The African American Museum in Philadelphia’s 36th Anniversary Heritage Gala was held on Thursday, March 1 at the Marriott Hotel-Center City to honor Artistic Director Judith Jamison of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco founder Joan Myers Brown, state Sen. Vincent Hughes and his wife activist/actress/author Sheryl Lee Ralph.
The evening began with a silent auction reception featuring music from “A New Perspective,” a Delaware Valley-based youth jazz ensemble. Other entertainment included dance performances from Rennie Harris Puremovement and Philadanco. The program highlighted the museum’s theme, “Breakthrough Black Culture,” for an audience of 600 guests.
Philadelphia Representative Melanie Johnson spoke in lieu of Mayor Michael Nutter, who indicated in a prior statement: “This evening you will celebrate the theme ‘Breakthrough Black Culture’ which reflects the challenges and triumphs African Americans have experienced in American history. It also showcases the Museum’s history of presenting educational and cultural experiences for the hundreds of thousands of visitors that have attended the Museum over three and a half decades.”
Upon accepting the 2012 Community Service Award, Sen. Hughes and his spouse underscored the importance of HUV/AIDS Awareness, with Ralph providing a heartfelt song upon acceptance of their award. In introducing the honoree video presentation, it was announced that Jamison, 68, was ill and would not be in attendance. NBC10’s Lori Wilson conducted a warm conversation with Brown while the attendees dined on beef, chicken, mashed sweet potatoes and asparagus.
The selections of Judith Jamison and Joan Myers Brown as honorees made the 2012 Gala particularly meaningful for Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, a former professional dancer who has deep admiration for both of these talented women. “Judith Jamison opened the doors for many African-American dancers to not just be employed, but to become the industry standard bearers for excellence,” said Reynolds Brown. “She turned the eyes of the world to her studio, and shined a laser beam on her dancers and their work. Joan Myers Brown has been Philadelphia’s cultural ambassador for over 40 years. As a former dancer in her company, Joan and Philadanco allowed me to travel the world to promote Philadelphia and the art of dance — an experience I will never forget. I am indebted to Joan Myers Brown, affectionately called ‘Aunt Joan.’”