Originally posted February 7, 2023
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Photo Cred: John Colombo for the Post Gazette

The 27th Ronald H. Brown Leadership Awards dinner was held at the Westin Convention Center, Friday evening. Sold out at 330 guests, the event presented by the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh honored Leon Ford and Angela Reynolds with the Community Leadership Award.

“I am truly humbled and I mean that sincerely,” said Reynolds, CEO of the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh. “One, because of the legacy of Ron Brown. When you think of the other honorees and everything they have done for the community and their life of service, I am amazed to be a part of that group.

“This honor is not just about me, but it is because of so many people supporting me and helping me to get to this place to help others,” she noted.

Ford was 19 when he was shot five times by a Pittsburgh police officer in 2012 during a traffic stop relating to a case of mistaken identify. He was left paralyzed, but that did not stop him from giving back to the community. Ford is an activist, mental health ambassador and social advocate for positive change.

Saleem Ghubril was honored with the Civic Leadership Award. He founded the Pittsburgh Project, a community development organization, in 1985.

The inaugural Emerging Leadership Award was given to NA for Change, a coalition of North Allegheny School District students, alumni, parents, educators and community members working to stop racism and focus on equality and inclusion. Co-founder Jaime Martinez accepted the award on behalf of the organization.

Also making this a special night was Urban League president Carlos T. Carter (with wife Marcia ), who sang the Black National Anthem. He admitted to being a little nervous.

“I’m a singer, but this mission is important and I am very thankful that people invest in us and we have community support,” he explained.

Agreeing were event chairs Demeatria Boccella and Annie Hanna Cestra (with husband Denny).

“It is an honor to be the co-chair of this event and I am just really excited about all the great work they are doing within our community,” Boccella said.

“Tonight is special because all the people here are of good will and that is what makes Pittsburgh a special place,” said Cestra, who has been associated with the Urban League for 15 years.

The Bill Henry Band entertained in the foyer during cocktails and after dessert.

Among the guests enjoying the music and the company were Lt. Gov. Austin Davis and Blayre Holmes Davis, board chair Andrea Clark Smith with her husband Demetrius Smith, Sally Wiggin, Esther Bush, Jackie Dixon and NA for Change members Avery Neely, Elise Britton and Sam Podnar.