ABL awards Men of Influence, Warrick Dunn inducted into Legends Hall of Fame

The Atlanta Business League (ABL) continued its tradition of honoring African-American men with the Men of Influence and Legends Hall of Fame awards. Last month, hundreds gathered at the Hyatt Regency to celebrate the 12 men who demonstrated their commitment to the citizenry of the capital city.

Leona Barr-Davenport, President and CEO of the ABL say they award this honor because they felt that so many men doing great things in the city are going unnoticed. 

“We want to make sure that young people – people in the community – and other business leaders around metro Atlanta know that they exist,” Davenport said. “We want to make sure that we call their names and let them know we see them.” 

For many years, the ABL has recognized business owners, professionals and community and civic leaders like the ones they selected for the Men of Influence award. 

Those included Imara Canady the National Director for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and chair of the Black Leadership AIDS Crisis Coalition (BLACC), Wilburn Milhouse, Chairman and CEO of Milhouse Engineering and Construction, and Michael Ross, President and CEO of MHR International

“I think that each of us goes on stage because none of us do the work for the recognition; we do it for the impact,” said Jay Bailey, President and CEO of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (RICE). 

Bailey firmly believes that change does not only happen from large programs and organizations but also from incremental change. 

“Be a good dad, be a good coach, be a good teacher, whatever it is, how do you impact the three feet around you,” Bailey said. “Whatever you’re doing, there are people who have an influence — award or not — that can individually change one person’s life.” 

The ABL also presented its newest honoree to their Legends Hall of Fame. This honor goes to Black men who are pioneers in their professions and have paved the way for others to follow. This year’s award was presented to former NFL Running Back and philanthropist Warrick Dunn. 

Warrick Dunn (center) receiving the Legends Hall of Fame from Atlanta Business League’s Immediate Past Chair Al Edwards and CEO Leona Barr-Davenport. (Photo by Allison Joyner.)

When he played for the Atlanta Falcons in 2002, he founded the Warrick Dunn Charities, inspired by his mother’s dream of being a homeowner. The charity improves lives through innovative programming and has supported almost 200 single-parent families becoming first-time homeowners nationwide. 

“I am in a room of great businessmen, Black-owned companies. It says a lot that they look at me as a guy who has made an impact in the community, which I’m so thankful for but it’s great to have that support,” Dunn said. 

As someone who battles with depression, Dunn is an advocate for mental health and the importance of going to counseling. In 2020, he launched his second nonprofit, WD Communities, which supports families from the beginning to end of purchasing affordable or transitional housing and provides support services, including financial literacy, health and wellness, educational attainment and entrepreneurship and workforce development. 

“Being recognized by the ABL for what we’re doing and hopefully with great partnerships, we can grow, expand, and help more people. That’s what it’s about,” Dunn said. 

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New DeKalb schools superintendent addresses plans, teacher shortage for school year

Earlier this month, new DeKalb County School District (DCSD) Superintendent Dr. Devon Horton met with the press to announce his plans for a successful school year. Horton was appointed superintendent on Jun. 29 and began work on Jul. 1. 

He began his address by announcing this year’s theme, “disrupting for excellence.” He says the theme references DCSD’s commitment to changing the habits the institutions have established — especially during the pandemic. 

One approach the school district adopted is establishing a new culture and expectations as a community. The core values Horton plans to implement under the administration are what he calls H-PRIDE — humanization, professionalism, respect, integrity, dignity and empathy.

“We have to be humanizing and how we approach the work of our students to support our community, but we have to be honest and be professional at all times,” Horton said. “We’re going to set up our families of our community to remain professional. We want to operate with high levels of integrity because when making decisions for our children, we must do it with a value system.”

Horton has over two decades of experience in educational leadership. He previously served as superintendent of the Evanston/Skoie School District 65 in Evanston, Ill., and has held other positions in school districts in Louisville, Ky. and East St. Louis in Ill.

Details of how the DeKalb County School District plans to decrease the teacher shortage for the 2023-2024 school year. (Image provided by DCSD.)

Although a national issue, the school district needs 400 more teachers to educate the over 93,000 students estimated to be enrolled. Hiring summer graduates as paraprofessionals, extended-day planning period coverage with instructional specialists and a DeKalb teacher residency program to launch in winter 2024 are some of the plans to implement by DCSD. 

With teachers moving into non-educational careers, Horton said other industries are recruiting them, them resulting in the shortage. 

“Other industries have poached our industry to take our phenomenal teachers and go off into the sunset to do other things,” Horton said. 

He also mentioned that DCSD will need the community’s help to have an effective school year. 

“I’m asking for our community to step up. We’re talking with many individuals and tapping into our church community as well that have individuals that may be in college, especially graduate students,” Horton said. “We are encouraging a mindset of disruption for improvement. This is not a jargon statement — this is fact. This is how we will do business, and it’s important that we collectively communicate with our stakeholders on our work.”

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