Gala over here, gala over there, tis the season for galas everywhere. Where better for The Black Institute to hold its eighth annual Justice for All Ball than at the Schomburg Center, where this year, The Black Institute honored the New York Amsterdam News’ very own Elinor Tatum with the Knowledge Award. Also honored were Kevinee Gilmore, Mysonne “The General,” CWA President Gloria Middleton and one of the original “Freedom Riders,” Lew Zuchman.

The event featured a special performance of the award-winning show, “Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical.” The show, which first premiered at the New York Musical Festival in 2017, chronicles the true story of the Freedom Rider activists, who rode buses into the South in protest of segregated bus terminals. Writer, producer, director Stanley Nelson created a potent documentary on the Freedom Riders, 400 activists who in 1961 put their lives on the line in the name of social justice when they got on the bus. It doesn’t matter how the story is portrayed. It is one that never gets old.

Something else that never gets old is the gala hosted by Northside Center for Child Development. As one of the most anticipated events of the year, this year’s gala, Building Brighter Futures, showed it just gets better with time. Waltzing into the Plaza Hotel’s grand ballroom were patrons, friends, supporters and those who stand on the front lines of all that Northside provides—a haven for the despondent with a strong dose of love.

Founders Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, more than 70 years ago, saw the dire need for mental health services and the direct connection self-esteem has on overcoming hardships. The psychological hypothesis explored by the Clarks served as evidence in the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, which ultimately led to the desegregation of all public schools in the United States.

Slowly, brick by brick, child by child, family by family, the Clarks continued to build upon their theory and belief of what makes a child whole and what can heal a troubled mind, and today Northside Center flourishes. Each year, the galas provide funding, strengthening programs that build “bright futures” for some of the city’s forgotten youth. Helping families who are underserved and overwhelmed by the daily problems of living in today’s fast-paced society, Northside steps up to the plate. Currently, more than 4,000 New York City children and their families live a better quality of life because Northside is there for them.

Enrichment programs, early education initiatives, behavioral/mental health services, one-on-one therapeutic sessions and activities especially designed to meet the pace, needs and abilities of children who would otherwise become a negative statistic are only a part of what Northside does. The other side of what they do is they never stop caring and devising new ways to strengthen their core beliefs.

This year’s honorees were Congressman Charles B. Rangel and his wife Alma Rangel and Brian Griffin, executive vice president and CEO for IngenioRx Anthem, Inc. Alma Rangel was unable to attend the event, but her husband of more than 50 years, who was introduced by former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, gave a glowing recognition and tribute to her, telling the audience about how they first met.

Accepting his award Rangel stated, “This award means so much as it epitomizes where I came from and with God’s help where I was able to go. After serving in the war and coming back home to marry Alma, I found we had more in common besides love and affection. We had a connection at Northside. Alma knew Mamie Clark and I knew Ray Jones, a powerful Democrat at the time, who convinced Kenneth Clark to endorse me. It was the start of my political career. Northside is the perfect example that anybody can make it, given the opportunity. It’s what makes our country so great. It’s not just money, but honest support.”

Griffin was introduced by Northside’s Chairman Michael Goldstein, who thanked and recognized IngenioRx Anthem, Inc., for their years of service to the New York City community, ensuring good health for all. Goldstein further enlightened guests by announcing the launch of its $15 million capital campaign. Of that amount, $10 million has already been raised, $4 million of which was donated by Susan and Alan Patricof and the remainder a gift from the Neuman Dumount family, Roger Strauss and an anonymous female. Another $1.2 million was raised at the evening’s event.

The funds will be used to sustain current programs and services, as well as open Northside Center’s new three-story headquarters on 108th and Park Avenue. Scheduled for completion by 2020, the new space is 28,000 square feet and will host Northside’s administrative offices, main mental health clinic, and a special education school, enabling Northside Center to do what they’ve always done— serve families across the city to meet one of their most critical needs, developing healthy children. To help and encourage support for this undertaking, Northside is conducting a “buy a brick” campaign. Send in your donation to buy a brick and have your name inscribed on it.

A Northside event wouldn’t be a Northside event without the lovely and dedicated Dr. Thelma Dye, The Hilde L. Mosse executive director and CEO. Warmly giving tribute to the Patricofs, Rich Rabino, members of the board and the Northside staff, Dye stated, “The Clark’s put us in and now we’re breaking new ground to use for those who have been relentless in achieving goals. Northside works to make sure every child gets a start in life, to minimize trauma.” The programs and initiatives put forth by Northside continue to grow. No stone is left unturned when it comes to recognizing where help is needed “to build brighter futures every day.”

Among those in attendance were Kim Wheatly, Lisa Pendergras, Barbara North, Carl and Faye Rodney, Richard Green Jr., Carlton Holms, Gina Granger and others too committed to mention.

Tired of spring cleaning? Well, it’s time to liven up yourself, and what better way than to head down to the Schimmel Center at Pace University, where Obie Award-Winning actress Anna Deavere Smith will be performing her one-woman show, “Notes From the Field.”

Hailed as one of the most provocative theater artists of our time, Smith is about to put on an indelible performance depicting the personal accounts of students, parents, teachers and administrators caught in America’s school-to-prison pipeline. Having played the Royal Court in London’s West End, the show will go on at the Schimmel Center, June 1 and June 2. The way time is flying, you had better get tickets now.

The Brotherhood/Sister Sol hosted their 14th Annual VOICES Gala, where entrepreneur and founder and chairman of Essence Ventures LLC, Richelieu Dennis, was honored with the Madame Sarah C.J. Walker Award. Award-winning journalist, speaker, author and philanthropist, Soledad O’Brien graciously welcomed guests who included Academy Award-nominated writer and Emmy Award-winning producer Terence Winter (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The Sopranos,” “Boardwalk Empire”); New York County District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.; former NYC Mayor David Dinkins; New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo; writer, director and actor Zora Howard; author, activist, attorney and Brotherhood/Sister Sol Executive Director Khary Lazarre-White.

Bro/Sis has transformed the lives of young people in New York City and across the country through wrap-around educational programming and support services since 1995. Although it is considered to be a young organization by some, its ability to provide services that include an intensive 4 to 6 year Rites of Passage program, five-day-a-week after-school care, counseling, summer camps, job training, college preparation, employment guidance and international study programs in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean is that of an age old sage. The Bro/Sis mission to provide comprehensive direct service, train educators on their models and organize to effect policy and social change has been touted as nothing less than a success. Accordingly, “Bro/Sis is a social justice organization that is committed to working to respond to inequality, to train young people to become empowered as social change agents, and to work to expand a vision of equity, racial and economic justice—and opportunity and access for all.”

Until next week … kisses.