Funky Frappe Friday star performer Keith Sweat

*McDonald’s soul is deeply rooted in the African American community and the foremost food chain never misses an opportunity to show its love and support of Black causes including partnering with community organizations to enhance the well-being of children and adults through education, career, economic and entrepreneurial opportunities, as well as programs that inspire physical activity.

In 2003, McDonald’s developed the 365Black Awards to annually recognize individuals who make significant contributions to the African American community – an extension of the company’s successful 365Black marketing campaign, which recognizes and celebrates the contributions and accomplishments of African Americans all year round.

On Friday, July 2, 2010, McDonald’s hosted its 2010 365Black awards celebration to salute exemplary African American leaders who give of themselves year-long in New Orleans at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during the Essence Music Festival (EMF).

Hosted by nationally syndicated radio personality Tom Joyner, a 2003 Award recipient, and Sherri Shepherd, co-host of “The View,” the highly anticipated event marks the seventh year that 365Black Awards were presented to commendable individuals who are making history and providing a substantial service to the African American community.


McDonald's 365Black 2010 honorees husband-and-wife philanthropy team of retired athlete Rodney Peete and actress Holly Robinson Peete; Atlantic City, NJ-based McDonald's owner-operator Rita Mack; renowned scholar Dr. Henry Louis Gates, III; and Lt. General Russel L. Honore, US Army (Ret)

This year’s trailblazers were Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., educator; Lieutenant General Russel L. Honore, US Army (Ret); philanthropists Rodney Peete and Holly Robinson Peete; and National Black McDonald’s Operators Association CEO Rita Mack, a New-Jersey-based McDonald’s owner/operator.

The five new inductees into the distinguished 365Black roster of do-gooders, whose contributions will empower generations for years to come, were cited for their achievements and contributions as African American community and business leaders and for bettering the lives of African Americans across the nation.

The special brunch reception began with a bountiful buffet in which guests dined on Big Easy cuisine while roving reporter Roland Martin manned the red carpet interviewing dignitaries & celebrities such as Rev. Al Sharpton, Victoria Rowell, General William E. “Kip” Ward, singer Chili and past 365Black honorees Ingrid Saunders Jones, senior vice president, The Coca-Cola Company and chairperson, The Coca-Cola Foundation, and Michelle Ebanks, president, Essence Communications, Inc.

Once inside the main dining room, a lively musical performance by accomplished jazz trumpeter from New Orleans, the Troy Sawyer Jazz Combo beckoned guests to glide into their seats.  Once seated, four-time Grammy winning R&B/Pop songstress Regina Belle appeared on stage and gave an inspiring performance.

BBD & their amazing dancers tear up McCafe stage

As photos of children from McDonald’s House were displayed on an enormous screen, Belle gave testimony to them with a stirring performance of “I Hope He Understands” causing lunch guests to go to church, hands waving in the air and all!

Belle finished with one of her favorite ballads that she dedicated to Ronald McDonald Houses and what they are doing, Nancy Wilson’s “If I Could.”  Belle remarked, “You can never underestimate a mother’s love for her child,” to the roar of the room.

While sobering up after Belle’s sensational performance, guests received a spirited welcome from Joyner and Shepherd who introduced attendees to Bettina Roberts, vice president & general manager, McDonald’s great southern region and Robert Jackson, director of African American consumer marketing, McDonald’s USA, who brought a video greeting from Don Thompson, president and chief operating officer, McDonald’s Corporation who praised the honorees as well as McDonald’s owner/operators who continue to make everyone proud in brand McDonald’s.

R&B superstar Regina Belle with The Real Housewives of Atlanta's NeNe Leakes

Then, not missing a beat, vivacious Marty Gillis, chairman, McDonald’s African American consumer market committee and owner/operator of five McDonald’s, kept the pace upbeat with enriching words of encouragement before the presentation of the 2010 honorees by Karen Wells, vice president, US strategy, McDonald’s USA; James Collins, vice president & general manager, McDonald’s greater southwest region; Neil Golden, senior vice president & chief marketing officer, McDonald’s USA; and Karen King, president, east division, McDonald’s USA.

After enjoying such a robust program, guests still had room for more and sauntered over to the popular McDonald’s booth in the Center for a McCafé experience proving the adage that “you can’t get enough of a good thing.”

Throughout the EMF, McDonald’s offered a McCafé experience at both the Ernest Morial Convention Center, free and open to the public, and at the Superdome for concertgoers where they were able to enjoy three new concoctions:  a caramel McCafé Frappe, Real Fruit Smoothies in Strawberry Banana and Wild Berry.

Ginuwine thrill mainly female audience on Funky McCafe stage

In addition, McCafé rocked the center with funky performances by R&B bad boys BBD (Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins & Ronnie DeVoe), Keith Sweat and Ginuwine.  When not being funked out by high energy performances, or sampling McCafé’s newest sweet treats, the King of fast foods’ guests enjoyed numerous educational, career development and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Personal kudos to the Burrell Engagement Marketing team for making my extraordinary experience under the golden arches an unforgettable one including the incredible media swag bag: Goldie Taylor (senior vice president); Tracy Anderson (account director); Alexea Davis (senior account executive); Iman Jefferson (media relations specialist); and Judith Jean-Michel (Burrell engagement marketing business manager).  A special press shout out to Jefferson for her impeccable “BTS” (behind the scenes) junket coordination.

McDonald’s was thrilled to return as a major sponsor of the festival.  “McDonald’s sponsorship of Essence Music Festival gives us an opportunity to showcase our continued commitment to supporting events that our customers enjoy,” said Rob Jackson.  “We are particularly excited to give festival attendees an opportunity to sample the newest products in our McCafé beverage line for a second consecutive year.”  (Photos by Soul Brother courtesy McDonald’s)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.