Actor Jussie Smollett was an honoree of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence mentoring program.
As he stood at the lectern at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast at the Miami Beach Convention Center Monday, Smollett knew his greatest honor was to introduce a man who paved the way to his acting success.
“The reason why I love Danny Glover so much, is because I remember watching him,” said Smollett.
Smollett was maybe 7 years old when he played Glover’s son in the Alex Haley’s acclaimed-TV series, “Queen.”
“He was strong and kind,” continued Smollett. “He was not just a celebrity. He is one of the mentors that mentored me, possibly without even knowing it.”
Nearly 1,000 friends, family members and local politicians took part in the breakfast fundraiser. This was the second time that Glover was honored by the organization.
“I remember this young man-to-be.” said Glover of Smollett. “I am so proud of the work he continues to do.”
Hundreds of young participants in the mentoring program and all of the grown men, including the honorees, donned the traditional red ties, with large and small hands.
“I am so proud of the work that is done here by my sister, Congressman Frederica Wilson, and all those who have been honored here today,” Glover said.
The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Foundation help young Black men go to college and expand their aspirations through mentoring and scholarship programs. The organization reported that it has given $10 million in scholarships since launching in 1993.
Glover, who was the foundation’s first honoree in 1993, was one of four movie stars honored at the event. Actress Jo Marie Payton and producer Will Packer were also recognized for their many contributions. Smollett was swarmed after the program by fans wanting to take a picture with the young actor.
The annual fundraiser confers scholarships to the Wilson Scholars, who patiently sat at their tables waiting for their breakfast. This year, there were 47 college-bound men who also enjoy some good advice from some of the honorees.
“Get it right the first time, ‘cause those college classes are too expensive to have to take a second time,” said Payton, who drew chuckles from the audience.
Honoree Jacqueline Charles, the Miami Herald’s Haiti correspondent, grew up in Miami and started writing news stories at the age of 14.
“I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell stories,” said Charles.
Her advice: “Don’t ever, ever, let your zip code decide who you are and where you will go in this life,” said Charles.
One Wilson Scholar took that message to heart.
Kyeundre Eckford of Miami Gardens lives in zip code 33056. He said he is determined to not let his zip code determine his future.
Eckford wants to become an airline pilot and plans to join the U.S. Air Force and study aeronautics.
“You can be whatever you want to be,” said Eckford. “The sky is the limit.”