Are you ready to roll out the lazy, hazy days of summer? The days of potato salad, watermelon and beer? With Old Man Winter clearly a distant memory, spring has hardly had any time to imbue us with warm sunshine, spring rain and clear blue skies before the thermometer hit 80 degrees. But that’s okay. I’ll take it.
City College, the iconic institution that sits high on the hill is quickly expanding its reputation for being more than just a fine academic learning center. With the establishment of the City College Center for the Arts, the college has taken cultural aesthetics to another level. The City College Center for the Arts is becoming a cultural hub for the college, the surrounding neighborhood and the tristate area, a venue for creativity and diversity.
Celebrating the arts and artist, the Center for the Arts hosted an Inaugural Awards Benefit honoring legendary actress, dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, film director and screenwriter Gina Prince-Bythewood, singer-songwriter Alexa Ray Joel, and Grammy-winning pianist Arturo O’Farrill, which clearly puts the Center for the Arts on the map.
Held at Aaron Davis Hall, the event opened with a cocktail hour, after which guests were escorted into the auditorium to witness a fascinating program and awards ceremony, beginning with an opening number by Batoto Yetu & Sho-Off Dance Company. The program continued with a solo by Darilyn Castillo, a CCNY Theater Department student, of whom all I can say is remember her name and that you read about her here first.
With award-winning journalist, Maurice DuBois, of “CBS 2 News” acting as master of ceremonies, the awards portion of the program began. Honorees, introduced by radio station WQXR evening host, Terrance McKnight, graciously and humbly accepted their awards, with no regrets for having made the sacrifices that their respective careers demanded. A short video clip was shown before each honoree accepting the award, giving the audience a glimpse of why they were chosen to receive the prize.
Carmin de Lavallade spoke of “committing yourself to your art and following your dream.” Gina Prince-Blythwood reiterated the importance of us telling our stories and Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of Billy Joel, shared that her father told her never take any nonsense (in more colorful language).
Words cannot express the depth of talent of Artur O’Farrell, who, along with his Afro Latin Jazz orchestra, put on a rousing show. Dinner and dancing followed the concert and awards ceremony, which was an evening in itself. Honorary chairs were Dr. Lisa S. Coico, president of the City College of New York, and Karen Witherspoon, vice president, Division of Government, Community and Cultural Affairs. Chairs were Alicia Bythewood, Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, with co-chairs Carole Haarmann Acunto and Stephen Byrd. Sponsors for the evening’s event were Fresh Direct, Inc., Con Edison and the ASCAP Foundation.
The guardsmen of Brooklyn hosted their 2015 Spring Gala at the beautiful Beckwith Pointe, located in New Rochelle, overlooking Long Island Sound. Although the event was held on one of the rare cloudy, cool days we have had this season, the day was cozily romantic just the same. The cocktail reception, followed by lunch and dancing, began at noon, with the Guardsmen of Brooklyn, including Victor Banks, Alvin Bowles, Wendell Bristol, Daniel Bythewood, David Crichlow, Aloysius Cuyjet, Aaron Dean, Ralph Dickerson Jr., Loren Douglass, Melvin Douglass, Joseph Drayton, Waldo Falkener, Harold Freeman, Von Hughes, James Jordan, Anthony Kendall, Brian Monroe, Walter Oden II, James Phillips IV, Gerald Prothro, Darryl Selsey, Frank Vasquez, Ancy Verdier, Lance Wison and emeritus members, Earl Arrington, Frank Bizzell, Charles Green, George Henry, William Higgins, Basil Jones, Walter Lowe, Edgar Mandeville, Bert Mitchell, Neil Foster Phillips, E. J. Smith Jr., Theodore Stent, Arnold Webb, J. Hamil Willoughby and Marshal Wright, greeting guests with a reception line as they entered the room. Very classy.
The Center for Comprehensive Health Practice & Early Childhood Development Center hosted their annual gala at the Central Park Boathouse. This year’s theme was “The Year of the Father,” as father’s do so much and often receive so little recognition. The CCHP made up for that by honoring David N. Dinkins with the CCHP Distinguished Leadership Award. As with last year, WABC-TV news anchor Bill Ritter served as master of ceremony, which is always entertaining and a delight, and introduced Richard Porter, chief executive officer of the CCHP, who gave opening remarks.
Porter proudly spoke of the work the CCHP has done, the programs it offers to women, children and families. Perhaps he was most proud of the strides made in assisting fathers who have struggled with drug addiction and other afflictions to reunite with their families, by providing counseling services and other necessary therapies.
The CCHP provides a unique setting, with a look and feel of a community of caring staff and patrons rather than the sterile atmosphere of traditional therapeutic offices, providing on-going support and guidance each step of the way until true recovery is obtained. A video presentation, “Bringing Fathers and Family Together in Harmony,” featured three patrons of CCHP, Kenneth, Charles and Nathan, who shared their story of struggle, recovery, relapse and recovery and how CCHP helped to turn a bad situation into a positive experience. The video ended with a recorded version of the O’jays “Family Reunion” playing in the background.
Then, David Dinkins Jr., took to the podium to present his father, the big daddy of them all, the Hon. David Dinkins, former mayor of the City of New York and professor of the Practice of Public Affairs, Columbia University School of International & Public Affairs, with his award. Dinkins Jr. stated, “I have had my ups and downs, but there was never a time when I didn’t feel love, and couldn’t have had a better friend than my father.”
Dinkins Sr., recognizing what a blessing it is to be a father, reminded guests, “We will be judged by how we treat others and need to treat others with kindness.”
CCHP does just that as they show compassionate care for those who need it most, understanding what it means to be a father.
Until next week … kisses.