This week, Harlem School of the Arts held its annual gala to support its mission of providing world-class training in and exposure to the arts across multiple disciplines. Held at the Plaza Hotel, the event was sold out and, for the the fifth consecutive year, raised over $1 million.
Among the awardees were Academy Award Winning Actress Lupita Nyong’o and her mother Dorothy Nyong’o, First Lady of Kisumu County and Managing Trustee of the Africa Cancer Foundation, who were honored with the Visionary Lineage Award; Michelle Ebanks, CEO, Essence Communications, who was honored with the Dorothy Maynor Award; and Racquel Oden, Managing Director, Northeast Division, JP Morgan Chase, who was honored with the Betty Allen Corporate Award.
“I believe our founder, Dorothy Maynor, would have been proud to pay tribute to our gala honorees: Michelle Ebanks, Lupita Nyong’o & Dorothy Nyong’o, and Racquel Oden. Each recipient was selected based on their leadership and exemplary accomplishments in their field as well as their commitment to service in the community,” explained Eric G. Pryor, President of HSA. “They exemplify what is possible when you aim for excellence. They have all carved new pathways, and shown their mastery through perseverance and determination.”
Oden talked to TNJ.com ahead of the event. “Making sure our youth are exposed to arts education is important. It means a lot to schools, and to the idea of making us better human beings as a whole,” she said. “I am very fortunate to work for JP Morgan Chase; it’s a company that is committed to the arts community. There are two things that we as a community have to continue to fight for, and that’s financial literacy and arts education in our public school system.”
She went on to note JP Morgan Chase’s history in Harlem, which dates back to 1960 when the bank opened its first branch there. Today, there are just over 10 branches in Harlem. “We’ve had a long standing relationship with the Harlem community, and we just reopened our 125th Street branch where we’ve built the only branch in the country that features an innovation lab. We partnered with Google, and wanted to create this beautiful new space in Harlem. We want to help bridge the digital divide in our community by providing education and support,” she told TNJ.com.
Guests who attended the Mask Ball were treated to special performances by some of the school’s most talented and gifted young music, voice and dance students throughout the night.The evening opened with The Masquerade by George Benson performed by the HSA Alumni All-Stars featuring Desmond Scaife Jr. on vocals and Majid Khaliq on the violin.