By Sentinel News Service
The National Urban League and the Los Angeles Urban League honored civil rights activist and media entrepreneur, Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., sports legend, entrepreneur and businessman, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Los Angeles mayoral candidate and U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass at their Community of Champions Luncheon on Friday, February 11.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson is a sports icon and is also the chairman and chief executive officer of Magic Johnson Enterprises, an investment conglomerate that provides high-quality products and services that focus primarily on ethnically-diverse and underserved urban communities.
Having left the basketball court for the boardroom, Johnson parlayed the skills and tenacity he acquired playing the game into a winning formula for his successful business ventures.
For the last two decades, Johnson has consistently turned heads with his unprecedented partnerships. In his early years as an entrepreneur, he forged an alliance with Sony Pictures to develop Magic Johnson Theatres.
In 1998, he teamed with Starbucks to become the only franchise in the history of the company, acquiring and eventually selling 125 stores in a lucrative move, which further solidified his position in the business world.
Both ventures served as catalysts for redevelopment in urban communities, and are widely recognized as the corporate blueprint for engagement and success with urban consumers across America.
Still a commanding presence in the sports world, Johnson made history in 2012, when he became co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a Major League Baseball franchise that was purchased for an astronomical $2 billion dollars. It was the highest purchase price for any professional sports team at the time. He also co-owns the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks, Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club, and eSports franchise Team Liquid.
Johnson continues to expand his influence through a number of other investments. He currently has controlling interests in EquiTrust, a $20 billion financial services company, and SodexoMAGIC, a food service and facilities management company.
The Lansing, Michigan native is constantly evolving and remaining relevant in a dynamic digital age by broadening his scope into infrastructure and technology. In 2015, Magic Johnson Enterprises and Loop Capital formed an alliance to create MJE-Loop Capital Partners. The firm raised a fund committed to investing millions of dollars on infrastructure improvement in the United States.
Operating under the philosophy that true success is making others successful, he is one of the leading investors in a number of minority-owned tech companies that include Uncharted Power, an award-winning power and data infrastructure technology company; Jopwell, a diversity and hiring recruiting platform; and MiTú, the Latino-fueled media brand and digital network that connects thousands of Latin-based content creators with viewers around the world. He is deliberate in his investment strategy to bring a positive impact to the community.
Bakewell is the chairman of Bakewell Media, publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, one of the oldest, largest distributing and, most influential African American newspapers in the Western United States, which includes the LA Watts Times, the company’s free community newspaper. Bakewell and Bakewell Media are also the creators and operators of Taste of Soul.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, Taste of Soul has historically been the largest single-day event and largest gathering of Black businesses in the state of California. Over the past 15 years, Taste of Soul has accumulated over 5,000,000 attendees at the annual festival. Bakewell is also the chairman emeritus of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), which unifies over 250 Black newspapers throughout the nation with over 25,000,000 weekly readers.
Through his development company, the Bakewell Company, he has led multi-million dollar revitalization efforts in the cities of Los Angeles, Compton, Pasadena, Seaside, and other California communities. His two major retail developments in Compton, California provide over 400,000 sq. ft. of retail business at the heart of downtown Compton.
These shopping centers include major retailers, such as Burlington Coat Factory, Ross, Footlocker, Superior Grocers, Planet Fitness, MLK Community Clinic, El Pollo Loco, IHOP, Taco Bell, Chase Bank, CVS, and many more.
His Fair Oaks Renaissance Plaza Development on the corner of Fair Oaks and Orange Grove in Pasadena’s Northwest is credited with being the stimulus for economic investment and revitalization throughout the area.
He was able to develop a high-quality retail center when others said it couldn’t be done. This historic center is home to Vallarta Market, Blaze Pizza, Chase Bank, Starbucks, Wells Fargo Bank, The City of Pasadena, Subway, Sally’s Beauty Supply, and a number of community-owned and operated businesses.
The Bakewell Company has developed quality housing development on the former Fort Ord Military Base. His 380-single family community was the first major housing development on the Monterey Peninsula in years. This historic 108-acres development also includes large park space, a community center, and a little league baseball park, which annually host regional Little League World Series qualifying games.
A long-time advocate of civil rights and social justice, Bakewell is a founding member and current board chair of The Brotherhood Crusade, a Los Angeles-based civil rights and community development organization that distributes more than $65 million annually in grants and technical support to small local non-profits in South Los Angeles.
Congresswoman Bass, who is currently campaigning in 2022 elections to become the first female mayor of Los Angeles, has served as the U.S. representative for California’s 37th congressional district since 2011. The district, numbered as the 33rd district for her first term, covers several areas south and west of downtown Los Angeles.
A member of the Democratic Party, she previously served for six years in the California State Assembly, the last two as Speaker.
On November 28, 2018, Bass was elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) during the 116th Congress. She also serves as chair of the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, and the United States House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.
Michael Lawson, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League stated, “On behalf of the National Urban League and the Los Angeles Urban League, we are elated to honor Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congresswoman Karen Bass, Civil Rights Activist and Entrepreneur Danny Bakewell, Sr. and Businessman and Philanthropist Earvin Magic Johnson at our Community of Champions Luncheon. These four key influencers whose exceptional work have contributed immensely to the growth of our community are examples of what can be accomplished when we work together,” Lawson said .
He continued, “We thank PepsiCo Foundation for joining forces with the National Urban League to create the Black Restaurant Accelerator, which will boost approximately 500 Black-owned businesses over the next five years. Restaurants such as Harold and Belle’s Creole Restaurant will benefit from this program.”
Before her election to Congress, Bass represented the 47th district in the California State Assembly (2004–2010). In 2008, she was elected to serve as the 67th Speaker of the California State Assembly, becoming the first African American woman in United States history to serve as a Speaker of a state legislative body. She won the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 2010 for her leadership during the Great Recession.
“These three honorees exemplify not only personal excellence but a compassionate and generous public spirit that is the true essence of community. The National Urban League is proud to recognize their achievements and celebrate them as true champions,” said Marc Morial, National Urban League president. Michael Lawson is the president of the local Los Angeles Urban League.