Sullivan’s Kennedy Center Gala Kicks Off 2010 Kenya Summit

Years later, in memory to his legacy and his deep commitment to Africa, the Leon. H Sullivan Foundation, which was created in 1971, began hosting conferences every two years on the African continent to drum up U.S. investments and to pair American companies with partnership opportunities.


Even during the most cruel and repressive period during the Apartheid regime in South Africa, a maverick American fought to end exploitation of Black workers with companies there.

He was the Rev. Leon Sullivan—he lobbied major American corporations such as General Motors to voluntarily withdraw from South Africa. The set of guidelines to ensure that businesses in South Africa would not exploit workers later became known as The Sullivan Principles.

In honor to his legacy and his deep commitment to Africa, the Leon. H Sullivan Foundation, began hosting conferences every two years on the African continent to drum up U.S. investments and to pair American companies with partnership opportunities.

The first Summit was held in the Ivory Coast in 1991. By 2008, when the venue was Tanzania, more than 4,000 guests attended including the host, Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and others. Prominent Americans included the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and CNN host T.J. Holmes.

Sullivan believed that “the development of Africa is a matter of a global partnership between Africa’s political leaders, their counterparts on other continents, and domestic and international business and civil society leaders,” a Foundation spokesperson said, referring to the summits.

Hope Masters, daughter of the late Rev. Sullivan, continues that tradition of increasing U.S. corporate and philanthropic engagement, as President and CEO of the Sullivan Foundation.

The next Leon H. Sullivan Summit will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2010.
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“Held every two years in Africa, the Summit is designed to enable African countries and other friends of Africa an opportunity to focus on economic empowerment, self-help, social responsibility and human rights,” Masters said.

The summit in Kenya will benefit from added promotion from this year’s Gala and Awards presentation that will be hosted by the Foundation at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, in Washington, D.C., on August 27, 2009. Both President Barack Obama and Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki have been invited to the Gala.

“We decided to step out of the ordinary this year,” Masters told The Black Star News, in a recent interview. “This event will speak to my father’s vision of a diverse Africa. I promise you a memorable evening.”

The Kennedy Center Gala will showcase the “best in African food, African couture and show stopping entertainment,” Masters said. Afterwards, guests will retire for an afterhours “Cigars and Chocolate” reception, complete with music, dancing and networking.

“We are very excited for kenya too,” Masters added, referring to the 2010 summit venue, and noting the country’s lovely tourist attractions, “And we are hoping people bring their families and children.”

The honorees at the Kennedy Center event in August include Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born entrepreneur who is famous for awarding $5 million every year to a former African president who governed responsibly and voluntarily relinquished power. He has so far handed $5 million checks to former Mozambique president Joachim Chissano and Botswana’s Festus Mogae.

Other honorees are Harvard Professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.; composer and musician Quincy Jones; composer and musician Herbie Hancock; playwright and actor Tyler Perry; humanitarian activist and actress Mia Farrow; and founder of the organization that purchases and ships bicycles to African students, Wheels to Africa’s Winston Duncan.

Organizers expect more than 1,000 guests.

“We will portray the best of Africa and bring the majesty of the continent to her lost sons and daughters,” Masters, said, referring to the Kennedy Center Gala. “We are bringing the finest elements of Africa for everyone to enjoy; we are going to honor amazing people who contribute to making the world better. That’s our mission.”

At the Gala, a special invitation will be extended to all guests to travel to Kenya next year for the ninth Sullivan Foundation Africa Summit, she added.

Former ambassador Andrew Young serves as Chair of the foundation.

Rev. Sullivan led a long and productive life. In 1963, Life Magazine cited Sullivan as one of the 100 outstanding young adults in the United States; in his lifetime he held honorary degrees from more than 50 colleges and universities; in 1992, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George H. W. Bush for his “voice of reason for over forty years” and work on behalf of the poor; and in 1999, the Eleanor Roosevelt Award from President Bill Clinton, for his global “humanitarian efforts.”

He became the first African American to be appointed to the Board of a Fortune 500 company, General Motors; it was then that he started using his position to improve working conditions for Black workers with U.S. companies in South Africa. The Sullivan Principles were later extended globally.

Sullivan died in 2001.

Tickets for the August 27 Gala at the Kennedy Center are $100 for General Admission and $125 for VIP. The reception kicks of at 6:30 p.m. at the Atrium and Foyers; the Awards Celebration at The Eisenhower Theater starts at 8 p.m.

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