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Radio Legend Tom Joyner Honored at Avery Research Center Affair
9/30/2015 4:51:14 PM

Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture’s director Dr. Patricia Williams Lesanne and radio legend Tom Joyner pose next to his Septima P. Clark Excellence in Black Education Award on Saturday night at the Avery Research Center. Photo: Hakim Abdul-Ali

Henrietta Snipe presents Tom Joyner with a Fanner Basket gift after receiving his award at the Avery Research Center. Photo: Hakim Abdul-Ali
By Hakim Abdul-Ali

The College of Charleston's Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture held a marvelous fundraiser reception gala at its 125 Bull Street location on this past Saturday, September 26, 2015. Its purpose was to highlight its fundraising activities and to celebrate the impact of the research center's lasting importance in the community, along with presenting its inaugural education award.

The program spotlighted noted and nationally recognized radio legend Tom Joyner of the nationally syndicated "The Tom Joyner Morning Show" as its featured guest speaker. He was also awarded Avery's initial Septima P. Clark Excellence in Black Education Award, named for the late South Carolina civil rights activist.

Known as a generous philanthropist and a committed advocate for the cause of supporting the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Mr. Joyner, a native of Tuskegee, Alabama, emphasized the importance of continually supporting these institutions, especially in today's financially strapped arenas. In his speech, he saluted the current and former staffs, educators, politicians, Avery Normal Institute alumni and others who made and make the Avery Research Center a needed reality.

Though his speech was somewhat brief, "the original fly jock of radio" and "the hardest working man in radio," as he is lovingly known and revered by millions, made it poignantly clear that African-Americans must support their colleges and universities in order to prepare young Blacks for the employment endeavors ahead of them. He emphasized, in no uncertain wishful terms, that these young people "must" be qualified in order to compete successfully for the elite positions in competitive job markets ahead, regardless of their academic interests.

The program served as an important overview and reminder because the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture was celebrating its 30th anniversary of existence, as it also was commemorating the 150th anniversary of the hallmark founding of the Avery Normal Institute, an institution established in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina, solely for the education of African-Americans.

Avery Normal Institute was officially closed in 1954. Avery Research Center, as an arm of the College of Charleston, opened in 1985, situated in the former Avery Normal Institute's location.

Last Saturday's event was attended by a plethora of local dignitaries, eminent business folk, college administrators, former Avery Normal Institute alumni, politicians, professionals and other select members of the Charleston community. The affair was sponsored by Avery Research Center, corporate sponsors Denny's and SunTrust Bank, among other

The program showcased Avery Research Center's fundraising efforts and ultimate goal of reaching $150,000 for the center. Dr. Patricia Williams Lessane, Avery Research Center's vibrant current director, in her closing comments after Mr. Joyner's speech, made it known that the center was about $30,000 short of its targeted goal. At hearing this, Mr. Joyner, unassumingly stepped up to the plate and enthusiastically donated $5,000 towards reaching the goal.

That brought on more responses from others in attendance in pledging and donating additional thousands more to the fundraising efforts. All this was happening in a totally festival atmosphere of gaiety, celebration and communication.

The event was sealed with a soulful, let your hair down, take your shoes off, foot stomping dynamic performance by the inimitable vocalist Ann Caldwell and the Eastport Band, comprising Jeffery Holt, a truly "baaad" brother on bass guitar, thumping drummer Leon Staggers and the scintillating Larry Ford on synthesized piano.

These awesome local musicians "rocked" the joint as the audience briskly intermingled, danced and simply enjoyed themselves in the finale to a wonderful evening.


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