This past Tuesday evening, Debra L. Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks, hosted an invitation-only fundraising reception for the Stay Strong Foundation’s (SSF) “Used 2 Be Me…Reinvent Yourself” campaign series.
Approximately 100 guests attended the event, including the Rev. Al Sharpton; Deputy Secretary of Education Anthony Miller; D.C. Council Member At-Large Vincent Orange; the Hon. Thomas Motley; and Dr. Sharon Malone, wife of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The event raised $125,000 for SSF’s national grassroots movement, “Used 2 Be Me,” including a gift of $100,000 from John Scully and Regina Kulik Scully on behalf of the Phoebe Snow Foundation.
Lee, along with Sharpton, a long-time SSF supporter, spoke movingly throughout the evening about the impact of the work of co-founders Terrie M. Williams and Xavier Artis in the community for over a decade.
Lee, who hosted the fundraiser at her private residence and donated all of the expenses for the event, has also supported SSF’s collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Ad Council by running its PSA campaign, entitled, “Share Ourselves: Healing Starts With Us,” across BET’s sister network CENTRIC.
At the event, Lee announced that mental health is a focus of CENTRIC and that it is exploring how the brand can address the ongoing mental health crisis in the Black community. BET’s newest sitcom “Reed Between the Lines,” which stars Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcolm-Jamal Warner, features Ross as a psychotherapist and tackles various mental health issues in each episode.
Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and host of “PoliticsNation” on MSNBC, shared his story of how, with encouragement from Williams, he began to examine the impact on his life of being abandoned by his biological father, particularly in his decision not to attend his high school graduation, and how his relationship with his mentor and father figure, the late James Brown, helped heal much of that loss.
However, it wasn’t until Sharpton was able to take his father, now in his 80s, to an honorary doctorate degree ceremony at Bethune Cookman University recently that he was able to finally be at peace with their relationship.
Said Sharpton, “No matter how far we go in our lives, we all need our mental health. Being in pain isn’t your fault. It is your fault if you don’t do anything about it.”
Artis, co-founder of SSF and creative philanthropist, debuted the “Used 2 Be Me” promotional video and introduced rapper/activist Dana Dane as a spokesperson for the movement.