NEW ORLEANS (AP) — McDonald's 365Black Awards show, held annually at the Essence Festival, honored actress Tichina Arnold and Olympic gold-medalist Sanya Richards-Ross among others on Sunday as part of a program that each year salutes individuals committed to making positive contributions that strengthen the African-American community.
This year's program was scaled back and is not being shown on national cable network Black Entertainment Television as has occurred in previous years. The ceremony and luncheon was held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New Orleans and included performances by singers Kelly Price and Jekalyn Carr.
This year's honorees also included Valeisha Butterfield Jones, head of black community engagement for Google and the co-founder and CEO of the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network, and Margaret "Marty" Gillis, an operator/owner of several McDonald's franchises in New Jersey.
In addition, the corporation bestowed its Community Choice Youth Award to Chasity Hale, a writer, poet and community leader who served an ambassadorial year as a Southeastern National Student Poet under the Obama administration.
Arnold, known for her role of Pam on the hit show "Martin," said she was thrilled to get the recognition for her work as an advocate for Lupus survivors.
"It's good to be recognized for your contributions to society, not just show business. God has blessed me to have a vehicle to operate in that I love and that's entertainment. I've been doing this since age 11 and I just turned 48 three days ago. Still being able to contribute is wonderful," she told The Associated Press.
She said the recognition is important but secondary in her life.
"Even though I'm boisterous and loud, I don't like compliments. They make me very uncomfortable. I like to do what I do in silence," she said.
Still, she notes, she's grateful for the opportunity to stand on a platform where she can promote her We Win Foundation, which was founded in 2013 with her sister/manager Zenay Arnold, a Lupus survivor. The foundation was formed to help people, their families and caregivers who support those suffering with Lupus and other related autoimmune diseases.
"I don't look for recognition for what we're doing but want it so everybody can help us do what we need to do," she said.
On a lighter note, Arnold said she's having a grand time working with Vanessa Williams on her latest project, "Daytime Divas," which delves into the goings-on at a daytime talk show.
"I'm having so much fun," Arnold said. "It's just a bunch of goodness to be a part of another great group of people and another cool show. I like doing it because it's far removed from my 'Survivor's Remorse' character and I get to do devilish things. I really enjoy that. I'm living vicariously through Mo."
She also said she has plans to showcase her singing voice.
"I have music ready to go," she said. "I just have to figure out how to package it and how I can fit it in with the times we're currently in. I'm going to release a single before the year is out."