Newark Mayor Cory Booker knows how to grab a headline. Or even create them. Whether he is opting to live on food stamps to bring awareness to the plight of those on the program, or offering to shovel snow for his constituents over Twitter, the mayor can’t stop garnering widespread attention.
But on a recent Thursday, he used that magnetic power to draw movers, shakers and power brokers to Newark for the first annual Mayor’s Masked Ball to benefit the New Jersey regional chapter of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
The sold-out event had already raised $250,000 through ticket sales and other bequests when the first guests crossed the threshold of the Newark Club that evening. But Mayor Booker was able to fuel a deluge of $1,000 checks with his hosting prowess, adding even more to the UNCF coffers that night.
“The mayor raised an additional $27,000 for our Campaign for Emergency Student Aid,” a spokesperson for the UNCF told theGrio.
Mayor Booker raises thousands for education
After making his way through the crowd of executives, former athletes, decked out wives, and moms with their dolled-up daughters, Booker ascended to the podium and made a simple request, delivered with caring sincerity. He asked attendants to give even more to the worthy cause of funding higher education.
And they readily responded. After Mayor Booker convinced his audience to open their check books once more for the occasion, he didn’t mind when ladies in the crowd placed the sums in his palm with kisses on his cheek.
The mayor of Newark is game for any worthy effort that improves access to education to our youth.
“Really, it’s a party with a purpose,” he said of the Newark Mayor’s Masked Ball, one of the first in a series of events that will be produced in partnership between the UNCF and mayors across the country.
“The key is focusing on higher education,” Mayor Booker told theGrio about the importance of the initiative. “It’s about increasing pathways for success for our young people, and it’s not just an act of charity for the young people. It’s actually an act of profound self-interest. The better our young people do, the more they cultivate their genius, the better we all do.”
The Mayor’s Masked Ball: A UNCF tradition
Many may not know this, but the Mayor’s Masked Ball is a special tradition of the UNCF. Originating in Atlanta in the 1980s, this opulent event provides gala attendants with the dual opportunities of having a great time while exercising social responsibility. These seasonal fetes help empower the UNCF to continue in its mission of assisting tens of thousands of young people every year in their pursuit of a college education.
“We’ve been doing these with mayors for over 30 years now,” Dr. Michael L. Lomax, CEO of the UNCF, told theGrio. “In fact it started with Andy Young,” a former mayor of Atlanta who developed the idea with Billy Aaron, wife of baseball great Hank Aaron, Dr. Lomax said.
“It also has been a great way to attract and retain mayors, and get them involved,” he continued. “We’ve done this now in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, [and now] here in Newark. We’re doing it all across the country.”