Paying It Forward in the 'Hood: Steve Harvey's 9th Annual Hoodie Awards

The Hoodie Awards celebrates the best of the 'hood -- ordinary folk doing extraordinary things. So instead of A-list stars running away with all the awards, every day people get their time in the spotlight.
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Author, publisher, and activist Haki Madhubuti was quoted as saying, "No one can do everything, but if everyone does something, then everything will get done." It is in this spirit of collective work and responsibility that a unique awards show has operated for nearly a decade, celebrating community service and excellence in the 'hood.

For six years I have attended the Hoodie Awards, one of the most inspiring and star-studded awards events in the country. Though the Hoodies has all the trappings of your typical awards show, complete with celebrities, fans, scripted and unscripted acceptance speeches, it is the Hoodies' uniqueness, including a blue carpet entrance for honorees that allows it to reserve a special place in my heart.

I have had my share of wonderful experiences at several well known award shows. But the Hoodie Awards stands head and shoulders above the rest. For, as its name alludes, the Hoodie Awards celebrates the best of the 'hood -- ordinary folk doing extraordinary things. So instead of A-list stars running away with all the awards, every day people get their time in the spotlight.

"There is no celebrity without a fan," said Harvey. "We stand on the shoulders of our fans. The celebrity is able to do what he does because of their support. The nominees are the true heroes here. The celebrities that attend the Hoodies do so because ordinary people have lifted them up and they want to give back. They are not here for the cameras."

On August 13, 2011, comedian, radio personality, best-selling author, Family Feud television host and philanthropist Steve Harvey hosted another sold-out year of the 9th Annual Ford Hoodie Awards at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV. Celebrities including Anthony Hamilton, Antonia "Toya" Carter Wright, Carla Ferrell (Steve Harvey Morning Show), Christopher Massey, Ed Gordon, George Wallace, Hill Harper, Jill Scott, Kem, Kevin Hart, Kirk Franklin, Kyle Massey, Lavell Crawford, Marvin Sapp, Nephew Tommy (Steve Harvey Morning Show), Sheryl Underwood, Shirley Strawberry (Steve Harvey Morning Show), Sommore, Tamara Tunie, Terrence J, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Toccara, Tye Tribbett and others joined Harvey and presenting sponsor, Ford, to entertain and honor the everyday men and women who impact and uplift their communities with service and excellence.

At this awards show, the stars gladly take a back seat so that the real celebrities on this night are women and men who are doing it up big in the 'hood, whether they are serving up tangy barbecue, soul-stirring sermons or educational inspiration. It is this every day, accessible excellence that attracts so many faithful Hoodie Awards attendees.

Jimmy Evans of San Diego attended the 9th Annual Hoodie Awards for the first time this year. Evans is glad he gave the Hoodies a chance after his initial hesitations. "When I first heard about the Hoodies I thought it was some kind of pimp award," recalled Evans. "But after it was explained to me as something positive, recognizing people in the neighborhood, I was all for supporting it. The fact that Steve Harvey was involved closed the deal for me."

Steve Harvey, grew up in the 'hoods of Welch, West Virginia and Cleveland, Ohio. Steve got emotional as he expressed his gratitude and thanks to all that have been so supportive of the Hoodie Awards and the people in the their local community making a difference.

As host of the awards show, Steve's charm and quick wit brought us all through bouts of uncontrollable laughter as well as moments that tugged at our hearts. Steve shared with the audience that he is a living example of how you can come from the hood and make something out of your self. "I worked on the assembly line at Ford Motor Company, assembling spark plugs and other parts, but today, Ford Motor Company is the title sponsor of the Hoodie Awards that Rushion McDonald and I created."

Harvey's and McDonald's leadership and vision in this endeavor have sparked a growing national movement of individuals and organizations recognizing the business excellence and service greatness provided by everyday people. McDonald, the executive producer of the Hoodie Awards, and Harvey are proud of their role in facilitating national recognition on local difference makers who rarely receive such attention.

Throughout the years I've found that the Hoodie Awards have been consistent in making it clear that it is the people, the award winners, nominees and those who support them, who are taking personal responsibility to "lay their buckets down where they are," to paraphrase historic icon Booker T. Washington, and make a world of difference.

Instead of awards for Best Supporting Actress or Best R&B Video, the Hoodies offers such categories as Best High School, Best High School Teacher, Best Church, Best Church Choir, Best Soul Food, Best Barbecue , Best Fried Chicken, Best Car Wash/Detail Shop, Best Beauty Salon, Best Nail Salon, and Best Barber Shop -- celebrating the awesome in the everyday. And even more to the point of service, the Hoodies evening culminates with the most anticipated award -- Best Community Leader.

