A night of enduring legacy

Paula Madison has been one of the most respected women in American television as long-time general manager of the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles.
However, she may look back most fondly on a family venture which allows a Kenyan writer who wrote a novel on toilet tissue while in prison and the South African star who portrays an oil baron to share a stage with actress Phylicia Rashad as she describes the impact of Gullah culture on America.
It was all part of A Night of Legacy presented by The Africa Channel as part of the 19th annual Pan African Film Festival at the Nate Holden Center for the Performing Arts.
As I sat between Madison and Hlomla Dandala, the star of Jacob’s Cross, the international African hit portraying a family that controls an international oil empire, during the after-party, I was struck by the thought that the ancestors would be pleased.
Madison mentioned how she, her husband and brother had invested in The Africa Channel after a chance conversation on the golf course and their group has become the largest shareholder of the 24-hour channel which presents English-language programming from the continent to American viewers.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Kenyan novelist and playwright who is distinguished professor of English and comparative literature of UC-Irvine, told how important the channel has been as he received the literary achievement award Thursday night.
“I was in the airport in Johannesburg and an American couple came up to me and said they recognized me because they had seen me on The Africa Channel,” said wa Thiong’o.
For Rashad, the lifetime achievement award was such an honor that she wore an outfit she reserves for special occasions only the second time.
The former Cosby Show and Raisin in the Sun Emmy and Tony winner took the opportunity to describe her visit to St. Helen’s Island on the South Carolina coast, where she saw first hand the African retentions among the Gullah people. On a followup visit, she took her mother.
Other highlights included a duet by guitarist Jonathan Butler and his daughter.
I’m not telling you about this to make you angry that you missed the occasion, but to alert you that the broadcast of An Evening of Legacy will be on The Africa Channel within the next few days.
If your next question is “What Africa Channel?” then you should call your cable operator to learn where they’ve placed the channel among your selections, or if they haven’t, urge them to do so post-haste.
We began lobbying for northern California cable operators to carry The Africa Channel four years ago, and it is now available throughout the region.
Madison, her brother Elrick Williams and the management team of The Africa Channel illustrate a phenomenon which I called the “second career wave” in the first State of Black Business report seven years ago.
I suggested that the three million African-Americans who came into public and private management since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would use their experience, capital and contacts to create a surge of entrepreneurship.
Williams, now CEO of The Africa Channel, spent decades as an algorithmic trader in a Chicago investment house. Chief operating officer Bob Neal was executive vice president of the Discovery Health Channel and a veteran broadcast news executive. Programming vice president Shirley Neal is a veteran producer who was vice president of the National Association of Television Production Executives.
Now, they can focus on producing the kind of content they really love and those who view The Africa Channel and A Night of Legacy will see what a difference it makes to merge passion and experience.

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