Sydney Green, Xavier University alumna and Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Scholarship recipient, providing scholar remarks. (302669)
Credit: Image courtesy UNCF

On Thursday, March 4, UNCF (United Negro College Fund) asked friends and supporters to come together and virtually attend one of its five “A Mind Is…” Galas around the country. In New York, more than 350 guests participated in the online celebration to help local students in need get to and through college at some of the nation’s most important resources for students of color—historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Each year, UNCF New York presents its “A Mind Is…” Gala to help students realize their dreams of a college education via HBCUs and many other colleges and universities across the United States. For 2021, however, circumstances changed. Because of the current health pandemic, UNCF’s vital fundraising events have had to move online.

The New York UNCF “A Mind Is…” Gala was a success, raising more than $300,000 to help both local students and UNCF-supported HBCUs. Infinity Song, a group on the rise and recently signed by Roc Nation, got the evening started with “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Michelle Miller, co-host of “CBS This Morning: Saturday” kept the event moving seamlessly, from the video of HBCU alumni to introductions of UNCF Scholar, Sydney Green, and award presenters. Special guests included former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Ariel Investments’ president and co-CEO Mellody Hobson and UNCF’s president and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax. Grammy award-nominated singer and songwriter Kenny Lattimore closed the evening with a beautiful rendition of “Smile.”

The New York event honored Thasunda Brown Duckett, PepsiCo and Dennis M. Walcott for their commitment to UNCF’s mission of uplifting HBCUs and empowering deserving, talented students to earn college degrees. UNCF recognized Walcott with the Shirley Chisholm Community Award. Walcott thanked the organization, responding, “UNCF is the premier organization that is helping to level the playing field for all.”

In his greeting to the audience, Dr. Michael L. Lomax referred to challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Honestly, I thought that UNCF and some of our HBCUs would be permanently damaged. But across our country, hundreds of thousands of donors, allies and New Yorkers like you, stepped up to ensure that our HBCUs and our students would have much needed support. Because we share a profound belief, namely, that ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in.’”

Sponsors for the New York UNCF “A Mind Is…” Gala included presenting sponsor, JPMorgan Chase; gold sponsors, American Express, Bloomberg Philanthropies, BNY Mellon, Citi, Colgate, Delta Air Lines, PepsiCo and Taylor; silver sponsors, Foot Locker Foundation and Sony Corporation of America; and bronze sponsors, AlixPartners, Penguin Random House, Schroders, Sourcepass and Walton Family Foundation.

“We thank our sponsors for their support of this important and vital event,” said Diego Aviles, vice president, development, UNCF. “Especially during the pandemic, their critical efforts on our behalf will certainly help enable better futures for our students.”

To learn more about UNCF’s work in the Northeast, contact Diego Aviles at