The 40th annual Kaitz Dinner, hosted at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square, marked a significant milestone for The Walter Kaitz Foundation and the cable industry. The fundraiser event raised $1.1 million and brought together industry executives to celebrate four incredible decades of work fostering diversity and inclusivity across the media and entertainment landscape.
The funds will be channeled into programs aimed at supporting leadership and professional development for women, diverse professionals, and students in the media and entertainment sector.
A Lasting Legacy
The Kaitz Dinner, which this year carried the theme "Staying Focused," has long served as the culmination of the industry's annual Diversity Week. Through the funds raised at the dinner every year, the Foundation is able to support organizations and programs that provide opportunities for women and diverse professionals through executive leadership development, mentoring programs and enriching experiences for professional growth.
To celebrate 40 years of the Kaitz Dinner, Spencer Kaitz, the son of Walter Kaitz, reflected on the founding mission of the Walter Kaitz Foundation which has remained steadfast since it was first formed in the 1980s to provide fellowships for people of color to increase diversity within the cable industry. In his remarks, Kaitz also emphasized the collective progress the industry has made over the past four decades while underscoring that there is still much work to be done.
A highlight of the night was the presentation of the ChangeMaker awards, which recognize individuals and initiatives that have significantly impacted diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in media and entertainment.
ChangeMaker Award for Creative Content: This prestigious award went to Hallmark Media's Mahogany initiative, which has captivated audiences nationwide by celebrating love, joy, kindness, and human connection through the lens of the Black experience. Toni Judkins, Senior Vice President of Programming Development at Hallmark Media, accepted the award on behalf of the organization.
ChangeMaker Award for Social Impact: The Hidden Genius Project received this award for training and mentoring Black male youth in technology creation, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills to transform their lives and communities. Brandon Nicholson, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of The Hidden Genius Project, accepted the award, and they were pleasantly surprised to receive a grant of $40,000 for their outstanding contributions.
Silent Auction, Distinguished Hosts, and Captivating Entertainment
A new addition to the event this year was a silent auction during the opening and closing receptions. The auction generated over $50,000 in bids, with the proceeds directly supporting the Foundation's recognition of grantees and ChangeMakers.
The event was hosted by Zinhle Essamuah, co-anchor of NBC News Daily and a 2023 Emmy nominee in the Outstanding Emerging Journalist category, and co-chaired by Dalila Wilson-Scott, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, and Detavio Samuels, CEO of REVOLT.
Entertainment was a key part of the evening, with renowned vocalist Chris "CJW" Weaver, known for his appearance on NBC's "The Voice," captivating the audience with his performance.
Keeping the Momentum Going
The 40th annual Kaitz Dinner served as both a commemoration of the past and a compelling call to action to ensure that diversity and inclusion efforts continue to be a critical part of the industry's future.
The annual fundraising drive will remain active for contributions until December 31, 2023.