Atlanta Hosts Inaugural ICE Medal of Honor Celebration

(Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC))

As Black Music Month is underway, the Black American Music Association, under the guidance of Chairman Michael Mauldin, inaugurated the ICE (Imperial Crown of Excellence) Medal of Honor in a star-studded ceremony in Atlanta on Sunday. The event honored legends, visionaries, and trailblazers in Black American music.

The ICE Medal of Honor aims to highlight the contributions of artists and executives who have enriched the world with their talents and paved the way for future generations. Hosts Michael Mauldin, L.A. Reid, and Chaka Zulu led the evening’s festivities.

“We are thrilled to launch the ICE Medal of Honor and to recognize these outstanding individuals who have made an enduring mark on the world through their art and creativity,” says Michael Mauldin, the co-producer and visionary behind the event.

Mayor Andre Dickens of Atlanta made a special toast, honoring the awardees and receiving the ICE – Culture & Community Leadership Honor for his contributions to the city’s cultural fabric. Mayor Dickens’ recognition placed an emphasis on the role Atlanta has played as a hotbed for Black American music.

Atlanta Hosts Inaugural ICE Medal of Honor Celebration
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis at the ICE Medal of Honor

Among the evening’s honorees were some of the industry’s most influential figures -Grandmaster Flash received the befitting Transformative Award, celebrating his revolutionary use of turntables as musical instruments, which elevated the DJ to an artistic status. Flash’s contributions were foundational in the development of hip-hop, earning him a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and numerous other accolades. Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis were honored with the Global Creative Impact Honor. Celebrating fifty years of professional partnership, their influence as GRAMMY-winning producers has been monumental in shaping contemporary music.

Suzanne de Passe, recognized with the Trailblazer Honor, was the first Black female president of Motown Productions and instrumental in discovering The Jackson 5 and The Commodores. The award bearing her name will be passed to future industry pioneers. Jeffrey Harleston, awarded Music Executive Leadership of the Year, has been pivotal in Universal Music Group’s legal and governmental affairs, impacting the music industry’s business landscape.

Robert “Kool” Bell received the Lifetime Achievement Honor for his work with Kool & the Gang, a band that has cast a long shadow on the R&B, soul, funk, and disco genres.

Other notable recipients included Muni Long, Jermaine Dupri, and Bryan-Michael Cox, who won R&B Song of the Year for their hit “Made for Me,” and iconic labels SoSo Def Records and LaFace Records, each recognized as Artist Development Label of an Era.

The ICE Medal of Honor celebration also paid homage to individuals who have significantly contributed to music education and community empowerment. The Otis Redding Foundation was acknowledged for its dedication to youth education, and Dr. Uzee Brown Jr. was honored for his nearly five-decade tenure at Morehouse College and his influence in music education.

In a heartfelt moment, the ceremony also recognized two of Atlanta’s fallen industry veterans: Clay Evans and visionary hitmaker Rico Wade. Their contributions to the music scene in Atlanta and beyond were remembered with great respect and admiration.

“This celebration is a testament to the power of Black American music in shaping culture and inspiring generations,” says Mauldin.

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