Supporters of the Harlem arts community gathered at Madiba - MIST Harlem to celebrate the Harlem Arts Festival's 4th Annual Gala on Thursday, April 2nd.
"Our mission is to offer opportunities and resources, anything we can do for the artists, so if we're providing them that platform the artists take care of the rest," said Neal Ludevig, one of the co-founders of the Harlem Arts Festival.
He, along with fellow co-founders JJ El-Far and Chelsea Goding presented the 2015 Lynette Velasco Community Impact Award to Dr. Brenda Green, the Executive Director for the Center of Black Literature at Medgar Evers College.
Green devoted years to teaching, scholarship, writing, editing and research, with an intense focus on multicultural and African American literature. She is editor of a book of essays titled The African Presence and Influence on the Cultures of the Americas.
"Lynette was a strong supporter of the Harlem Arts Festival in the early years and had a clear demonstrative passion for protecting, developing and cultivating new programs," was a connection she highlighted for it resonated with her personally.
She recalled her middle school years in Springfield Gardens Queens where she and Lynette attended P.S. 3 and the narratives that took hold of their lives which lead them to their calling of service to future generations in literature and art.
"I always remember I could not do it alone," said Green, during her acceptance speech. "I stand on the shoulders of many and I am very deeply grateful to all those on whose shoulders I stand."
She thanked her family for their presence, contributions and support in her life and work, even noting how her father always reminded her of the importance of the life of the mind.
Answering dutifully to the call of service pertaining to evolving artists and new writers was what she expressed as a continuing commitment, resounding the significance of "all lives matter."
The evening also showcased intimate performances by HAF 2015 artists Samora Pinderhughes, on piano, dancer Alia Kache and Farrah Boule, with a live band.
The signed work of Pink Floyd, Prince, Whitney Houston and James Brown a few of the many pieces offered during a silent auction to benefit the organization's ability to enrich opportunities for growing talent.
The evening raised around $10,000 that will support current artist initiatives and this year's festival which runs from Jun 27-28th.
"Its been an amazing evening from the speakers, to the honoree, to the performers, to the food - it's just an atmosphere of love," said Shannon Berry, visual artist, performer and West Harlem resident.
To build up artists in such an uplifting way was unique to the organization. She said the energy of optimism and support that HAF provided to the community of performers and artists were invaluable.
"I was sitting at my table grooving, then I started crying because the pianist was so moving," said Berry.
The full lineup of HAF 2015 artists were also revealed at the gala which includes an array performers with backgrounds in music, dance, theater and visual arts.
"This is such a small piece of what's happening this year and we're more than happy to be apart of it," added Ludevig.
For more details, artists or upcoming events visit www.harlemartsfestival.com