) is the nation’s largest and most effective minority education organization. To serve youth, the community and the nation, UNCF supports students’ education and development through scholarships and other programs, supports and strengthens its 37-member colleges and universities, and advocates for the importance of minority education and college readiness. UNCF institutions and other historically black colleges and universities are highly effective, awarding 21 percent of African American baccalaureate degrees. UNCF administers more than 400 programs, including scholarship, internship and fellowship, mentoring, summer enrichment, and curriculum and faculty development programs. Today, UNCF supports more than 60,000 students at over 1,100 colleges and universities across the country. Its logo features the UNCF torch of leadership in education and its widely recognized motto, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”® Learn more at UNCF.org or for continuous updates and news, follow UNCF on Twitter at @UNCF.
By Brenda H. Andrews