By  on October 17, 2011

Five industry executives were honored Friday night at the Black Retail Action Group’s annual gala in Manhattan, but the takeaway message for all attendees was one of inclusiveness.

In a roomful of guests that included Mary J. Blige, Tamar Braxton, Mark Weber, chairman and chief executive officer of Donna Karan International,and Donna Karan’s Carole Kerner and Patti Cohen, BRAG’s president, Gary L. Lampley, encouraged guests to welcome one and all. Noting that BRAG is all about community building, he said, “Our goal is to increase social justice, individual well-being and reduce negative impacts of otherwise disconnected individuals. The gospel of BRAG is about helping people who have been crushed down.”

Emcee Tanika Ray helped dole out a number of awards at the event at The Edison Ballroom. One for special recognition was given to Shark Branding’s chief executive officer, Daymond John. BRAG’s business achievement awards were given to Felita Harris-Meals, senior vice president of global sales at Donna Karan International Inc.; Jerome Smalls, vice president and director of community relations for The TJX Cos. Inc., and Michael Todman, president of Whirlpool International.

Simone Smith, the creator and ceo of Simone Smith Ltd., who is also LL Cool J’s wife, picked up the JJ Thomas Business Innovators award.

BRAG was founded in 1970 to promote the acceptance and participation of African-Americans and people of color at all levels of retail and related industries. This year, 32 scholarships were awarded by the group, compared with 27 in 2008. Lampley advised members of BRAG’s college clubs and scholarship recipients, “Some will talk about you behind your back, they’ll undermine you and they’ll find holes in your suit of armor. Because of this bad behavior, many talented people refuse to serve. Don’t you be one of those people.”

Before the festivities got under way, he mentioned that throughout the country people are working a little harder. “We want to inspire inclusiveness and encourage people to look for something to build on,” Lampley said.

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