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Updated: Aug 26, 2023

The New York New York Urban League, one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations dedicated to the empowerment of New York’s BIPOC communities through economic empowerment, career development, job training, education, mentorship and health advocacy, celebrated Black History Month 2023 with a stellar gathering at the 2023 Champions of Diversity Awards and Symposium. The annual event, held at the iconic Plaza Hotel, was hosted by NYUL President and CEO Arva Rice, emceed by WNBC-TV anchor David Ushery and chaired by Helen C. Shelton, NYUL Board Member and Global Chief Diversity Officer at FINN Partners. Rev. Jacques A. DeGraff offered the Invocation, as some 250 leaders from across New York’s business and civic sectors gathered to exchange ideas on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion and to celebrate those who are making a tangible impact. The event raised more than $300,000 in support of NYUL’s community empowerment programs. A major highlight of the event was the Awards Luncheon honoring people and organizations leading the charge with standard-bearing initiatives that are changing the face of their respective industries.

2023 Champions Honorees include: Linda G. Levy, President of The Fragrance Foundation, named the first-ever Catalyst Award Honoree in recognition of her leadership in advancing DEI in the multi-billion-dollar fragrance industry; Kim Davis, Senior Executive Vice President of the National Hockey League awarded the Leadership Award; HR&A Advisors were recognized as Champion in Recruitment, Retention and Belonging; Clarissa Moses-Washington, Manager of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion of JetBlue Airways received the Rising Star Champion Award; and, Kenneth Ebie, Executive Director, Black Entrepreneurs NYC was named Equity & Inclusion Ambassador.

“For over 100 years, the New York Urban League has led the way in the education, employment, and empowerment of underserved African Americans across the five boroughs of New York City,” said Arva R. Rice. “The 2023 Champions class represents a group of leaders whose dedication to improving diversity, equity and inclusion in their respective industries and in service to BIPOC communities is truly unparalleled, setting the pace for others to follow,” said Arva R. Rice.

Helen C. Shelton, “FINN Partners is a proud supporter and collaborator of the New York Urban League. Driving diversity, equity and inclusion in the corporate landscape is inherent to our respective missions. We salute our 2023 Champions and thank all involved in making this event a movement towards impactful change.”

NYUL’s Champions 2023 began with a networking breakfast and series of symposia addressing topics such as Leading While Black and Brown, What’s Next? Emerging Trends in DEI, and an inside look at NYUL’s innovative Diversity Lab: D+I Lab Uncovered. Panelists represented a range of industries and sectors, and included: Chris Collins, founder of the eponymous fragrance brand World of Chris Collins; Lori Ferguson, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey; Careshia Moore, Usher’s New Look, the global nonprofit youth development organization; Cecilia Nelson-Hurt, Heidrick & Struggles; Kathryn Wylde, Partnership For New York City; Sharon Foretia, BlackRock; Sharné C. Jackson, The Fragrance Foundation; Chris Metzler, National Urban League; Corey Smith, LVMH; Sandra Garcia, New York Urban League; Sharon Barnes-Waters, Audacy; James McDonald, AvalonBay Communities; and, George Rodriguez, Fidelis Care.

The stellar line-up of panels was followed by a special performance from the Broadway smash hit, MJ The Musical. The morning continued with a reception that preceded a special Fireside Chat with Arva Rice and MSNBC President, Rashida Jones. NYUL Board Chairman and Catalyst Partners Managing Director Ward Corbett rounded out the event with closing remarks.

Generous sponsors of 2023 Champions include Catalyst Champion Sponsor, The Fragrance Foundation; Diversity Champion Sponsors FINN Partners, NHL, Publicis Group, White & Case; and, Equity Champion Sponsors BlackRock, Bloomin’ Brands Inc., jetBlue, and L’Oreal. The Award Jury included: NYUL’s Board Chairman and Catalyst Partners' Managing Director, Ward Corbett.

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