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BM&T Apex Awards Acknowledge Important Work Of Industry Veterans

An enthusiastic crowd was on hand as Black Meetings & Tourism presented their coveted Apex Awards for Distinguished Service in the travel, tourism, hospitality and meetings industry.  The Awards Gala, held at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay Hotel as part of the 2nd Annual International Multicultural & Heritage Tourism Summit & Trade Show, took place July 18, and featured a keynote by legendary motivational speaker and coach Les Brown

The BM&T Apex Awards were hosted by Black Meetings & Tourism publishers Solomon and Gloria Herbert, with Roy and Juanita Walton Jay serving as master and mistress of ceremonies.  A host of industry movers and shakers acted as presenters, including Ginny Gutierrez, Andy Ingraham, Bill Talbert and Velton Showell, among others.

While there were many highlights of the BM&T Apex Award ceremonies, one of the most touching was the acceptance speech made by award recipient Caletha Powell.  Powell pioneered multicultural tourism as the executive director of the Greater New Orleans Black Tourism Network back in the early 1990s, and earned a reputation as a staunch supporter of parity for people of color in an industry that currently is not especially inclusive, and at the time, was even less diverse than it is today.

Another highlight was the heartfelt video message sent by honoree Ione Vargus, who could not attend in person.  Vargus is a Professor Emerita of Temple University where, in 1978, she broke new ground as the first African-American ever to hold the title of an academic dean in Temple's history. Dr. Vargus founded the Family Reunion Institute at Temple University in 1990; created the African-American Family Conference; and has since become a nationally acclaimed authority on reunions and their role in sustaining spiritual and cultural vitality in our families and communities.  Fittingly, Dr. Vargus sent the video acceptance speech because she was attending her own family reunion.

The BM&T Apex Awards for Distinguished Service are annually presented by Black Meetings & Tourism magazine to a select number of individuals who have made outstanding contributions in their particular fields of endeavor that have positively impacted travel and tourism. To be considered for a BM&T Apex Award, candidates must: provide long-term benefits for the travel industry and the African-American market segment; represent a national level of prominence; and demonstrate a track record of a minimum of two years.

2015 BM&T Apex Award Winners include:

  • Ione Vargus, Family Reunions Institute, Philadelphia, PA
  • Carol Ann Taylor, Miami CVB, Miami, FL
  • Sylma Brown-Bramble, CTO, New York, NY
  • Matt Thomas, Black Meetings & Tourism, San Francisco, CA
  • Beverly Bentley, Bentley Travel Services & TPOC, District Heights, MD
  • Caletha Powell, Nouveau International Education Strategies, LLC, New Orleans, LA
  • Charles Jeffers, DMAI, Washington, DC
  • Stephanie Mays-Boyd, SMG/Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, Philadelphia, PA
  • Cheryl Richards, Dallas CVB, Dallas, TX
  • Robert Countryman, Meeting Planner, San Diego, CA
  • John Oros, Memphis CVB, Memphis, TN
  • T. Willard Fair, Urban League of Greater Miami, Miami, FL
  • Keon Hardiman, Miami City Commission, Miami FL
  • Nicki Grossman, Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Hon. Frederick A. Mitchell, Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bahamas
  • Enid C. Pinkney, Community Activist, Miami, FL
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