It has been more than two months since Sheryl Lee Ralph won the 2022 Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actress as Ms. Barbara Howard, a veteran teacher in the hit ABC sitcom “Abbott Elementary.” However, Ralph had yet to really celebrate until this week in Philadelphia.
Her husband of nearly 20 years, Pennsylvania state Sen. Vincent Hughes along with the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, hosted a celebration Monday evening for the veteran actress, singer and producer.
Hundreds of guests filed into a ballroom at Live! Casino and Hotel in South Philadelphia to show her the well-earned, well-deserved brotherly love and sisterly affection.
“You all are the first people I get to truly celebrate with,” Ralph, 65, told the crowd during an intimate cocktail hour prior to the ceremony.
The evening raised over $200,000 which will go towards the fund and the couple’s Read to Succeed program.
“We wanted to acknowledge in a Philly style way,” Hughes said. “A party with a purpose.”
The couple have been passionate advocates of public education for decades and that resonates perfectly with the character of Ms. Howard in television show.
“When I read the script, I wanted to be Ava (Abbott’s principal played by Janelle James),” explained Ralph. “But Quinta (Brunson) said ‘No, no, you are Ms. Barbara Howard! You are the queen I need for that role.’”
Several dignitaries and colleagues attended, congratulated Ralph on site, as well as via video messaging.
State Reps. Joanna McClinton and Malcolm Kenyatta, Councilmember Helen Gym were in attendance. U.S. Rep. Bob Casey, Gov. Tom Wolf, Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro, Lt. Gov.-elect Austin Davis as well as actors Loretta Devine and Victoria Rowell sent video messages to Ralph for the event.
The main program was emceed by local television news anchor Sharrie Williams and radio personality Lady B.
Ralph, 65, grew up in Long Island, New York, and graduated from Rutgers University at 19. Her acting and singing career has spanned over 40 years, playing countless roles on Broadway, television and film.
Some of her movie appearances include “A Piece of the Action,” “The Mighty Quinn,” “Oliver & Company,” “The Distinguished Gentleman” and “Sister Act 2.”
She is best known though for three roles in particular as Dee Mitchell on “Moesha,” Deena Jones in the 1981 Broadway musical “Dreamgirls” (for which she won a Tony Award) and now as Barbara Howard in “Abbott Elementary,” which is in the middle of its second season.
Ralph is also a honorary member Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and her sorority sisters were well accounted for at the event. Although Ralph is a native New Yorker, has Jamaican roots, and commutes across the country for work, there is no doubt that Philadelphia has become her adopted home. Her husband is a West Philadelphia native.
“Oh, I love it,” Ralph said of her ties to Philadelphia. “Once I married the senator, that was it. Everyone’s love for him grew exponentially and they welcomed me as well.”
Ralph reflected on what winning an Emmy meant to her.
“I am elated, happy, but above all, grateful to God,” she said. “People say it’s about time, right on time, you should’ve had this. There is no delay or denial. God is always right on time. What’s meant for me, none of it is going to miss me.”