The word godfather prompts different images in our heads. Immediately many people think of the movie starring Marlon Brando and eventually Al Pacino. While others think of rhythm and blues artist James Brown. Godfather is a term of endearment. In some cultures, godparents are revered and are looked upon as family. They are responsible for the spiritual growth of the ones they stand for and ultimately fulfilling the role of taking care of others. The term godfather also means a man who is influential or helped pioneer a movement or organization. That is who Clarence Avant was, our Black Godfather. According to the documentary done on him by Netflix a couple of years ago, it seems his reach went wide and deep in the entertainment industry, touching so many lives.
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Avant around 1980 when I moved to Los Angeles to attend college. His wife, Jacqueline Avant, who passed away in December 2021, at the time worked with the Museum of African American Art inside Macy’s at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall, and she mentored me about Art and what it meant to be a Docent. Many years later in the 1990’s when I had my event planning business, Mrs. Avant hired me to help her with a fundraising project that she was hosting at her home for Reverend Al Sharpton. Over the years I got to know the family and Mr. Avant was always a quiet storm. They were committed to giving back.
In the Netflix documentary, they shared about Mr. Avant’s contributions to Black entertainment and all the lives he touched and helped during his career. He touched various entertainers such as Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, and Bill Withers, just to name a few spanning decades. He created Tabu Records and worked with artists such as the S.O.S. Band, and Kenny Babyface Edmonds. He helped navigate the beginnings of many artists’ careers. In 1993 Clarence Avant became the chairman of Motown Records after its sale to Polygram. He was instrumental in grooming not only artists in front of the camera but also behind the scenes and making sure business deals were handled properly.
The legend of Clarence Avant will live forever. He leaves a rich legacy for the work he did, but he was also a family man. His wife and children have also made many contributions to help make our community a better place. As a family, they were involved in the election of Barack Obama as the first Black President of the United States. Subsequently, their daughter, Nicole Avant was appointed in 2009 as the United States Ambassador to the Bahamas and she served until 2011. She was the first Black woman and the youngest U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas ever. She is also the wife of Ted Sarandos, the CEO of Netflix. His son Alex is an actor, producer, and businessman.
I am grateful I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Avant and I appreciate how I too was a beneficiary of their commitment to giving back to the community and helping small Black businesses thrive. I pray for peace and comfort for his children and loved ones as they lay him to rest and say goodbye to the genius he was and the contributions he made to the world. The Black Godfather may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. #CoachWendy
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