A host of celebrities and entertainers attended the Apollo Theater’s 2023 Spring Benefit Monday night.
The theater honored NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the Impact Award, which was presented to him by filmmaker Spike Lee, Sean “Diddy” Combs with the Icon Award and online glasses retailer Warby Parker with the Corporate Award.
While Combs was unable to attend the event in person due to a flight delay, he recored a video message thanking the Apollo for honoring him. He also made a $250,000 donation to the theater.
Outgoing Apollo President and CEO Jonelle Procope was also honored for her 20 years of service to the theater. Procope is being succeeded by former Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks.
“Working here at the Apollo has been so special,” Procope told the audience. “Back in 2003, when I first became its President, I couldn’t believe that my office was actually in the theater, where all the magic was being made. For nearly a quarter of a century, the music wafting through the halls and on the stage of the Apollo created the most beautiful soundtrack for this period in my life. The soundtrack that is permanently imprinted on my mind and in my heart.”
The benefit concert was hosted by Apollo Executive Producer Kamila Frobes. This year’s gala theme was “The Next Movement” focusing on what’s ahead for the Apollo Theater, including the opening of the new Victoria Theater and the Apollo’s own multimillion dollar renovation.
Opening this year’s benefit was R&B singer STOUT, who paid tribute to the late Tina Tuner with a rousing rendition of “Proud Mary.” Wyclef Jean, MC Lyte, DJ D-Nice and Gladys Knight also took the stage.
Apollo legend and musician Ray Chew served as music director for the evening.
The event raised a total of $2.2 million. Proceeds from the celebration will support the nonprofit organization’s year-round, artistic, education and community programming.
Following the concert, attendees were treated to an after party with music provided by DJ D-Nice and DJ Kool at a special tent created by celebrity event planner and Apollo Board Member Bronson van Wyck in the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building Plaza.