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Don Lemon to Host the 2023 Native Son Awards, "Celebrating Black Queer Excellence"

Entertainment News

via Don Lemon (Instagram)

In celebration of Pride Month, Native Son - the leading organization dedicated to championing and empowering Black gay and queer men – will host its 2023 Native Son Awards.


Now in its seventh year, the organization’s signature event highlighting the achievements of Black gay and queer men who are leaders in their respective industries will honor a diverse group of change agents, mavericks and trailblazers across areas of business, faith-based work, healthcare, film, theater and other creative fields.

Created by renowned media guru, activist and Native Son founder Emil Wilbekin, the elegant dinner and awards ceremony will also serve as a fundraiser to support Native Son’s programs and initiatives throughout the year and will be held at the IAC Building (555 W. 18th St) on Friday, June 16 at 7 p.m.


In a full circle moment, this year’s Native Son Awards will be hosted by renowned journalist and anchor Don Lemon who was part of the inaugural class of recipients in the event’s very first year.

The 2023 honorees include: Chairman and CEO of the Jasco Group, AIG Board member and Obama administration appointee James Cole Jr.; Creator and EP of the Emmy-nominated series “The Ms. Pat Show” and a 2023 Tony nominee for his much-heralded play “Ain’t No Mo” playwright Jordan E. Cooper – who is also the youngest Black American playwright in Broadway history; versatile award-winning actor, dancer and choreographer and star of Katori Hall’s “P-Valley” Nicco Annan; and celebrated filmmaker, storyteller, and visionary Patrik-Ian Polk who created the ground-breaking, first-of-its-kind Black gay TV series, “Noah’s Arc.”


In addition, Native Son will also honor and spotlight three power couples making moves in business together including celebrity stylist Jason Bolden and his husband interior designer Adair Curtis – leaders of their successful interior design and product design business, JSN Studio, as well as stars of the hit Netflix series “Styling Hollywood;” dynamic filmmaking duo writer and director Elegance Bratton and his life partner producer and costume designer Chester Algernal Gordon who co-run the production company Freedom Principle behind Bratton’s critically-acclaimed film “The Inspection;” and the founders of the revolutionary Vision Church & Cathedral of Atlanta Bishop Oliver Clyde Allen, III and his husband Rashad Burgess who is also VP of Advancing Health and Black Equity at Gilead Sciences.

The evening will kick off with the red carpet and cocktail pre-reception followed by dinner and the awards presentation. DJ Bill Coleman will provide the music for the official after-party. A longstanding advocate for LGBTQ issues, Wilbekin is committed to illustrating greater and more diverse representations of Black, gay men in America through his events.

Native Son Founder Emil Wilbekin
“For this year’s Awards, we really wanted to shine a light on those who are using their platforms to bring visibility to all the beautiful ways in which Black, queer men show up in the world," said Native Son founder Emil Wilbekin in a statement.

He continued, "Representation is key and this group of innovators and trailblazers have each made substantial impact in their respective areas and industries from business and finance to making history on Broadway stages and in film and television to creating safe spaces for the LGTBQ+ community in sacred places of worship.”


“In addition to focusing on individual achievements, we also wanted to showcase what is possible when we move in unity as we see evidenced with our power couples who are creating innovative new works together or building business and loving families. With this event, we always hope to harness the collective power of Black gay/queer men to ensure that our voices and lived experiences are elevated and amplified in all of the communities in which we exist.”

Native Son will once again partner with Bloomingdale’s for a Native Son Capsule Collection. The limited-edition shirts series will include one design created by the CFDA Award-winning brand Theophillio and four additional styles designed by Native Son in collaboration with Kid Dangerous. This year marks the fourth year for the Bloomingdale’s collaboration and will include a special in-store event at the flagship store open to the public on Wednesday, June 14 with a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the T-shirts benefitting Native Son.


The Native Son Awards are part of a larger, grassroots, multifaceted initiative throughout the year, which includes empowerment workshops and talks, networking events, influencer dinners—all with the mission of connecting those within the often under- and/or misrepresented community of Black gay men.


The 2023 Native Son Gala Co-Chairs are Emil Wilbekin and Nathan Hale Williams. The Gala Host Committee includes: Wade Davis, Nathan Hale Williams, Charlie Lewis, Jr., Alvin McCray, Kentay Miller, Darnell L. Moore, Dr. Nii-Quartelai Quartey, D’Angelo Thompson, Taj Tsonga, Dennis Williams, Raymond Warren, and Richard Fowler.


The Native Son Awards 2023 is presented by Cadillac and Gilead Sciences, with additional support provided by Amazon, Amazon Music, Morgan Stanley and Mind Games.


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