The African American Irish Diaspora Network (AAIDN) will hold its inaugural Diaspora Leadership Awards Gala on Thursday, September 29, at 6:30 pm at Manhattan Manor, 201 West 52nd Street in New York City.

The event will honor four leaders of international stature in the spheres of social justice, scholarship, business leadership, and advocacy: Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and chancellor of Trinity College Dublin, who will receive the Frederick Douglass-Daniel O’Connell Social Justice Award; Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., Harvard University professor and executive producer of "Finding Your Roots" with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who will receive the AAIDN Inspiration and Vision Award; John Samuelsen, international president of the Transportation Workers Union, who will receive the John Lewis-John Hume Leadership Award; and Fionnghuala “Fig” O’Reilly, 2019 Miss Universe Ireland and NASA datanaut, who will receive the AAIDN Heritage and Diaspora Spirit Award. 

Ten weeks from today! September 29th we will be hosting our Inaugural Diaspora Leadership Awards Gala

— African American Irish Diaspora Network (@aaidnetwork) July 21, 2022

AAIDN founder and board chair Dennis Brownlee remarked, “We are excited to have received such tremendous enthusiasm and support for our mission throughout the Irish and African American and American communities. Our gala will extend our impact and reach in meaningful ways at an important moment in world affairs.”

The event is co-chaired by two well-known members of the community, Miriam Nyhan Grey, founder of New York University’s Black, Brown and Green Voices program, and Keith L.T. Wright, director of strategic planning at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, LLP.

Launched in 2020, the African American Irish Diaspora Network is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to foster relationships between African Americans and Ireland based on shared heritage and culture. Funds from AAIDN’s gala will support scholarships to Ireland and to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well as supporting activities to amplify entrepreneurship development and artistic and cultural collaborations between Irish and African American artists. 

AAIDN’s board of directors is comprised of prominent scholars, activists, and community leaders. In its short existence, AAIDN has assembled a dynamic network of members and supporters in the United States and in Ireland. 

AAIDN is inspired by those for whom African American and Irish connections were important, such as Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell, as well as John Hume and John Lewis. Embodied in the honorees of the inaugural AAIDN gala is the continued commitment and passion of these inspirational leaders of the past.  

For information about the gala, visit AAIDNet.Org. For additional information or to make a reservation, contact Carla Capone at events [at]

*This column first appeared in the August 10 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication of IrishCentral.