Bivian "Sonny" Lee III was presented with the 2015 Shine a Light award during the 15th annual BET Awards, which was broadcast live on Sunday, June 28 from the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles. Lee, a 2006 graduate of the University of New Orleans College of Business Administration, received the honor for his work as founder of Son of a Saint, an organization that provides mentoring and support services to young boys whose fathers have died or been incarcerated. The award was presented to Lee by husband and wife actors Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe.
The inspiration for Lee's work was the loss of his own father, Bivian Lee Jr., a defensive back for the New Orleans Saints who passed away after a heart attack at age 36 when Sonny was three years old. Sonny established Son of a Saint in 2011 in honor of his late father and single mother, who raised both Sonny and his older sister on her own. Lee credits the relationships and discipline he developed as a young athlete as positive forces in his early life. The Son of a Saint organization utilizes a network of volunteers and community partners to ensure that other young, fatherless boys have the opportunity to receive meaningful guidance and encouragement. Participants enter the program between the ages of 10 and 13 and remain involved until receipt of a college acceptance letter. The program accepts 10 new participants each year and currently has 40 enrollees. Applications are being accepted for the program beginning in 2016.
The BET Shine a Light award recognizes contributions to the African-American community. Previous awardees include playwright, radio personality and magazine publisher Vy Higginsen, author of "Mama, I Want to Sing!" and David Boone Jr., a young man from Cleveland, Ohio, who maintained a 4.0 grade point average in high school in spite of being homeless and went on to study computer science at Harvard and work for Microsoft.
Black Entertainment Television (BET), a subsidiary of Viacom's BET Networks division, reaches more than 88 million households. According to Business Wire, the annual BET Awards is the network's highest rated telecast every year. The awards ceremony was established in 2001 to honor African-Americans in music, acting, sports and other fields of entertainment.