As part of Juneteenth weekend, the Harlem Festival of Culture (HFC) hosted the 2nd Annual Black Independence Awards (BIA) on June 17 at Harlem Parish.

HFC designed the Awards to spotlight the leaders, entrepreneurs, artists and creators whose contributions have proven to be cultural, social and economic drivers for the Harlem community.

BIA precedes the inaugural Harlem Festival of Culture taking place July 28 to 30.

Helmed by award-winning journalist and host Selena Hill, BIA featured several awards categories highlighting different areas of focus. This year’s Special Awards recipients include: hip hop legend, cultural icon and entrepreneur Cam’ron (The Legacy Leader Award); Social Justice Leader, Author and Movement Strategist Tamika Mallory (The Champion Award) and the leadership team behind the signature annual celebration of the community – Harlem Week (The Vanguard Award). 

Contributed photos

Rachel Noerdlinger
Yvonne McNair and Cam'ron
Sharon Mallory and Tamika Mallory
Sherifa Gayle

In addition to the Special Awards honorees, winners were selected across six additional   categories. Nominees in these categories spanned across industries and areas of practice to recognize individuals, businesses and leaders who are making an invaluable impact in the Harlem community and who are not always recognized for their contributions.

The Flex Your Style Award Presented by Shark Beauty: Felicia Michelle Strong

Social Impact Award: Rachel Noerdlinger

Cultural Heritage Award: Lee Lee’s Baked Goods 

Maverick Award: Harlem Hops

Visionary Award: Denny Moe’s

Entrepreneurial Award: Black N Ugly

Prior to presenting the Entrepreneurial Award, President & CEO, National Urban League Marc Morial spoke to the attendees about the renowned organization’s historic plans to remain in New York City with one of the largest and most significant building projects in Harlem in 50 years Originally founded in Harlem, NUL’s The Urban League Empowerment Center,  located on 125th Street Between Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard and Lenox Avenue - will include headquarters, New York’s first civil rights museum and the National Urban League Conference Center for Race, Equity and Justice. Morial also detailed how integral it was for NUL to ensure that affordable housing was a key piece of the project.

Harlem Festival of Culture Co-Founder Yvonne McNair, who presented the Award to Cam'ron, first gave the audience a preview of what people can expect at the upcoming Festival which will feature a diverse roster of artists including FERG, Teyana Taylor, Cam'ron, Wyclef Jean, Muni Long, Bell Biv DeVoe and many more.

Award-winning violinist Mapy AKA The Violin Queen had attendees on their feet a special surprise musical tribute to Cam’ron performing some of his greatest hits.

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