Advancement of Blacks in Sports (ABIS) CEO and founder Gary Charles giving closing remarks at the organization’s third annual Champions and Legends Fundraising event at MGM National Harbor on Saturday, June 1. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The app)
Advancement of Blacks in Sports (ABIS) CEO and founder Gary Charles giving closing remarks at the organization’s third annual Champions and Legends Fundraising event at MGM National Harbor on Saturday, June 1. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The app)

Advancement of Blacks in Sports (ABIS), a non-profit organization with a mission to advocate for a culture of equity and inclusion of racial, economic and social justice for African Americans in sports, held its third annual Champions and Legends Fundraising event at the MGM National Harbor Hotel and Casino in Oxon Hill, Maryland on June 1.  A veritable smorgasbord for African Americans in the sports industry, the event was not only a moment to learn, but also honor those breaking barriers within the sports industry.

Coach of the 2023 Howard University Swimming and Diving Team, Nicholas Askew, with his wife Christie Askew and three daughters, Aleena, Avianna and Aleya pose on the red carpet of ABIS Champions and Legends Gala on Saturday, June 1 at MGM National Harbor Hotel and Casino. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The app)
Coach of the 2023 Howard University Swimming and Diving Team, Nicholas Askew, with his wife Christie Askew and three daughters, Aleena, Avianna and Aleya pose on the red carpet of ABIS Champions and Legends Gala on Saturday, June 1 at MGM National Harbor Hotel and Casino. (Ja’Mon Jackson/The app)

The event featured a wellness workshop, financial literacy discussion, a professional development panel and a red carpet gala with iconic honorees including: 

  • , president of the Baltimore Ravens
  • Paxton Baker, minority owner of the Washington Nationals
  • , trial lawyer for justice
  • , president of
  • NBA Hall of Famer Spencer Haywood
  • Yolanda ‘Lonnie’ Ali, philanthropist and wife of Muhammad Ali and philanthropist; 
  • The Frank Scott
  • Six-time NCAA championships coach
  • The 1982 Cheyney State Lady Wolves, the first and only HBCU women’s basketball team to compete in the NCAA Division 1 Final Four Championship
  • The , the 2023 Northeast Conference Men’s Swimming & Diving Champions, and only HBCU with a swim program.

ABIS was established four years ago by Gary Charles following profound inspiration from the events of 2020 and the persistent racial injustices affecting society. Recognizing the urgent need to champion racial equity, social justice, and economic empowerment, Charles resolved to leverage his platform in sports as a catalyst for meaningful change.

During its short lifetime, has successfully graduated numerous students from its financial literacy program, equipping college athletes with essential knowledge and skills for maintaining their financial well-being throughout and beyond their collegiate careers.

Nowadays, Charles is personally focused on diversifying the world of sports. Inspired by the very same people he looked up to as a youth, Charles’ ABIS boasts a coalition of coaches and competitors from various sports across the country. 

The organization’s three-day event was highlighted by a session on wellness that focused on the challenges that coaches and athletes face and ways to address them.

The professional development panel followed and featured professionals from the media, sports ownership, athletes, business and a wide number of backgrounds.

 “There were so many things that I took away from the event,” said Robyn Magee, a current law school student at North Carolina Central University. 

Magee, a native of New Orleans, is serving as an intern for Howard University Athletics for the summer. 

“I learned about sports beyond the fields or courts. It covered the topics of gender equity, state of HBCUs, mental wellness, financial literacy and so many more.  The networking was great. This was a great opportunity for me as I move forward in my career pursuits.”

Celebrating the Honorees

Kearney, from 1993 to 2013, led the Texas Longhorns women’s track and field and cross-country teams at The University of Texas at Austin. She was celebrated for her contributions in leading the Lady Longhorns to six NCAA championships and was presented the Eddie Robinson Coaches Award.

“I have been honored before, but this has a different feel about it,” Kearney told The Informer.  “It is especially good to be honored by those who look like you.  What it says is that we don’t always have to wait for others to recognize our contributions.  It’s very fulfilling.  It makes you feel like family.”

Charles intimated that he developed a strong sense of loyalty to HBCUs as a product of Cheyney.  He was a student there during the historic times of the women’s program under ABIS honoree Hall of Fame Coach Vivian Stringer, who received the Trailblazer Award.      

Bison head coach Nicholas Askew has built the swim program into a national brand over the past three years.  The program, which has been featured in such publications as Sports Illustrated and on several other national platforms, received the ABIS Collegiate Team of the Year Award.

“For far too long, everyone on our team, including our coaching staff, had been in an environment that we knew was uncomfortable and that we knew was a space where others that looked like us were few and far between,” declared Askew, a former two-sport athlete and HU graduate.  “Now that we are at Howard University as the only HBCU in the entire world of swimming and diving programs, we understand that there’s so much more to it than what we do… What we do is we stand as a representation.” 

He also addressed a longtime myth.

“And to the lie that Black people don’t swim? Yes, we do, and we do it well,” Askew said.

Charles celebrated the event’s success.

“The weekend has truly exceeded our expectations, celebrating the excellence and legacy of trailblazers who are advancing racial and gender equity,” said Charles.  “It is wonderful to have so many people come together for a weekend to celebrate ‘us.'”

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