The Atlanta Business League (ABL) continued its tradition of honoring African-American men with the Men of Influence and Legends Hall of Fame awards. Last month, hundreds gathered at the Hyatt Regency to celebrate the 12 men who demonstrated their commitment to the citizenry of the capital city.
Leona Barr-Davenport, President and CEO of the ABL say they award this honor because they felt that so many men doing great things in the city are going unnoticed.
“We want to make sure that young people – people in the community – and other business leaders around metro Atlanta know that they exist,” Davenport said. “We want to make sure that we call their names and let them know we see them.”
For many years, the ABL has recognized business owners, professionals and community and civic leaders like the ones they selected for the Men of Influence award.
Those included Imara Canady the National Director for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and chair of the Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition (BLACC), Wilburn Milhouse, Chairman and CEO of Milhouse Engineering and Construction, and Michael Ross, President and CEO of MHR International.
“I think that each of us goes on stage because none of us do the work for the recognition; we do it for the impact,” said Jay Bailey, President and CEO of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (RICE).
Bailey firmly believes that change does not only happen from large programs and organizations but also from incremental change.
“Be a good dad, be a good coach, be a good teacher, whatever it is, how do you impact the three feet around you,” Bailey said. “Whatever you’re doing, there are people who have an influence — award or not — that can individually change one person’s life.”
The ABL also presented its newest honoree to their Legends Hall of Fame. This honor goes to Black men who are pioneers in their professions and have paved the way for others to follow. This year’s award was presented to former NFL Running Back and philanthropist Warrick Dunn.
When he played for the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, he founded the Warrick Dunn Charities, inspired by his mother’s dream of being a homeowner. The charity improves lives through innovative programming and has supported almost 200 single-parent families becoming first-time homeowners nationwide.
“I am in a room of great businessmen, Black-owned companies. It says a lot that they look at me as a guy who has made an impact in the community, which I’m so thankful for but it’s great to have that support,” Dunn said.
As someone who battles with depression, Dunn is an advocate for mental health and the importance of going to counseling. In 2020, he launched his second nonprofit, WD Communities, which supports families from the beginning to end of purchasing affordable or transitional housing and provides support services, including financial literacy, health and wellness, educational attainment and entrepreneurship and workforce development.
“Being recognized by the ABL for what we’re doing and hopefully with great partnerships, we can grow, expand, and help more people. That’s what it’s about,” Dunn said.