Have you been to Brooklyn lately? Each borough has its own unique ambiance, but Brooklyn is more like a town, an enchanting place to live and play. Bustling with a mix of culture, business, cafes and more it is a place where once you set foot inside, there is very little need to step out. From Coney Island to Brooklyn College, Medgar Evers College, Prospect Park and now the Barclays Center, more than a day is needed to take it all in. The renovation of the Atlantic Terminal, which practically every numbered or lettered subway line passes through and has access to the LIRR, is amazing. Although high rises line the sky of downtown Brooklyn, you can still find the quiet streets and quaint rows of brownstones just around the corner.
Brooklyn is home to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a magnificent structure located at 30 Lafayette St., only minutes away from Dekalb Avenue, which can take you straight across Brooklyn from one end to the other, east to west. Brooklyn is also home to the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, affectionately known as MoCADA, and BAM’s Lepercq Space is where they hosted their second annual Masquerade Ball.
MoCADA started as a thesis project and quietly, or maybe not so quietly, took root until it became established in 1999. At that time, Brooklyn’s first and only museum dedicated to the creation and interpretation of contemporary Black arts and culture resided on the fourth floor of a Brooklyn brownstone. Today, 16 years later, MoCADA has become an institution with a reputation for cutting-edge exhibitions and programs that cross artistic disciplines, while continuing to create opportunities for emerging artists.
The current exhibition at MoCADA’s home, 80 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, N.Y., is “being Here … in Memory.” This exhibition is an interdisciplinary exploration of poverty, mental illness and the mystic properties of survival that journeys through the material and metaphysical arcs of trauma, resilience, brokenness and reclamation in a meld of visual art and movement-based practices. It features a most innovative display of sculptural, sound and new media installations by Vincent Ballentine, Nia Love, Jasmine Murrell and Everett Saunders. The installations are intertwined with dialogue and two distinct dance works: “being Here…/this time,” choreographed by Marjani Fortè-Saunders, and “Memory Withholdings,” choreographed by Fortè-Saunders and Love|Fortè. Both works will be performed live in the Main Gallery throughout the duration of the exhibition, which is May 7 to July 10, 2016.
But back to the masquerade ball! It was everything you can imagine a ball to be. The airy room, furnished with comfy seating but with plenty of room for the stage and dance floor, needed no further decorations, as the beautifully adorned guests made the evening a star-studded event. Men and women alike wore stunning outfits that put the Met gala to shame. Hors d’oeuvres of spicy chicken, spinach and goat cheese patties and crab cakes were only the opening for the main meal, which featured a Cuban cuisine.
Celebrated were individuals who have positively influenced the contemporary African Diasporan arts and community, including Derrick Adams for the Artist Advocacy Award; The Rockefeller Foundation, represented by Zia Khan, for the Philanthropic Advocacy Award; and Studio One Eighty Nine founders Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah, for the Social Justice Advocacy Award. Honorary gala chairs were recording artists Maxwell and Estelle, and television personality Bevy Smith, all of whom were in attendance. Although Maxwell didn’t sing, he did mingle with the crowd, where he was overheard asking a beautiful, tall and lanky model-type if she were going to the after-party. Estelle sported a new haircut, and she smiled continuously through the night.
The Masquerade Ball, and yes people wore masks, was underwritten by several corporations committed to supporting the arts and included sponsors such as Black Enterprise, Cholula Hot Sauce, Fox Audience Strategy, Habana Outpost, HBO, JetBlue and Martell Cognac, which provided an array of specialty cocktails. Entertainment included a live performance by Bilal plus live art by Nigerian visual artist Laolu Senbanjo.
Right on the heels of this exciting event was the Metropolitan Black Bar Association’s 32nd Anniversary Awards Gala, held at Chelsea Pier 60. This year’s theme was Advocates for Inclusion: Leading with Courage, Commitment & Conviction. The presentation of awards was tastefully done, with video clips of the respective recipient’s close associates giving little inside, never heard before, quips before the acceptance. Awardees included the Hon. Carl Heastie, speaker of the New York State Assembly, with the Public Servant of the Year; Kathlyn Card Beckles, general counsel for Card Services, JPMorgan Chase, with Corporate Counsel of the Year; the Hon. Marguerite Grays, deputy administrative judge, Civil Term, Eleventh Judicial District, and presiding justice, Commercial Division, Queens County, with Jurist of the Year; Jeanine Conley, partner, Littler Mendelson, P.C., with Private Practitioner of the Year; and R. Donahue Peebles, founder, chairman and CEO of Peebles Corporation, with Trailblazer of the Year.
Special remarks were made by Paula T. Edgar, president-elect. The president’s address was made by outgoing president Taa R. Grays. The evening was emceed by Sandra Bookman, ABC News correspondent. Among the 1,500 guests was Geoffrey Murrain, Esq., accompanied by his wife Peggy. Murrain is the keeper of the flame, as his practice through the decades has always served the public with integrity and compassion.
The Uptown Dance Academy will host their 21st Anniversary Gala honoring UDA benefactor Prince on June 3. The event will be held at the Hostos Center for Art & Culture. For ticket information, contact Darryl T. Downing at 212-926-2550, ext 21.
The American Ballet Theatre held their spring gala featuring the grand performance of Igor Stravinkosky’s “Firebird,” choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, with Misty Copeland in the title role. Copeland looked as stunning, gorgeous and beautiful, in a gown by designer Prabal Gurung, at the after-party as she did onstage. It’s hard to say which was best. Michelle Obama served as honorary chair.
Last but not least for the week, the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club raised more than $1 million for its youth programs at its fourth annual Youth of the Year Dinner. Honored were Daquan Saxon, Maylynn Rosarion, Chassidy David and Kayla Williams for their ongoing, consistent dedication to their education. Madison Square has provided a safe after-school haven for children over the decades, and proceeds from the benefit help support their services. According to David, “It is at the club where I was able to forget about any troubles and receive all the love, encouragement and support I need. To be a member of the club is truly an opportunity to be a part of greatness.”
Until next week … kisses.