This year's recipient, Tony Lewis Jr., is a Job Developer/Vocational Development Specialist by occupation, but a community change agent by calling. A community activist, ex-offender counselor, outreach worker and advocate for children with incarcerated parents, Lewis has dedicated his life to repairing the damage his father and other family members did to his beloved nation's capital. In 2010, Lewis founded Sons of Life, an outreach organization that provides social and educational programming for children with incarcerated parents.

The Hoodie Award winners and nominees are glowing examples of individuals that choose to make the most of their 86400 seconds living lives of purpose making a difference through their generosity, faith, courage and commitment.

Mark Nettles, along with his wife and a group of friends, traveled from Tampa to attend, making the Vegas trip and the Hoodies their vacation.

"I'm having so much fun that I can't keep up with myself. The events are outstanding, and the meaning behind it all is great," said Nettles.

Inspired by the annual Hoodie Awards and the activities surrounding the event, including workshops and seminars, Sandra Corley wrote a play about her life entitled Sweet Potato Pie that premieres in her hometown of Chicago this October. "This event has inspired me even more to make what I'm doing in Chicago a success," shared Corley.

"I was so hyped that Steve Harvey is bringing all of these people together," said T. Thomas of Detroit. "It's good, clean fun, family-oriented, and all about community-building and networking. It is just great to get out here every year and be a part of something special."

Thomas was elated when she found out that Detroit's Cass Technical High School received the 2011 Hoodie for Best High School, further highlighting the Hoodies' theme of uplifting our community.

Detroit's public school system has long been regarded as one of the worst in the nation, producing an abysmal low graduation rate. Yet in the middle of the Motown madness, Cass Tech as it's called in the 'hood, is considered a world class, student-focused learning institution. It is a place where teachers, parents, community and businesses are instrumental in empowering its students to become critical thinkers, prepared to graduate, pursue a college degree and become productive citizens.

The Hoodies also unapologetically celebrates the Best Church annually. This year's winner, First Baptist Church of Glenarden, is a two-time nominee for the award. The church is known for not only equipping people to overcome life's challenges through God's word, but working to make sure a person's basic needs are being met as well, allowing their congregation to make an impact beyond the church walls, and throughout the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area.

At a time when the public is being suffocated by stories about hyper-egoed, self-indulgent celebrities devoid of any discernable talent, the Hoodie Awards provide a welcomed relief with stars celebrating the excellence of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their own communities. It's a story that writes itself.

I applaud Steve for his passionate community service, which has garnered a cult following of faithful Hoodie Award supporters. Harvey has consciously dedicated himself to being of service to others and he takes great pride in celebrating others who live lives of purpose serving a greater good.

Whether the big boy media outlets attend or not, I know where I will be next year about this time -- at the Hoodies, making the most of my 86400 seconds, by celebrating those that have dropped their buckets were they are to make a positive difference in their community, ultimately impacting the world.


Best Fried Chicken Carey's Cuisine (Washington, DC)

Best Nail Salon Salon Couture (Washington, DC)

Best High School Teacher Glendora Franklin (Washington, DC)

Best Car Wash / Detail Showroom Shine (St. Louis, MO)

Best Church Choir Family Worship and Praise Center(Tallahassee, FL)

Best Soul Food Place Croaker's Spot, The Soul of Seafood (Richmond, VA)

Best Barbershop Moon's Barbershop (Washington, DC)

Best Beauty Salon Salon Couture (Washington, DC)

Best High School Cass Technical School (Detroit, MI)

Best Barbecue This is It BBQ & Seafood (Atlanta, GA)

Best Church First Baptist Church of Glenarden (Washington, DC)

Best Community Leader Tony Lewis Jr. (Washington, DC)

Lavaille Lavette is an author, educator, inspirational speaker with time management expertise, a former special advisor to the U. S. Secretary of Education, (2001 -2005) and an advocate for various charitable causes. Lavaille has combined two of her passions with the creation of the 86400 Seconds Movement and Tour, "Making a Difference, Being The Difference." ( The movement is the instigator for a renewed life of intention and relevance. Her new book, "86400, Manage Your Purpose to Make Every Second of Each Day Count," offers guidance and examples on how to live every second of each day purposefully and with renewed life.

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