Ford Freedom Awards gala honors Bing for achievements – Detroit Free Press

Former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was honored Tuesday night at the Ford Freedom Awards ceremony for his legacy in Detroit, from being a Detroit Pistons standout to a successful auto supplier, mayor and now youth mentor.

The 18th annual awards, this year themed Men of Courage, also recognized the late businessman and philanthropist Reginald F. Lewis, one of the nation’s wealthiest black Americans in the 1980s and the first African American to build a billion-dollar company, Beatrice Foods. He died in 1993 at age 50.

Organizers said the awards are meant to honor the empowering impact of the honorees and the leadership, courage and professional excellence.

Bing was honored as a Ford Freedom Awards Scholar, recognizing his lifetime accomplishments and his role as founder of the Bing Youth Institute, a mentoring group that pairs successful black businessmen with young Detroit men in a mentoring program.

Bing got a standing ovation as he was presented the award at Orchestra Hall at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center.

Bing said that too many young African American men are growing up in poverty, educated in struggling public schools, and too often without fathers in their lives.

“I don’t believe you should use any of those as an excuse not to succeed,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed in my life to have men around me who helped mold me … and it started at home with my dad.”

Bing said he could have kicked back and retired after leaving office as mayor, but he said he wants to stay involved in giving back to the city and its young men.

Also honored were criminal justice reform advocate Shaka Senghor, former NFL player and businessman Kerlin Blaise and University of Missouri graduate student and civil rights activist Jonathan Butler, who led a hunger strike protesting racism at the university.

“We really do stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and all those who came before us,” Butler said in accepting the award.

Ford Motor Co. presented the awards in collaboration with Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The event featured appearances by entertainer Usher Raymond, Super Bowl-winning former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis and Detroit Piston Andre Drummond.

Contact Matt Helms: 313-222-1450 or mhelms@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @matthelms.

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