Seated (Left to Right) - Robert Farrell, Clarence Avant, Maxcy Filer, Nate Holden, Mervyn Dymally. Standing (Left to Right) - Dr. Willie Jones, Robert McNeill, Jr, George Dotson, Rickey Ivie, Isadore Hall (host), Kevin Murray, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. (honoree), Calvin Grigsby, Rod Wright, Brenda Marsh-Mitchell, Curren Price, Roosevelt Dorn, David Cunningham, Jr., Danny Tabor, Bernard Parks and Mike Gipson. (not pictured are: Steve Bradford and Mike Davis)
Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. (honoree) and Isadore Hall (event organizer and host)
A Gathering of Powerful and Influential Friends
By Pat Hendricks Munson
After more than 40 years of advocating and developing on behalf of the African-America community Danny Bakewell, Sr. was surprised with a fitting tribute last Friday that was attended by some of Los Angeles' legendary African-American men of distinction.
The publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, chairman of National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) and former President of the Brotherhood Crusade appeared visibly shocked as he entered a ballroom at SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills to find former and current politicians, friends and associates he's worked with over the years.
"Danny has been a trailblazer for so many years. He's uplifted, inspired, mentored and shattered the glass ceiling for so many people and I just thought it was fitting to honor and pay tribute to him," said California Assemblyman and Speaker Pro Tem Isadore Hall, who hosted the event.
Reminiscent of Oprah's Legends Ball salute to pioneering women, this event was designed for men only--legendary African-American men who have worked with Bakewell in serving the Black community. The only woman, besides a lone reporter, in sight was Brenda Marsh-Mitchell, Sentinel vice president and Bakewell's assistant of 36 years who coordinated the event and lured her boss there under the guise of a business meeting.
Hall, who calls Bakewell his godfather and mentor, felt it important for just men to take part in this tribute. "Today we celebrate and honor him. He's been a pillar of strength. I wanted African-American men, historical leaders, senators, councilmembers, etc. to come together to say we appreciate you for your years of service."
And Bakewell remarked, "I was humbled and grateful to Isadore Hall."
Former and current local politicians, movers and shakers sat down together for a sumptuous dinner and later enjoyed drinks and fat cigars while sharing poignant stories about the man of the hour. They included Clarence Avant, former chairman of Motown and the Brotherhood Crusade, and former State Senator Kevin Murray who described Bakewell as a visionary, fearless and tireless advocate for African-Americans, known for getting the job done.
"I'll never forget the time Danny and I were on opposite sides of a campaign but we both had offices on Crenshaw. Maxine Waters was my campaign manager at the time. Anyway, we had purchased the marquee of this theatre building to advertise my campaign. One night Maxine and I were driving down the street, we looked up and saw Danny on a latter taping over our sign," former Los Angeles City Councilman Dave Cunningham said while laughing heartedly.
Just as Cunningham, 75, was finishing up his version of that long-ago campaign, Bakewell walked up, and of course, he remembered just the opposite happening. Bakewell chimed in "yea, this guy tried to cover up my sign". They both laughed with delight at just the memory.
Former councilman Bob Farrell called Bakewell a "real hero" who has worked tirelessly for the African-American community.
"I've known Danny since he was in real estate and construction back in the 60s. To see the way he has developed since then is amazing. What he has done is very important and should be recognized..
"He has always been concerned about and valued the issues and business of our community. That's the real distinction...There's no misunderstanding of who he is and what's he's about, " Farrell said.
Many of the men in attendance have worked with Bakewell in bringing equality to underserved communities. Bakewell believes in using political power to uplift and benefit the community. Since his days with the Brotherhood Crusade, Bakewell has continued to use his power and connections to build strong coalitions that benefit his people.
"Danny is a visionary. He was able to go into Compton when everyone else was running away; a city that was dead and brought new life," said former California Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally, as he enjoyed the occasion of seeing so many old friends and colleagues together in one room.
"He had confidence. He knew how and where African-Americans shop, buy and eat. They were going out of the city to do these things because there was nothing in Compton," Dymally said, referring to Bakewell's vision and development that brought big name stores, shops and eateries to that city.
The former Lt. Gov. also praised Bakewell for making the Brotherhood Crusade (the community service and development organization founded by the late Walter Bremond in 1968) "into a very credible and high respectable organization and for bringing new life to the Sentinel."
Maxcy Filer, a former Compton City councilman also praised Bakewell for revitalizing downtown Compton by bringing in a Boy's Market, K-Mart, Sizzler and other much-needed businesses. "Danny is a right up front person. If he tells you he's going to do it, he'll do it," said the 80-year-old Filer, who worked with Bakewell in Compton. "He is very positive and he came to Compton when no one else would."
Bakewell has come to the rescue of numerous underserved communities in need. After Hurricane Katrina damaged and knocked radio station WBOK (1230 am in New Orleans) off air, Bakewell purchased and returned it to service in 2007, bringing an urban and talk format to the Big Easy. He has development deals throughout California, from Southern to Northern including Pasadena, Inglewood and the Monterey Bay area.
In addition to Hall, some of the newer movers and shakers in attendance included Chris Holden, Rod Wright, Mike Davis, Steve Bradford, Kevin Murray, Curren Price and others.
The attendees also made video tributes recorded by Fritz Goode, a videographer who has worked with Bakewell since he took over Brotherhood Crusade years ago.
"I'm honored to know you, to work with you and I appreciate you," said Bradford of the 51st Assembly District, as he looked into the camera with hearfelt sincerity. "I wish you nothing but the best in years to come. Thank you for your leadership. We need more Danny Bakewells in our communities."
Assemblymember Mike Davis said "It is a pleasure for me to be here. Danny is the greatest. All of my adult life I have been inspired by him, enjoyed working with him and his staff."
After dinner and a formal presentation Bakewell rose to thank the men for coming and paid tribute to each one by name for their work together on various projects. He mentioned the good times and the challenging times they've spent together over the past three or four decades. Times when they sued him or he sued them. Occasions when they've disagreed on business and social matters.
"I've had such intimate relationship with these men around the table. Everybody here is special to me and has helped me," Bakewell said, recalling details of his many associations.
He thanked all the men including: Bernard Parks for the times they did battle over police brutality cases in the community; Nate Holden for helping him secure United Way payroll deductions for Brotherhood Crusade that brought in millions of dollars for the organization; Dr. Jones of Compton, Maxcy Filer, whose vote was one of three needed to bring development to Compton; George Dotson, Chairman of the Inglewood Planning and Zoning Commission; Motown legend Clarence Avant; Mike Gipson and Mervyn Dymally "who taught me many lessons";
Many lessons he's passing on to a younger generation of African-American men in hopes they carry on his legacy for the betterment of their communities.