Monday, September 20, 2021

The HistoryMakers Honor Former BET CEO (Debra Lee) At Santa Monica College

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*Chicago, Illinois  – On Friday, October 11, 2019, The HistoryMakers – the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive – showcased the life and career of BET Networks Chairman and CEO Emeritus Debra Lee, one the nation’s top women in media and entertainment.

An Evening With Debra Lee was taped in front of a live audience at The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center.

Hosted by ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts, An Evening With Debra Lee represented the first time that The HistoryMakers has held its annual An Evening With… PBS-TV series and fundraiser on the west coast with the goal of increasing the number of Los Angeles African American HistoryMakers in the collection.

The Honorable Barack and The Honorable Michelle Obama and The Honorable Bill and The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the honorary chairs. Honorary Co-Chairs for the program included Clarence and Jacqueline Avant; Suzanne de Passe, Samuel L. and LaTanya R. Jackson, The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr. and Dr. Sharon Malone, Rodney & Holly Robinson Peete, LL COOL J and Simone I. Smith, and Cicely Tyson, among others.

Co-chairs and benefit committee members included The Honorable Dwight Bush and Toni Cook Bush, Debra Martin Chase, Channing Johnson, The Honorable William E. Kennard and Deborah D. Kennedy, Charles D. King, and Jon Platt, among others.

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Music director for the evening was Dancing With the Stars Ray Chew. Grammy-nominated singer- songwriter Eric Benét opened the program and R&B legend Chaka Khan provided the ending tribute. Videotaped appearances include: Earvin “Magic” and Cookie Johnson; music producer Quincy Jones; entertainment mogul Sean Combs; Motown legend Smokey Robinson; former Obama presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett; 82nd U.S. Attorney General The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.; BET Networks President Scott M. Mills and business and civic leader Vernon Jordan, among others.

A graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Lee began her career as a law firm associate before being recruited by BET founder Bob Johnson to serve as BET’s in house counsel. There she played an instrumental role in the company’s growth. This would lead to the historic $3 billon sale of BET to Viacom and her assuming the role of CEO. Under Lee’s leadership, BET launched original programming and expanded its reach beyond music videos.


About The HistoryMakers
The HistoryMakers, a 501 (c) (3) national non-profit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, is dedicated to creating the largest digital repository of the Black experience. In 2014, it was announced that the Library of Congress would serve as the permanent repository for The HistoryMakers Collection. To date, the organization has interviewed over 3,300 African American HistoryMakers in U.S. 413 cities and towns as well as abroad. The HistoryMakers Digital Archive also makes the collection available to K-12 public schools, 69 colleges and universities, and public libraries — with more being added.

For more information, visit The HistoryMakers website at





Courtney Shareef
Travel and Producing Coordinator
The HistoryMakers
[email protected]



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