By Bernal E. Smith, II

The New Tri-State Defender continues to grow and evolve as a multi-media business that is on a mission to inform, inspire and elevate the community.

As we move forward serving Greater Memphis via our weekly printed newspaper, we now are reaching global audiences through multiple digital platforms. That growth and expansion is complemented by the addition of events that allow us to extend our brand and our mission into the community in effectively penetrating ways.

It is with great purpose and intention that we conduct and support the various events in which we endeavor. Certainly that is the case with our 65th Anniversary Legends and Leaders Gala.

Growth requires that we take time to reflect on and understand the journey, the steps that have brought us to this point. If we are to have more abundant life today, we must study those that struggled, triumphed, toiled and sacrificed so that we could obtain the lessons expressed in their words and actions. Truly it is those lessons that lead to our greatest tomorrows.

Yet and still, we must not miss the history that is evolving before us each day. It is imperative that we appreciate those that are contributing, building, fighting and striving today for better tomorrows.

Tasked with chronicling the past 65 years of history, change and struggle, The New Tri-State Defender (TSD) – at this seminal point in its evolution – pauses this week with dual focus: to acknowledge and reflect on our great contributors and newsmakers of the past; and to shine our spotlight on a new generation of leaders making things happen today.

Ever mindful of our historic commitment to give voice to the community, we chose to use the platform of our 65th Anniversary to recognize and acknowledge legends and leaders and to ensure connectivity and purpose between them.

That is what this celebration is about: the continuum of leadership, the connectivity of generations of leaders within the Greater Memphis community for the sake of greater purpose and outcomes going forward.

Too many times, the things that separate us – race, class, culture and/or generational gaps – take precedence and strand us on the road to our greatest potential. My vision and hope is that this “Legends and Leaders” gala and celebration connects people of influence in a more meaningful way while also opening a path to the many opportunities to work collectively across seasons of purpose to improve our great city.

As a life-long Memphian, I have long observed the disconnect between generations of leaders, particularly in the African-American community. There has been an absence of intentionality towards sharing, nurturing, grooming and passing the torch. In some instances, a tug of war ensued. At other times, the dropped torch had to be picked up from the ground and re-lit.

In both instances, progress was stalled or halted, injuries occurred and the flame flickered out. Rather than leveraging the progress from the previous runners, we found ourselves starting anew. We cannot afford to continue down the path of self-inflicted wounds and setbacks.

It is my desire that Legends and Leaders will be a spark (among other catalysts) to light a new torch that we can collectively and proudly carry forward. I sincerely believe we can establish a beacon light of hope for a new day and a new way, where intentionality is the order of the day relative to working across our differences for a greater tomorrow for all.

I congratulate all of our honorees and I encourage them to take on this effort to improve our outcomes with greater connectivity and purpose. I am asking them to do it not only within their own families amongst fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, but to also share knowledge, ideas and access with our city’s sons and daughters. The yield will be a stronger collective for the Memphis of tomorrow.

At the TSD, we acknowledge that Memphis has so many that are deserving of this recognition and we regret that we simply couldn’t acknowledge more this year. The sobering aspect of these kinds of endeavors is that finite capacity requires some limitations and exclusions. That does not diminish the great contributions of so many across our great city. To those that we were not able to recognize, please continue doing the great work that you are doing and know that we are watching with appreciative eyes. And when the time comes, we stand ready to celebrate you, perhaps through another platform.

The Legends and Leaders gala will unfold on Saturday, March 25 at 7 p.m. at the St. Jude Domino’s Event Center. Join us for a grand occasion and a momentous one for the community and TSD. And if you are unable to attend, join us in the ongoing spirit of the occasion and our mission to inform, inspire and elevate. Collectively, WE are the solution.