Delivering the keynote address will be Vincent Ivan Phipps, founder and CEO of Communication VIP, a Chattanooga-based company specializing in leadership and communications training.
Also taking the spotlight will be a group of 46 mentees and college students who are benefiting directly from the organization’s ongoing work and support, according to Ronald Arnold, 100 BMBC president. The popular community fundraising event, whose proceeds support the group’s scholarship program and organizational mission, will be held in the Deacon Jones Dining Hall on the Lee University campus from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
“[Attending the banquet] is good for the children because it shows them the public is interested in their future,” Arnold said. “This is all for our children. And, those who attend the banquet will get to hear a vibrant and electric speaker.”
Arnold praised the leadership of Phipps, and his willingness to get directly involved in the lives of Cleveland and Bradley County children. He described the speaker as a shining star in business and one who is genuine in helping others to understand their potential as leaders of the present and future.
“Vincent combines high energy, expert knowledge and humor to amplify messages of professional and personal empowerment,” Arnold stressed. “We’re excited to host his visit to Cleveland and we know his message will be relevant to a wide and diverse audience.”
Although the coming banquet is hosted by 100 BMBC, its attendees and celebrants include people of many colors and cultures. Each year, the crowd traditionally includes local government leaders and a variety of representatives from area schools, colleges, nonprofit organizations, businesses, banks and major corporations. Many are scholarship sponsors.
“One of the strengths of working with this organization is you get to help the youth, the children ... that’s our mission,” Arnold stressed. “My whole reason for joining in 2005 was because I wanted to mentor and to help to stop so many kids from going to the jailhouse. Too many kids were going. It was a revolving door.”
Arnold’s open invitation to the community — black and white residents alike, among other cultures, and in any age group — is for anyone with a shared interest in their children’s future to attend the festive celebration.
The program will include a recognition of mentees and other students aided by 100 BMBC, addresses by special guests, presentations to the organization’s sponsors, a professionally catered meal, entertainment and the keynote by Phipps.
Arnold described the speaker as a talented entrepreneur who “... has a passion for improving leaders.” He does so through 18 years of professional speaking and training. Phipps brings to the table a master’s degree in leadership and management. He is the author of four books, including “Talk Tips” and “Mastering the Art of Success!”
The annual banquet not only serves to reflect on successes from the past year, but to identify goals for the coming year and beyond. Also, it is a fundraiser whose proceeds keep the scholarships and mentor programming alive.
As a fundraiser, the banquet is always looking to partner with existing and new corporate sponsors. Currently, the George R. Johnson Foundation serves as the organization’s only Platinum Sponsor. A Platinum Sponsor provides $15,000 or more in scholarship and mentoring contributions.
Other sponsorship levels include Gold, from $10,000 to $14,999; Silver, $5,000 to $9,999; and Bronze, from $2,000 to $4,999.
As of two years ago, 100 BMBC scholarships had exceeded $750,000, Arnold reported.
The scholarship program assists high school graduates who are entering college and the mentoring initiative works with children — boys and girls — between the ages of 11 and 13.
Although eligibility in the scholarship and mentoring programs is based on grade point average, other criteria are involved.
“Community service hours have to be fulfilled,” Arnold said. “They (students) can’t be involved in anything bad ... no alcohol, no cigarettes, no gangs. They must stay away from all that.”
He added, “These kids work for this scholarship money; they earn it. That’s why we need the community to step up by giving more, if at all possible. These are bad financial times on everyone, but those who can help, we ask them to help.”
Arnold pointed to one mentoring program that is proving especially successful.
“We go to Cleveland Middle School every Friday morning,” he said. “We have mentoring sessions over there every Friday morning. We have beautiful cooperation from the Cleveland Middle School staff.”
Arnold said the organization would favor expanding its mentoring program to other schools, “... but right now, we just don’t have the folks.”
He credited the work of Tony Blair Jr., vice president and Mentoring Chair who is leading the group’s tutelage program.
Reflecting on the 100 BMBC’s origin, Arnold said the group’s first organizational session in Bradley County was held Nov. 13, 1993, at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. In May 1994, the organization received its charter as 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc.
He traced the roots of the national group to 1963. In the height of the Civil Rights era, an organization called 100 Black Men of Action was formed in New York City. The purpose, Arnold explained, was to inspire African-American youngsters and teens by exposing them to the success of young black adults.
“That was in 1963,” he noted. “The national organization came in 1986; it became 100 Black Men of America Inc.”
Ticket price for the 100 BMBC Scholarship and Mentoring Banquet is $60 each. Tickets may be purchased through any 100 BMBC member or at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce at 423-472-6587.
For additional information about the March 9 gala, contact Arnold at 423-479-2126.