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Scene & Heard: Women’s Empowerment Brunch

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/06/15/13/SN0bB.Em.138.jpeg|460
    - DANIEL COSTON
    WBTV anchor Christine Nelson with hostess Felicia Gray.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/06/15/13/1eUSWu.Em.138.jpeg|473
    - DANIEL COSTON
    Candice Johnson and Felicia Bittle.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/06/15/13/G5wc8.Em.138.jpeg|465
    - DANIEL COSTON
    Ebonie Hayes and Frederick Bonner.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/06/15/13/1jieDl.Em.138.jpeg|463
    - DANIEL COSTON
    Tracey Stafford, Chatima Johnson and Rhonda Mayo.

Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge had to deliver the news gently to Felicia Gray, hostess of the Women’s Empowerment Brunch. The room where the benefit was being held was at capacity, and they could not squeeze in one more guest, so she had to shut down the ticket sales. The 370 who were able to get a ticket were there to network and raise scholarship money for young men who are being mentored through the nonprofit 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte.

The brunch is just one of the events that are part of the Gray Classic, a weekend of fundraisers for the nonprofit that’s hosted annually by philanthropists Felicia and Herb Gray. There were also a business roundtable, a golf tournament and several parties.

The guests, who ranged in age from teens to those in their 80s, were each escorted to a table by one of the men from the nonprofit. Radio personality Chirl Girl was the emcee and Dr. Ophelia Garmon-Brown spoke. A highlight was the thousands of dollars and scholarship money handed out that day to some of the young men who are part of the nonprofit’s mission to mentor future leaders.

What I love about the Grays is that they are constantly coming up with ideas for interesting events in Charlotte. Days after the brunch, I had to ask her how they do it.

“We sit around and we come up with these ideas,” said Felicia. “We bounce them off each other and then we start reaching out to our network and making calls to make it happen.”

An example? Herb attended a book signing in Washington for S.C. Congressman Jim Clyburn’s memoir, “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black,” about how he came out of the Jim Crow-era South to achieve great success.

The couple are hosting a book signing by Clyburn at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture.

The Grays chose the Gantt Center because Clyburn mentions in the book how influential former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt was as the first black student to attend a previously all-white university in South Carolina when he attended Clemson in 1963. Details: www.ganttcenter.org.

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