Event Strategist creates annual awards gala to honor minority Memphis professionals

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In honor of Black History Month, FOX13′s Family Focus is taking a moment to recognize the impact of contributions by African Americans in our community.

Every year, 40 professionals under the age of 40 are recognized for their accomplishments in Memphis.

The Top 40 under 40 Urban Elite Professionals Awards celebrates African American rising stars in the city.

It is a tradition that’s going four years strong, and it all started after event strategist Cynthia Daniels noticed there was a void in the city.

ALL MONTH LONG, FOX13 WILL BE CELEBRATING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF AFRICAN AMERICANS. WE HAVE AN ENTIRE SECTION DEDICATED TO THEIR STORIES. CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

“Knowing that we were 65 percent majority of the city, a lot of the lists just didn’t reflect that. I think it was more like one or two percent,” said Daniels, who owns Cynthia Daniels & Co.

Each year, the award ceremony honors professionals in four categories: entrepreneur, health care, change agent, and outstanding citizen.

“A lot of people’s lives were changed that night; they had never been celebrated in such a grand way,” she said.

But Daniels said one of the most rewarding parts of this event isn’t the big gala. She said these awards are inspiring the next generation of urban elite professionals.

“I’ve had a lot the award winners daughters and sons greet me after the event, and they’re proud of their parents, but they’re like ‘I want to be on this award when I’m of age,” she said. “I’m understanding now the generational impact it’s having on the city of Memphis. That it’s highlighting 40 people, but you’re showing the younger generation that there are amazing people right here in your city you don’t have to go anywhere else.”

Daniels postponed last year’s gala because of the pandemic, but she plans to bring it back in 2021.