While some parts of the city saw people dressed in green for St. Patrick’s Day (and night), over at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans Hotel, men and women donned black-tie attire for the 5th anniversary UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball, presented by Ochsner Health System.
Dressed to impress, the crowd (estimated to be more than 900) included event co-chairs Joel Vilmenay and Michael O. Smith (he is also the hotel’s general manager), UNCF President and CEO Michael Lomax, UNCF Vice-President of Development Therese Badon, Warner Thomas, Sherry and Allan Leventhal, Donna and Paul Flower, David and Millie Gaines, Dr. Norman C. Francis, Rod and Madeline West, Charles and Vonda Rice, Bill Goldring, Janice and Kevin Dolliole, Karen and Henry Coaxum, Bill Hammack and Janice Parmelee, and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, who welcomed the crowd. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who was unable to attend, received the UNCF Masked Award for his commitment to higher education and support of helping minority students attend college. This event benefits two HBCUs, Dillard and Xavier universities; both university presidents, Walter Kimbrough (Dillard) and C. Reynold Verret (Xavier) were in the audience.
There was a special tribute by Xavier and Dillard students who walked in with candles to the song “Rise Up” performed by Dillard student Keith Tillman while photos from past and present were projected on screen, showing the transition of education on the campuses throughout the years.
Tamron Hall was the event emcee, with comedian Jonathan Slocumb also on stage, with one of his roles conducting the live auction. A silent auction and a raffle of a 2018 Nissan Rogue SL donated by Supreme Automotive also raised more funds.
Dinner was provided by chefs Leah Chase, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant; Stephen Stryjewski, Bill Jones, and Maggie Scales of the Link Restaurant Group, and Yvan Didelot of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans Hotel. During dinner, vocalist Stephanie Jordan performed. Headline entertainment were The O’Jays, who among their many honors were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in the Grammy Hall of Fame for two songs, “Love Train” and “For the Love of Money.”
Founded in 1944, UNCF’s mission is through various programs help African-American students attend and graduate from college.