Community Works’s Memorable Gala

The bluesy spirit of Olu Dara backed by his band, added humor and down home flavor to the night’s entertainment.

[Entertainment: Gala Celebration]

Jitterbug was the Cat’s Meow and set the joint a jumping on Wednesday, February 27th when harlem is…Music honored the Spirit of the Community with the jitterbugging of the Cotton Club Dancers and the Jitterbug kids, a wonderful blend of two generations marking a bygone era that was recaptured, at least for a little while, on stage.

The invitation only gala was sponsored by the Community Works organization, a leading city-wide non-profit arts organization, that presented the gala in Harlem’s prestigious Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture, to showcase the newest exhibition of their harlem is…MUSIC series entitled The Spirit of Community, wherein honors and acknowledgements were given to the music of multi-instrumentalist jazz icon Olu Dara, along with the late master jazz percussionist Max Roach.

Several of the owners of Harlem’s hot spots and legendary nightclubs such as The Cotton Club, Lenox Lounge, Minton’s Playhouse, St. Nick’s Pub and Showman’s were also honored.

The bluesy spirit of Olu Dara backed by his band, added humor and down home flavor to the night’s entertainment. A special treat of the evening was the performance by the young IMPACT performers of this year’s Oscar nominated Best Song from the August Rush Movie. The young IMPACT Repertory Theater singers and dancers were led by IMPACT’s founder, Jamal Joseph.

harlem is…Music, which debuted in 2006, has successfully engaged young people from 10 partner public schools in Harlem to research and document signature public art exhibitions that commemorate the rich history, culture and individuals of this world-renowned community. Student participants from Harlem’s Frederick Douglass Academy II and The High School for Math, Science and Engineering rubbed elbows with guests that included Emmy Award and Tony Award winning singer and actress, Lillias White; Broadway actor and director, James Stovall; actor, Ralph Carter; stage and screen star, Sandra Reeves-Phillips; Gospel singer, Vy Higgenson; African Burial Ground Superintendent, Tara Morrison; noted artist, Grace Williams; the esteemed Dr. Muriel Petioni; harlem is… honoree, Reverend Eugene Callendar; and New York City Council members, Robert Jackson and Larry Seabrook.

Community Works, founded in 1990, by Barbara Horowitz, is in partnership with Voza Rivers of the New Heritage Theatre, and is a leading arts-education organization, with the mission to build bridges between diverse cultures and neighborhoods by using the arts as a tool for social and personal change, and sharing community stories that connect us all. The organization currently serves over 300,000 people throughout NYC each year through acclaimed performances, workshops and exhibitions.

During the gala, Oscar nominated song writer and IMPACT group member, Charles Mack, had the occasion to state that he was honored to stand on the shoulders of such giants as Olu Dara and Max Roach, and be in the same room with individuals who carry on the legacy of the Cotton Club, Minton’s, Showman’s, St. Nicks and Lenox Lounge.” As the evening closed, Mr. Dara declared, “There are no words to express how happy I am right now. Not just to be honored by Community Works’ harlem is…, but also to be in the company of the youth whose work made this possible. I’ve met them all and they are incredible.”

An expansion of the multi-layered exhibition will be on display for a 2-month stay at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, before making a city-wide tour.


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