Only Cathy Hughes could transform the Blackburn Center at Howard University into both a sanctuary as well as a Go-Go joint. At least that’s how electric the atmosphere seemed on Sunday, Oct. 22 during a standing-room-only celebratory brunch during which Hughes received well-deserved accolades for her philanthropic commitment to Howard University.
And to acknowledge her contributions which extend far beyond her financial gift, the University’s School of Communication has been renamed in her honor. (A private ceremony of family and friends took place just before the Sunday afternoon brunch).
During the three-hour celebratory brunch, Hughes could be seen raising her hands toward heaven as the Howard University Gospel Choir accompanied Richard Smallwood in “Total Praise.” Later, she appeared front and center getting her groove on as Sugar Bear and the Go-Go band EU took guests down memory lane with the ever-popular dance tune “Da Butt.”
Special guests included: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.); local leaders of the Nation of Islam; the Rev. Al Sharpton; Dick Gregory; D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton; boxing promoter Rock Newman; and veteran radio personalities like Butch “The Coach” McAdams.
TV personality and co-star of “Black-ish” Anthony Anderson served as the MC.
Howard University President Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick said the renaming serves as part of his ongoing effort to transform Howard into “one of the most rigorous academic environments in the country.”
“The Cathy Hughes School of Communications will push students to higher heights. She has raised the bar with her own example and we now have an opportunity to raise the bar even further,” he said.
Alfred C. Liggins III, CEO of Radio One since 1997, said: “My mother and I have been partners since 1980 – that’s 36 years – and the principles she learned at Howard University, giving back to the community, the uplift, the education and the advocacy of the African-American community have been instilled in me and in our company. It’s not just a job and it’s more than a career – it’s a mission that makes the effort each day worthwhile. It gives you a reason to exist and a legacy that will stand long after we are both gone.”
Holmes Norton shared her testimony, crediting Hughes for helping her get elected.
“I had not held public office and Cathy got on the air every day and told people, ‘you all just get out of the race because Eleanor Holmes Norton is going to be your Congresswoman.’ She did that every single day,” she said.
Hughes chimed in: “At the time she had 17 honorary doctorates.”
Sharpton said: “Cathy took the mute button off Black America. She gave us the ability to be heard. She helped me start our national Black talk radio show, the first one syndicated, and I am still on 11 years later. No Black person owns more stations than she’s accumulated under her banner and which continue to preserve our culture. She illustrated that she could beat the drums. And when we began to hammer out our own drumbeats, we used and still use drums which she provided,” Sharpton added.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said: “Cathy Hughes had a charge to keep as the song goes and she continues to accept that charge – making life better for others.”
During her remarks which she gave at the end of the brunch, Hughes said “grateful” summarized her feelings.
“I remember being the first division of Howard to move into Freedman’s Hospital. It had been closed for years. We were pioneers. It was like the Wild, Wild West. There were critters, plaster falling down, no bathrooms working, you name it. But now to see it redone with my name and the dedication, I thank God, I thank God, I thank God and I thank Dr. Frederick and Dean Gracie. It is such an honor,” she said.
WI Editor D. Kevin McNeir contributed to this article.