The first annual Honoring Unsung Fathers or HUF Awards as it has grown to be known, began in the backyard of Judge Mablean Ephriam's home 14 years ago. She selected all of the honorees, her friends and family prepared and served all of the food. She convinced some friends who had a small jazz ensemble to provide the entertainment. As the Judge says "it was just an opportunity for us to honor those men who were doing it right, and dispel the notion that all dads, particularly African American men were deadbeat dads".
Fast forward to this Father's Day and the HUF Awards has grown into a full-fledged celebrity brunch, honoring men from every walk of life who represented the very best of our community and what many African American families know today. Black men step up and take care of their families and are more involved and play an active part in the lives of their children than main stream media portrays our men or our community.
What inspired the judge to create the awards was not some fear or reality check that African American men were not doing what they were supposed to do. But, in fact as the Judge saw it, things were quite the opposite.
"When I started these awards, I was working as a family law attorney. There was a lot of scuttle butt by prosecutors and the DA's office who had begun cracking down on dead beat dads. I wanted to dispel the myth that all African American fathers were not taking care of their children. In fact it was the reverse. I was representing Black men who were seeking custody of their children. I had also seen that in my own life. I had a two parent household: I have 6 brothers and they all spent time with their children so I wanted to dispel this notion that African American males were deadbeat dads and I also wanted to honor those dads who were just always doing the right thing."
This year's honorees are Danny J. Bakewell, Jr. - Executive Editor of The Los Angeles Sentinel and Executive Vice President of The Bakewell Company and Aundrae Russell - Program Director of KJLH. Both men are deeply honored and humbled to be receiving this award from The Mablean Ephriam Foundation.
"Words cannot express how humbled I am to be receiving this recognition," said Bakewell, Jr.
"I take great pride not only in being a father but in the relationship that I have with all four of my children.
To realize that someone else from outside of our house thought enough of me to take notice in these relationships is truly an honor and I feel so very blessed."
The co-chair of this year's event is California State Senator Isadore Hall, III.
"I selected Senator Hall as a co-chair because each year I look for co-chairs who reflect and demonstrate the same commitment to family as our honorees and of our organization," Ephraim said.
"While Senator Hall does not have any children at this point in his life, I have seen firsthand how he has an entire village of nieces and nephews, mentees and direct and indirect children that he is involved with and making a different in their lives. Everyone calls him Uncle Izzy."
Famed comedienne Kym Whitley will once again serve as the mistress of ceremony. The celebrity presenters include Angela Consell of "The Young and The Restless", actress Marla Gibbs of "First Family", actor Wendell James of
"First Family", actress Renee Lawless of "The Haves and Have Nots" and actress Ion Overman of "Madea goes to Jail".
Entertainment will be provided by saxophonist Michael Phillips and Band and legendary gospel artist Dorinda Clark-Cole.
The brunch is one of the foundation's largest fundraisers. It provides funding that allows Ephraim and the foundation to provide services and resources to the community and provide financial support to college bound students throughout the year. The foundation also hosts job preparation and job training programs as well as career days where students can learn about opportunities in front of and behind the camera.
She promises that it will be a day of fun, food and entertainment for the entire family.
"We have comedy, we have jazz music and since it is going to be on Sunday and you might not be able to make it to church, we are also gonna bring the church to you," Ephraim explained.
"The Mablean Ephriam Foundation is doing wonderful things within the community. They host a number of mentoring events throughout the year and recently held a prom night glam squad event for the students of Jordan High School.
We brought in make-up artists, beauticians and barbers. We provided suits and prom dresses for a number of the students; it is but one of the things we do throughout the year to support the kids."
The event will take place at the Long Beach Hilton this Sunday, June 19, 2016 from 1-4pm. Tickets are still available, but there will be no tickets sold at the door. For more information please go to www.hufawards .com
"In society today there are a lot of different kinds of families and family dynamics but in the end I think that children are always going to be better served when they have fathers in their lives," Ephraim said.
"Children need, want and in most cases have strong fathers in their lives. This Sunday we will honor a few of them."