The Los Angeles Black Business Leaders Hall of Fame recently honored nine black-owned businesses for their outstanding contributions to the Los Angeles economy. More than 300 business owners and leaders attended the event at The Huntington Library in San Marino.

Presented by City National Bank and hosted by the Hart Leadership Center, the Hall of Fame recognized the achievements of men and women in the black business community in Los Angeles who have dedicated their lives to the advancement and realization of equality in all industries.

“City National Bank and our African-American Caucus were so excited to participate in this significant event,” said Karen A. Clark, Multicultural Strategy manager for City National Bank. “The event provides a time to pause from work, reflect on the history of our city and celebrate the achievements of the black business community in building the Los Angeles we know today.” 

Mellody Hobson, president of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, one of the largest African American-owned money management and mutual fund companies in the U.S., was interviewed at the event by Wren T. Brown, an actor and the artistic director of the Ebony Repertory Theatre.

Hobson, who serves on the boards of firms including Starbucks Corp. and The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc., spoke about her involvement with the annual Black Corporate Directors Conference. The conference draws African-Americans who serve on top corporate boards to an annual gathering in Laguna Beach where speakers include America’s top CEOs.

The goal is to perpetuate “a pipeline of talented, civil-rights minded people in board rooms,” Hobson said. “I am in that (board) room because I’m a financial expert, because I have a strong background in communications and I’m an entrepreneur. But also because I’m black and a woman – and all of those things can enlighten and help the company.”

The awards program was hosted by actress Dawnn Lewis. Rod Banks, City National’s Commercial Banking Services Manager, presented the Biddy Mason Business of the Year award to Andrea Jackson, interim director, Vermont-Slauson Economic Development Corporation, Los Angeles.

Additional Hall of Fame recipients were:

Excellence in Community and Philanthropy

  • FCI Management – Patricia Watts CEO; Long Beach

Perseverance and Sustainability (Tie)

  • Black Business Association – Earl "Skip" Cooper CEO; Los Angeles
  • Harold & Belle's Restaurant, Los Angeles

Ruby Bridges Pioneer in Education

  • Eso Won Bookstore, Los Angeles

Entertainment, Innovation, and Technology

  • KJLH Radio – Karen E. Slade, general manager; Stevie Wonder, owner; Inglewood

Entrepreneurial Rising Stars (3 Winners)

  • The Todd Group - Todd Andrew-Barabino Hawkins, president; Marina del Rey
  • Baron Jay Littleton Foundation – Baron Jay Littleton, founder; Toluca Lake
  • Clear Gardens Yoga - Salena Collins, founder; Inglewood