Audra McDonald made history on Sunday, June 8 when she became the first person to win six Tony Awards. McDonald won her sixth Tony Award in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” which is playing at Circle in the Square Theatre.

Anyone who has seen this production knows that McDonald becomes Holiday on many levels and does justice to this jazz great. McDonald’s portrayal is respectful, touching and moving to watch. It is a performance that you will never forget once you have experienced it. It is no wonder that this role was the one that assisted her in breaking the Tony Award record of five, held by Angela Lansbury.

As McDonald received the Tony, she became teary-eyed and cried throughout her acceptance speech. She thanked her mom and dad in Heaven for not obeying the doctor’s orders and medicating their hyperactive daughter, but instead finding out what she liked and pushing her into theater. She thanked her husband, Will Swenson, and her family. She thanked Lonny Price, the show’s director, who said she could do it. Then McDonald thanked the women whose shoulders she stands on “Lena Horne, Maya Angelou, Dianne Carroll, Ruby Dee and Billie Holiday. You deserved so much more than you were given, Billie. Thank you so much,” said McDonald.

It was such an amazing night as we watched the 68th Tony Awards occurring at Radio City Music Hall and heard the name Audra McDonald called as the winner of this award, which acknowledges excellence on the Broadway stage. As McDonald made history, there were also other reasons for African-Americans to be proud and to celebrate. “A Raisin in the Sun,” the revival of the classic Lorraine Hansberry play, won for Best Revival; Kenny Leon won for Best Director of a Play; and Sophie Okonedo won for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her role as Ruth Younger. Essentially, “A Raisin in the Sun” put Leon and Okonedo on the map.

For Leon, it marked his first Tony win, and well deserved it was. For Okonedo, she can now add the award to her list of accomplishments, including the time she won Best Theatrical Debut from the Theatre World Awards.

When Leon won for Best Director, he thanked his mother. “I’m looking for the day when every child in America can have a little piece of theater in their daily educational lives. Thank you to all the people who get on planes, trains and buses to see our work. This Tony Award represents the work of a lot of people. A wonderful cast anchored by Denzel Washington and those women. I couldn’t ask for a better group of actresses,” he shared.

Thinking about inspiring others, he said, “I grew up poor on Mississippi Road, and I made it to Broadway. That’s a long way. Whenever a young person sees someone has accomplished something, it says it’s possible for them.”

Leon was being interviewed by the print press when Okonedo’s win was announced. He excitedly shouted “Yes,” and shared that no one worked harder than she did. Ten years ago, Leon directed the play on Broadway. Reflecting on that and this production, he shared, “I’ve grown as an artist, so this was about doing an intimate production of a big play. I asked the designers to approach this like they would ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Richard III,’ so we talked about metaphors like suffocation.”

Moreover, when you walked in the theater, you heard Hansberry being interviewed. “The focus was on her and the work,” Leon said.

In talking about getting the best performances out of his cast, Leon remarked, “I was lucky because I had a good cast. Even, strong actors, and they did an amazing job. The number one thing they did was to listen to each other. That’s real special to have a family of actors that love being on stage together.” Although “A Raisin in the Sun” will close this coming Sunday, a new production for Leon is about to open. He will next be directing “Holler If You Hear Me,” the Tupac Shakur musical.

Okonedo was gracious when she won and thanked the cast, Leon and her family. “I’m loving it on Broadway, it’s such a generosity of spirit. I work with proper actors, and they hold, love and carry me on stage every night,” she shared.

If you can see “A Raisin in the Sun” before it closes, you should make it your business to do so.

Another fantastic moment at this year’s Tony Awards was when James Monroe Iglehart took home the Tony for Featured Actor in a Musical for his awesome role as the Genie in Disney’s “Aladdin.” Iglehart performs the role with such great humor and energy, he completely deserved the Tony Award, and it was great to see someone get something that their performance totally calls for.

A beaming Iglehart thanked God and his family for the award, saying he considers himself blessed. “To be able to take my favorite Disney character and for them to allow me to bring it to life and then put my spin on it, it doesn’t get any better than this,” Iglehart stated. Likewise, Iglehart received the Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for “Aladdin” last Sunday.

Having the work of our people acknowledged was so gratifying to see, but that wasn’t the only thrill that one experienced while watching the Tonys. There were great performances by the cast of “After Midnight.” Fantasia just played her final performance earlier on Sunday, and she was joined on stage by Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight, who will take turns filling the role that she left. All three ladies sang a jazzed up rendition of “Sunnyside of the Street.” Then Dulé Hill led the cast in a tap-dancing number to “It Don’t Mean a Thing” that wowed everyone.

This show has so much to offer, and people got a taste of it at the Tonys.

Then the cast of “Les Miserables” gave a chilling, powerful performance of “One Day More.” The Tonys were just so mesmerizing to watch. It gave everyone a chance to see what Broadway is offering and to hear about upcoming offerings.

Our people are definitely giving it their all on Broadway stages, so please, go out and support them.