What is your favorite Apollo memory?
Harry: My favorite Apollo memory is actually my first. I attended a fundraiser for President Barack Obama, which featured performances by Lin Manuel Miranda, Al Green and India Arie. President Obama actually sang “Let’s Stay Together,” and it was certainly an iconic moment. It was also amazing to see the support of the community for our beloved, President.
Alison: Impossible to choose one - my first tour of the theater with Billy Mitchell and being on the stage of the world famous Apollo Theater; the first time walking into the tent after the gala performance is breathtaking each time; dancing in the aisles to Chromeo which birthed my friendship with my co-chair; seeing Michelle Obama on stage with our esteemed Jonelle Procope, discussing women and education around the world.
What was your first encounter with the Apollo Theater?
Harry: Same as mentioned above, President Obama's fundraiser.
Alison: Being a native New Yorker, the Apollo has always been in my neighborhood, and who didn’t watch Showtime after SNL? But my first adult interaction was seeing Gary Clarke Jr., pre-AYP.
Why does the Apollo matter to you? Why now in particular?
Harry: The Apollo is among the most significant institutions in the world. It has transformed our culture and community. It gave birth to legends like the Jackson Five, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix and Dave Chapelle. The Apollo continues to matter because of its consistent focus on providing a platform for the next generation of artists as well as world-class cultural opportunities for the community.
Alison: As a native and cultural history nerd, the Apollo plays a vital and vibrant role in NYC culture and history, alongside its importance for black culture and popular music history. As Harlem is being revitalized and recognized as a cultural capital globally, we need to maintain its history not just for our personal enjoyment (though the programming is fantastic) but for the future generations to come and understand more deeply our hardships and history.
Why do you give to the Apollo and how do you feel when you give a gift?
Harry: I give to the Apollo to support its great mission. It’s an amazing feeling to know that in some small way, I’m assisting them in this mission.
Alison: I feel like I’m supporting the artistic community and the artists themselves, keeping a venue open that strives to introduce new artists and works, expand minds by blurring genre lines and inviting experimentation
“Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud” - What inspires you about James Brown’s anthem?
Harry: I’m inspired by the force and assertiveness of his message. James Brown was obviously an amazing entertainer, whose music inspired millions. His choice to use his reach to empower black people (seen through this song but certainly in other ways as well) really speaks to his character and obligation to elevate African-Americans at a critical time in our history.
Alison: I had the privilege of seeing James Brown perform on New Year's Eve some years ago in NYC. This song lifted the energy and brought the diverse crowd together. It is a rallying cry that does not care if it makes people uncomfortable in favor of what is right. James Brown was able to be a legend for all people, while still communicating his truth to power. Presently, it makes me unashamed to proclaim BLACK GIRL MAGIC no matter whom is listening.
What does "Say It Loud" mean to you?
Harry: Say it Loud means be strong and vocal about the issues that matter most. Certainly, affirming the significance of black people and our rights continues to be important, given the current political and social climate. It also can be interpreted more broadly to “say it loud” and show support for other groups and causes that need it as well (women’s and immigrants’ rights for instance).
Alison: As a black woman, we are often told to tame or quiet ourselves in order to fit in and get ahead. "Say it Loud" encourages me to be confident in who I am, and the value that my perspectives carries with it.
In what ways do you “Say It Loud”?
Harry: I “say it loud” through the support of causes and charities I believe in - the Apollo is a perfect example. I love how they support the community through events and education.
Alison: I speak up for myself! I speak up for the AYPs and make sure that our group and successes are known to the theater and its donors, as well as the community in Harlem and beyond.