Every fall, more than 2,000 international, government and corporate leaders gather in Washington, DC, for what has become the largest annual event for Africa in the United States. The Africare Bishop John T. Walker Memorial Dinner pays tribute to leaders in fields pertaining to Africa — and supports Africare's work.

This year, the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award was presented to six-time Grammy Award winner John Legend at the event that was held on Tuesday, November 3, at The Washington Hilton Hotel. The award, given annually at the Africare Dinner, recognizes the work of an individual or individuals who have made a significant impact on raising the standard of living in Africa. Prior recipients include President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, then-Presidents Nelson Mandela and George W. Bush, Ambassador Andrew Young, Dorothy I. Height, Graca Machel, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates. The selection of John Legend underscores the importance that a young voice brings to the efforts of improving the quality of life for the people of Africa.

“John Legend is truly a superstar.” Julius E. Coles, President of Africare remarked. “He is a humanitarian, a fantastic entertainer and he is a person who is very concerned with ending poverty in Africa. These are some of the reasons we have chosen him to be our honoree this year. I can not think of a better candidate to receive the award. He truly deserves it.”

Employing his music and position to highlight the plight of the world’s poor, Mr. Legend, recently named one of Time Magazine’s most influential People of 2009, is challenging a new generation not only to care—but to take action. In 2007, inspired by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’ book, “The End of Poverty” Mr. Legend established the Show Me Campaign with the aim to fight poverty through sustainable practical, development programs.

Since its launch, the Show Me Campaign, in partnership with the Millennium Promise is working with the western Tanzanian village of Mbola, to empower more than 30,000 people with sustainable solutions such as securing safe water points, improving agricultural techniques, building local medical clinics, providing free meals for school children, preventing malaria with insecticide treated bed nets and providing antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV/AIDS.

“We’re just trying to do our part, doing the kind of work Africare has helped pioneer.” Legend said to the audience before accepting his award. “It’s not easy work. We’re making progress, but we must continue our steadfast support of Africa.”

The theme of the 2009 Bishop Walker Dinner was “Combating Malaria.” With more than 1 million people dying every year of malaria (90 percent living in Sub-Saharan Africa); and with malaria estimated to cost Africa more than $US 12 billion every year in lost economic growth, the dinner highlighted the need for the control of this disease  and Africare’s commitment to preventing and treating malaria on the African continent.

Among those who attended the dinner were US Malaria Coordinator, President’s Malaria Initiative, Rear Admiral Timothy Ziemer (Ret); Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson; Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Acting Administrator COO and Executive Secretary of USAID, Alonzo Fulgam; former editor-in chief of Essence Magazine, Susan Taylor; and Beninese Grammy Award-winning singer Angelique Kidjo, who capped off the evening with a rousing performance that had the whole audience singing and dancing with her.

The Coca-Cola Company was the national sponsor of the Africare 2009 Bishop John T. Walker Dinner.

Africare is a leading non-profit organization specializing in African aid. It is also the oldest and largest African-American led organization in that field. Since its founding in 1970, Africare has delivered well over $800 million in assistance and support — over 2,500 projects and millions of beneficiaries — to 36 countries Africa-wide. Africare has its international headquarters in Washington, DC, with field offices currently in some 25 African countries.

The Bishop Walker Dinner plays an important role in enabling Africare to both broaden awareness about its work in Africa and to raise critically needed funds to deliver life-saving services. Africare is committed to working with Health and HIV/AIDS; Food Security and Agriculture, Water and Sanitation; and Emergency and Humanitarian Assistance. The 2008 Africare Bishop Walker Dinner had over 1,800 attendees and raised over $1 million.