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Atlanta Salutes Two of Its Best as Civil Rights Legend Andrew Young and Producer Coach K Take Home NBAF Awards

Atlanta icons Andrew Young and Kevin “Coach K” Lee were honored at the National Black Arts Festival ASCEND benefit and Horizon awards on Saturday, Oct. 30.

For Coach K, the NBAF holds a special place in his heart, as he and his mother would attend the annual awards event when he was in high school. “To me that’s where all the artistic cool people used to come, then fast-forward to today, to be able to get an award from something that I looked up to and enjoyed going to, it’s just amazing,” he said at the ceremony in Atlanta.

Coach K is the recipient of the 2021 ASCEND Trailblazer Award. The Atlantan of 25 years is co-founder and chief operating officer of Quality Control Music which is headquartered in Atlanta. The record label produces hit-making hip-hop acts including Lil Baby, City Girls, and platinum-selling artist Cardi B.

In the 2000s, Lee began managing two of hip-hop’s biggest acts, Jeezy, who earned two No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200, and Gucci Mane, who peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s rap albums chart. Coach K says he and fellow co-founder Pierre “Pee” Thomas take developing music talent seriously to stand out among other music producers.

“It’s an old-school approach, the Motown, the Berry Gordy and Russell Simmons, when music was going to a place of just data, everybody was chasing the data and started developing the talent. We stayed with that old school way and learned how to use the data too, so it really helped us create superstars,” said Coach K.

Andrew Young, 89, was also honored with the 2021 ASCEND Luminary Award for his lifelong dedication to serving others. The civil rights leader, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, former Georgia congressman and former Atlanta mayor and social entrepreneur has been a fixture in Atlanta for 60 years.

As an avid art collector, Young is honored to be recognized by the NBAF. He says Atlanta’s Black art community has always captured the story of African-Americans. “Art tells a story, the art during the civil rights movement all reflected what was going on,” he said at the Oct. 30 awards ceremony.

“Every level of society, from the bankers to the college presidents to the folks on the street, we organized. The most important Black art in this town for me in the beginning was organizing the neighborhoods so people understood they were part of an arts community,” Young added.

The NBAF was founded in 1987 by the Fulton County Arts Council and bills itself as the “oldest multidisciplinary arts organization in the country focused exclusively on the arts and artists of African descent.”

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