Society / Featured Parties

Houston’s Diversity Celebrated In UNCF Gala That Brings In More Than $700,000 — Inside a Record Night in Havana

Funding Scholarships That Will Make a Lifetime of Difference

BY // 12.01.23

What: The 34th annual United Negro College Fund (UNCF) “Houston’s Night in Havana” gala

Where: The Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel

PC Moment: While there were welcomes, congratulations, testimonials from former students and the presentation of honorees, the this UNCG black-tie gala, attended by 700 evening charged into high gear when legendary artist, DJ, photographer and producer D-Nice lit up the night with his dance-worthy, curated tunes. This bold artist boasts more than 3.2 million followers on Instagram and he certainly had everyone’s attention on this night.

The Havana-theme of the evening addressed the reality of Houston’s diverse populace. The Bayou City is one of the most diverse cities in America with 44 percent of its population Black and Hispanic combined. The music and decor reflected the colorful themes too.

Applause, applause for gala chairs Erica Littlejohn Burnette and Barndi Carson, who along with honorary chair Desrye Morgan, led the gala to generous, record proceeds of more than $700,000. Those funds are earmarked for scholarships for UNCF scholars and for operating expenses at the four UNCF member colleges in Texas — Huston-Tillotson University, Jarvis Christian University, Texas College and Wiley University.

Lead sponsors supporting UNCF were Hewlett Packard Enterprises and longtime contributors ConocoPhillips and H-E-B.

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The evening highlighted the steadfast commitment to education equity from honorees Brentwood Baptist Church, accepted by senior pastor Joe Samuel Ratliff; CenterPoint Energy, accepted by UNCF South-Texas board member Valentine Emesih; and Jennifer Ford, owner of Premium Goods, the popular boutique sneaker shop in Rice Village.

UNCF gala chairs Brandi Carson and Erica Littlejohn Burnette flank gala guest Merele Yarborough. (Photo by Vicky Pink)
UNCF gala chairs Brandi Carson and Erica Littlejohn Burnette flank gala guest Merele Yarborough. (Photo by Vicky Pink)

Houston Mayoral candidate Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee delivered a proclamation to the UNCF board members saluting them for their commitment to the nonprofit and for their excellence in service.

PC Seen: Emcee Khamberl Marshall, NAACP Houston president — Bishop James Dixon of the Community of Faith Church, Miss UNCF Kaylin Williams from Huston-Tillison University, Merele Yarborough, Heidi and Marcus Smith, Eric Hylton, Gaynell Drexler, Maurice Jenkins, and UNCF area development director Zarinah K. Poole.

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