UNCF’s 11th Annual New Orleans Mayor’s Masked Ball Was A Night Of Philanthropy

Photographer by Darius Taplet

Right in the heart of the Big Easy, the Zulu Tramps and One Shot Brass band led the 2024 honorees for the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) 11th Annual Mayor’s Masked Ball at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans.

This year’s honorees included Stephanie and Ryan Burks, owners of RYCARS Construction, and Caroline Wanga, the President and CEO of ESSENCE Ventures and Co-Founder of WangaWoman LLC. During their speeches, the Burks offered a poignant reminder of the importance of investment into the futures of students, while Wanga emboldened guests to use their “broken pieces,” and to live life authentically.

UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball Was A Night Of Philanthropy
Photographed by Darius Taplet

The night also included respects from local university presidents, including Dillard University’s Dr. Rochelle Ford, and Xavier University’s Dr. C. Reynold Verret. As the leaders of these historically Black colleges they championed the support of UNCF, citing that because of the organization’s roughly 80 years efforts, it has managed to change the narrative surrounding HBCUs by equipping students with the necessary tools to transition into college, graduate, and establish their careers that would positively impact society. 

“UNCF and HBCUs matter now more than ever as our students and institutions need ongoing support. Events like the New Orleans Mayor’s Masked Ball help us do just that,” said Therese Badon, UNCF’s Senior Vice President of Development and Special Events Divisions.

It was in the student testimonials that the sentiment was echoed – Xavier University Senior, Jada Owens shared that she is graduating debt-free due to UNCF scholarship helping to support her tuition over her four-year studies, and Dillard University Junior, Abbey-Lynn Gonzalez shared the numerous times the UNCF scholarship was a saving grace and kept her enrolled in school. Gonzalez is studying music and graciously thanked donors with an impromptu rendition of the song “Grateful” which brought many in the audience to tears.

The beautiful evening was emceed by Comedian Kim Coles, who kept the evening flowing in a lighthearted manner. UNCF New Orleans also spotlighted its new Ball Chair Scott Snipes, as well as the sponsors who helped bring the evening to life. According to a release, gifts received helped gross more than $730,000 from partners such as New Orleans Saints/Pelicans, Entergy, Ochsner Health, Mardi Gras Productions, Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences, Encore and WWL-TV (local CBS affiliate).

In addition to being recognized, the honorees were also presented with a Key to the City from Mayor of New Orleans, Latoya Cantrell.

The evening ended with the iconic funk band The Bar-Kays bringing everyone to the dance floor for a boogie to celebrate a night of benefaction.

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