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Iyanla Vanzant, Rev. Al Sharpton, others receive McDonald's 365 Black Award

NEW ORLEANS - From inspirational motivators and community activists to business owners and a former athlete, this year's recipients of the McDonald's 365 Black Awards cover the spectrum of altruism.

The 11th annual star-studded show, hosted by actors Terrence "J'' Jenkins and Tika Sumpter airs at 10 p.m. EDT Sunday on the cable channel Black Entertainment Television. A rebroadcast will occur Sunday, Aug. 17, at 11 p.m. EDT on the cable channel CENTRIC.

This year's honorees include inspirational leader Iyanla Vanzant, whose television show "Iyanla: Fix My Life," returns in October for a fourth season on the OWN Network.

"I'm a longtime McDonald's customer," Vanzant recalled recently in an interview with The Associated Press. "When I left New York to practice law in Philadelphia, I was a young whippersnapper and I was struggling a lot. My daughter got a job at McDonald's and every night, she would bring home whatever left over food there was. I was always so grateful to have it. And to receive this award just warms my heart."

She notes the award was given by the McDonald's franchise owners and operators in every community. "I'm a grassroots person and that means the world to me. I stay connected to community, which keeps me motivated."

Vanzant's reality-television self-help show, "Iyanla: Fix My Life," returns for a fourth season in October on the OWN Network. "My prayer was to reach the largest amount of people with the least amount of effort and that prayer was answered," she said. "The television show is an extension of what I do in my workshops and classes. Most of what I teach can't be taught online. Getting to do it one-on-one with a viewing audience gives them greater access to my work, the concepts and the processes."

Others being honoured include civil rights activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton; film producer Will Packer; music executive Kevin Liles; former NFL linebacker Dhani Jones and McDonald's owner/operator and civic leader Henry L. Coaxum Jr., of New Orleans.

The company is also honouring 14-year-old artist Skyler Grey and entrepreneur Gabrielle Jordan Williams with its first McDonald's 365Black Community Choice Youth Award.

Grey, a high school sophomore whose been drawing since the age of 2, said the recognition feels really good.

"It was amazing seeing all the positive reaction," Grey said. "I was really surprised to see so many people in tears. Seeing how my dad reacted was great too. No street artist or pop artist has gotten an award like I did. A lot of people thought I was a joke because I was so small, well I'm not a joke anymore."

Grey's works encompass the mixed media fields, and uses a variety of elements including acrylics, Indian ink, silk screens, permanent markers and spray paint. His work has been displayed in galleries worldwide including Graffik Gallery in London and Trace Gallery in Switzerland.

"I just want to tell the kids, 'You have to be persistent, but you're born to win and destined for greatness. Activate your destiny,'" he said.

The show, which features performances by recording artists Kim Burrell, Tan, Leela James, Jazmine Sullivan, Ledisi, Mali Music and Kierra Sheard, was held during the 20th anniversary of the Essence festival in New Orleans.

A rebroadcast will air Sunday, Aug. 17, at 11 p.m. EDT on the cable channel CENTRIC.

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