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Traveling awards show honors Indy’s best

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Dozens of local visionaries in the fields of education, journalism, entertainment, politics, philanthropy and sports — including comedian Mike Epps, Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings and Indianapolis broadcast legend Barbara Boyd — will be honored on Dec. 4 at the 2016 Trailblazer Awards.

The Trailblazer Awards series is the brainchild of Lashell Daniels, who leads Everything Underground, an Indianapolis-based organization dedicated to connecting the so-called movers and shakers of the African-American community.

The traveling awards show is in its second year; it debuted in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2015. The show will move on to Detroit next year and Los Angeles the following year. This time around, the Madame Walker Theatre Center will host the event.

Though the Trailblazer Awards will recognize some well-known Indianapolis natives, the program also aims to shine light on those who have been flying under the radar while “blazing trails and setting an example for future generations in terms of leadership, perseverance, dedication and achievement,” according to a news release from Everything Underground.

“In many instances, they have not gotten the recognition or exposure they deserve, yet they have not let that lessen their willingness to help others and to push ahead for expanded economic opportunities and social justice for all,” the release continues.


This year’s honorees include:


Deborah Asante 

Dennis Bland

Barbara Boyd

Phyllis Carr

Tamika Catchings

Helen (Perkins) Charles

Bertha Davis

Mike Epps

David Gadis

Catherine Hughes

Melvin Jackson

Gregg Keesling

Jannett Keesling

William Pride

Stephanie Sanders-Young/Mozel Sanders Foundation

Harrel Scott

Eric Washington

Jameelah “Just Jay” Wilkerson

Olgen Williams

Barbara Wilson


Three others will be honored based on votes cast online (thetrailblazerawards.com/peoples-choice-awards).

Beyond the list of honorees, organizers want attendees to feel as though they, too, are in the limelight and being celebrated.

It’ll all start on the red carpet at 4 p.m., with an experience designed and conducted by The Real China Doll with help from June Rochelle Media.

“It’ll be extravagant, so anyone who walks across it will feel like they’re being honored,” China Doll said.

Everyone attending the awards show will be able to walk the red carpet and be photographed and interviewed, and Zink Distributing donated gifts to be given to each person, China Doll explained.

DaNisha Greene, who will be directing from backstage for part of the show, said the VIP Experience on the fourth floor will be another highlight of the event. VIP ticket holders and honorees can mix and mingle before the show while enjoying performances from visual artists and musicians and being served drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

“The goal is to show Indy what it would be like to attend an actual awards show of this magnitude,” said Greene, who has worked with several fashion shows and galas in Indianapolis. “To show what it would be like if you were to attend the Stellar Awards or the BET Awards.”

In keeping with the typical awards show format, the event will feature live entertainment, special tributes and more between award presentations.

After the show, Everything Underground will host a Coffee, Cocktail and Tea Social from 9:30–10:30 p.m.

Overall, China Doll and Greene said they hope attendees come away with a better understanding of all the good that’s going on around them.

“It is our hope that the community will learn what is happening in their community, so they can find out about the different organizations and resources available to them,” Greene said. “And we hope the community itself will get behind the people being honored.”

The ladies said tickets are moving, but they will still be sold up to the day of the show as long as there are still some available. 

Tickets at varying prices are available at the Madame Walker Theatre Center’s box office or online at trailblazerawards.com or eventbrite.com.

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