MIAMI — The Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce has established a reputation for honoring excellence at its annual fundraising gala. This year’s honorees are no exception. In their own unique way, Tracy Wilson-Mourning, H. T. Smith and Eduardo Padron each contribute to the social and economic fabric of Miami-Dade County.
William “Bill” Diggs, CEO of the chamber, said the Saturday, Dec. 6 gala, titled “Diving into an Ocean of Opportunities,” is an opportunity for the black business community to reflect on the previous year.
The event, which will take place at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom in downtown Miami, will include comedian Huggy Lowdown from the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Radio personality Michael Baisden will also be on hand to introduce Smith, the event’s main honoree.
Of Wilson-Mourning, Smith and Padron, Diggs said, “All three have been strong supporters of the chamber in their own right.”
In addition to providing the chamber with office space, Diggs said, Padron has championed a partnership between Miami Dade College, its Entrepreneurial Center and the chamber that provides resources and support for Miami-Dade’s black business community.
Diggs is also chairman of Alonzo Mourning Charities, a position that has allowed him to observe Wilson-Mourning as she has grown into a philanthropist and concerned business woman.
“She is one of the few selfless heroines in our community who has tried to change the paradigm of how young black girls are being raised,” he said.
Diggs said Wilson-Mourning has also been instrumental in the success of the chamber’s Women’s Business Council.
In honoring H. T. Smith with its Lifetime Achievement Award, MDC is acknowledging what many know to be true about the prominent attorney – he has dedicated his lifetime to achieving economic and social parity for his community.
The self-proclaimed social engineer is best known for his role in the tourism boycott that stemmed from city and county officials’ snubbing of former South African President Nelson Mandela when he visited South Florida in 1990. The economic protest was a huge success, paling only in significance to the establishment of the NFL YET Center in Liberty City, according to Smith.
The victory of the boycott actually led to the creation of the center, a project that Smith and fellow attorneys Hank Adorno and Dean Colson raised funds for and donated to Miami-Dade County to operate and maintain.
“When the boycott was ending in 1993, the Super Bowl was coming in 1995,” Smith said. Concerned that the successful protest – which lasted for 1,000 days and caused the tourism industry to lose $100 million – might spill over to the annual sports championship, Smith said, NFL officials approached him to find out what he wanted.
His reply explains why he’s being honored, “I don’t want anything for me; I want something for my community,” he told them. That “something for his community” is located in Liberty City and serves 400 youth daily, using sports as a lure, and academics as the great equalizer.
“Basically we try to find a passion for kids, whatever it is, find your passion and put your heart into and understand that you are somebody, that you can be successful and to teach discipline. ‘No sir, yes ma’am.’ Pull your pants up, look people in the eyes,” the father of three adult daughters said.
“H. T. as author of the boycott, helped people to understand the power of black business and black people in this community,” Diggs said.
Citizen of the Year Award honoree Tracy Wilson-Mourning sees herself in the young ladies served by her six-year old mentoring program, Honey Shine. The Howard University graduate created the program after realizing that mentoring is her “calling.”
Wilson-Mourning spent a portion of her childhood in the Goulds area of South Florida, and views her return in 1995, when her husband Alonzo Mourning signed with the Miami Heat, as a full-circle opportunity.
With a strong spiritual foundation, Honey Shine offers the young ladies, and the adult women who mentor them, an opportunity to discover their inner greatness through a variety of approaches.
The program offers the 150 registered “Honey Bugs” an opportunity to attend two workshops each month and attendance at Camp Honey Shine, a day camp offered during the summer.
Keeping a written record of one’s daily experiences is an integral part of anyone’s growth, Wilson-Mourning contends, and so the practice is one that was introduced to the Honey Bugs.
“It’s so important to our development. Everyone goes through tough times in life; we all make not such good decisions.”
She said keeping a journal allows the girls to examine their growth and deepen their connection to God.
“I look at journaling as that communion time, that time with God. That conversation with God,” she explained.
Wilson-Mourning said some sponsors declined to support the program because of its spirituality, but she remained adamant about keeping it as the foundation.
“I can’t separate the two. This program is because of God,” Wilson-Mourning said.
Distinguished Service Award honoree Eduardo J. Padron has fashioned Miami Dade College into a nationally recognized institution. Padron served as the president of MDC’s Wolfson campus for 15 years before he was elevated to lead MDC, which has an annual budget of more than $500 million, 7,500 employees, and 168,000 students attending its six campuses.
Padron, whom People en Español magazine recognized as one of the country’s most influential Hispanics in 2007, said the honor from the Chamber is really an honor for the college. He attributes the school’s success to its accessibility to all segments of the South Florida community.
“What this college represents is an open-door opportunity,’’ he said. “Here people come regardless of income level, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of race, regardless of anything.”
Padron, 63, who has called Miami home since his arrival from Cuba at age 15, said the school’s diversity is his greatest accomplishment.
Said Padron: “I think everyone in this community can see themselves as a part of this great institution. We made education available to everyone.”
Photo: H.T. Smith
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce Annual Fundraising Gala
WHERE: Hyatt Regency Downtown Miami
WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 6 at 6 p.m.
COST: $150 per person; Corporate tables $1,500
CONTACT: 305-751-8648 or visit www.m-dcc.org