Al Sharpton and the National Action Network host 2013 Triumph Awards honoring Mike Tyson, more

Al Sharpton and the National Action Network (NAN) hosted its 2013 Triumph Awards on Monday night at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The fourth annual Triumph Awards continued in the tradition of honoring activists who have positively impacted the lives of African-Americans, the under-served, and others whose lives are intertwined in the fight for social justice.

“It has been fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” Rev. Al Sharpton stated in a letter regarding the program. “Tonight we celebrate the progress and achievements of trailblazers and agents of change who have helped us move closer to the goal of a more perfect union in this country.”

Opening remarks by black celebrities

Following a hilarious send up of Rev. Sharpton featuring comic Kenan Thompson doing his infamous impersonation of the NAN leader in a special video, opening remarks were made by national figures of black life.

Condola Rashad, star of the current Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet, commented on the importance of visibility for black actresses and the continued struggle of civil rights to ensure their equal access to the stage. Her mother, legendary actress Phylicia Rashad, was one of the first recipients of the Triumph Award.

Black luminaries take the stage

Renowned entertainment executive Kedar Massenburg, also the chairman of the 2013 Triumph Awards, addressed the audience and introduced the honorees.

Personal introductions for each honoree were made by black luminaries such as Sylvia Rhone, a key figure in the recording industry, and former New York governor David Paterson.

Triumph Award recipients for 2013 included rapper and actress Queen Latifah; fashion great Andre Leon Talley; sports agent Joel Segal; Overbrook Entertainment partner and producer James Lassiter; Broadway singer Valisia LeKae (a current star of Motown: The Musical); Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed; and sports agent and announcer Tony Paige, Sr.

Tyson sparks laughter

Boxing champion-turned-actor Mike Tyson also received a Triumph Award for what Rev. Sharpton described as his quiet, behind-the-scenes efforts to help his native community of Brownsville, Brooklyn throughout his career.

When receiving his award, Tyson thanked his wife effusively for her vision of regenerating his image through work as a screen and stage performer.

True to his current role as an entertainer, Tyson spurred the crowd to uproarious laughter by stating that the Triumph Award was the “first thing he ever got from black people.”

Honorees humbled by recognition

All recipients expressed gratitude for their recognition, but stressed that the greatest reward for their efforts is the pleasure of a life of service. Queen Latifah was the only recipient to deliver her thanks via video in a specially-recorded message.

Rev. Sharpton also debuted a video detailing his new book, The Rejected Stone, a narrative chronicling how he, like many of the recipients, rose from a disadvantaged position in society only to use his accrued influence to reach back and help the disempowered.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.