The tomfoolery of last week threw me off kilter a lil, causing a major oversight to one of the premiere entertainment events of the year; however the return to the essence of an icon made it ok to revisit.
So with that, The Apollo Theater held its 2014 annual Spring Gala which also marked a landmark birthday. The storied Theater’s 80th anniversary as a revered intuition is something that Harlem, New York and America can take pride in.
As it’s done in previous years the Apollo recognizes a corporation for its outstanding philanthropy and community leadership. This year’s recipient of the Corporate Award was BNY Mellon. Chairman & CEO Gerald L. Hassell accepted the award on behalf of BNY Mellon. Furthermore, the Apollo presented Richard D. Parsons with their highest honor, The Leadership Award in honor of his many years of leadership and service to the Apollo. Parsons has served as Chairman of the Board for the Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc., since 2001 during which he has played an integral role in the revitalization of the Theater. Along with that position, Parson was the former Chairman at Citicorp and Time Warner has currently has been appointed by the NBA as the CEO to the embattled LA Clippers, while he owns and operates various entrepreneurial ventures. Hard work and dedication personified. In accepting his award Parson shared, “No one in today’s world accomplishes anything by themselves. With one exception. You could be a terrorist and drive around and you shoot people and you blow things up. But if you want to build something you need compatriots. You need people who are in the trenches with you. And so, the real credit goes, not to me. The real credit goes to Ron Perelman (Apollo Vice Chairman) and the rest of the members of the board…it goes to Jonelle Procope (Apollo Theater President & CEO)…And so, I am more humbled than honored, because I don’t feel like I deserve to be honored, but I’m humble to be recognized in company with this unbelievable, important American, iconic institution.”
As a departure from the event in years prior, this year’s Gala celebrated the eight decades of artistic brilliance that have been presented on the Apollo stage since 1934 as opposed to selections honoring those inducted into the Apollo Hall Of Fame. Thus providing a spectrum of musical performances ranging from Blues, Soul, R&B, Gospel, Hip Hop and Dance as interpreted by Gladys Knight, Natalie Cole, The Isley Brothers, Joss Stone, Human Nature, Edwin Hawkins and Savion Glover. Wayne Brady, serving as host for the second year in succession had two show stealing performances, one as a singer with 2010 Amateur Night Child Star of Tomorrow and jazz musician Matthew Whitaker, a 13-year prodigy who happened to have been born blind, on keyboards, in a tribute of “Georgia On My Mind” that would make Ray Charles and Jamie Foxx proud; as well as an impromptu rapper flowin off the dome with The Human Beat-Box Doug E. Fresh.
Just as golden as the live performances were the archival footage, in particular a clip of the Nicholas Brothers from the 1930’s that drew catcalls and applause as if they were live on stage. Legendary actress, Ruby Dee, sang the praises of the Apollo in a clip with such love and reverence that put in perspective the affinity that the theatre has on performers that grace the stage. Little did we know that the very next night, Ruby Dee would embark on her peaceful journey. This year’s event raised a record breaking $2.3 million, which will support the Apollo’s year-round performing arts programming, innovative education initiatives, and community programs, but just as important that brief message from Ruby Dee in expressing her love for the Apollo expressed her love for her people. We reciprocate. Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.