Luncheon celebrates diversity in auto industry

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

The accomplishments of minorities and women within the auto industry were celebrated at Thursday’s Multicultural Media Luncheon.

The fifth annual event, held inside a banquet hall inside downtown Detroit’s Westin Book Cadillac hotel, was hailed as a “premiere event” during the North American International Auto Show media week by Zafar Brooks, Hyundai’s director of general affairs for diversity and inclusion, one of the speakers at the luncheon. Prior to the meal, the Rev. Wendell Anthony led the room in a blessing.

“It’s an event to recognize people you don’t hear about every day,” said Cheryl Parks Ajamu, the Multicultural Media Luncheon’s creator and executive producer. She has watched the event grow every year, from one sponsor and 100 attendees in 2011 to 10 sponsors and 223 attendees this year.

Ajamu said every year she works for about 10 months to pull off the event. This year’s theme was “Reinventing Your Brand” and featured a keynote address from Keith Clinkscales, the CEO of Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Revolt TV and one of the execs who launched Vibe magazine with Quincy Jones in the early 1990s.

Clinkscales spoke about the key role that pride and confidence play in one’s success. “You can say what you want about President Obama,” he said, “what you cannot say is that he lacks swag.” He talked about his journey from Trumbull, Connecticut, to Florida A&M University, and gave suggestions on the things brands must do to gain traction in today’s youth- and hip-hop-oriented marketplace.

Awards were handed out in a handful of categories, including Social Media Campaign of the Year (Tesla won for its Tesla D. launch), Multicultural TV Commercial of the Year (Maserati Ghibli’s “Strike” spot) and the Visionary Award for Design and Engineering (which went to Hyundai’s Andre Hudson). Toyota’s James Colon was the recipient of the event’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Khary Turner, the event’s emcee for the fourth year in a row, said he and many of the attendees consider the event a yearly highlight and a “working holiday.”

“This event puts all the key players inside one room and says, ‘Look at this rainbow,’ ” he says. “That’s pretty cool.”