The Apollo Raises over $3M at 2024 Spring Benefit and Honors Babyface and USHER in Celebration of its 90th Anniversary

HARLEM, NY – June 11, 2024 New York City’s elite business, entertainment and philanthropic communities united to celebrate The Apollo’s 90th anniversary at their largest annual fundraising event, the Spring Benefit, hosted by comedian and actress, Kym Whitley. The organization honored music legend Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds with the inaugural Legacy Award, presented by Fat Joe and Kwanza Jones, and inducted him into The Apollo’s legendary Walk of Fame the day prior. Multi-platinum,  global superstar USHER was also celebrated with the Icon Award, presented by President and CEO of The Apollo Michelle Ebanks and Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes. The Spring Benefit raised over $3M for the historic organization, which recently completed its first-ever expansion with The Apollo Stages at The Victoria.

GRAMMY winner Jordin Sparks opened the show with a medley of songs from Apollo legends who graced the stage, paying tribute to the past 90 years. Following this, Governor Kathy Hochul presented the Theater with a proclamation honoring its 90th anniversary. Babyface’s musical tribute became an audience sing-along of his iconic hits led by GRAMMY winner Johnny Gill, featuring music royalty Karyn White and rising stars Avery Wilson who currently plays The Scarecrow in The Wiz on Broadway, Saint Harison, Leon Thomas and Gabby Samone, with Babyface even joining at the end. USHER was celebrated with a dance tribute choreographed by renowned creative director and choreographer Luam Klefegzy (Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monáe) that had the audience dancing in their seats. A captivating trio performance featuring  previous Amateur Night winners pianist Kofi B., vocalist Wé Ani, and Queen of The Violin Kersten Stevens received a standing ovation. GRAMMY and EMMY Award-winner Adam Blackstone served as the musical director for the amazing night.  Before Babyface and USHER were presented with their awards, a congratulatory letter from Quincy Jones was  read by 2021 Impact Award recipient Felicia Horowitz.

Babyface accepted the Legacy Award from friends Fat Joe and Kwanza Jones reflecting on what the award meant to him on a deeply personal level: “I’ve received a lot of awards over the years and this is one of the most important. Yesterday was an amazing day at the Walk of Fame. I think what made me most proud was when two of my  sons, Dylan and Brandon both came up to me and said ‘Dad I am so proud to be your son.’ To know I did something not just for the world but to make my kids  proud - that’s what we’re here for.”

In accepting the Icon Award, USHER described how The Apollo has motivated him in so many ways and reflected on seeing Amateur Night for the first time: “They say if you make it in New York you can make it anywhere. If  you can make it to The Apollo you can do anything.I believe everything The Apollo is doing has motivated me in so many different ways. Not only just the dream and ambition to make it here but as a shining example of what it is to be steadfast.  We can do something integral that will last from that moment to this present moment and then into the future.”

Michelle Ebanks, President and CEO of The Apollo, reflected on the historic and transformative year for the organization: “On this momentous anniversary, we honor the visionary trailblazers who paved the way for The Apollo's storied history. From opening our doors in 1934, and navigating the ever-changing cultural tides, to the transformative leadership of Percy Sutton and the incomparable Jonelle Procope, who ushered in the debut of The Apollo Stages at the Victoria Theater and the upcoming renovation of our main stage, we're not just preserving history, we're creating new spaces for artistic expression and community connection.”

Kamilah Forbes led the creative direction for the Spring Benefit’s electrifying show with producing partners One Foot Productions and Captivate Marketing Group. She shared a powerful call to action for the next 90 years: “The time is now to invest in The Apollo as the largest African-American arts and cultural center in the United States.  The time is now for The Apollo to be the global cultural producer of Black art and creativity. The time is now for each and every one of us to move with certainty to say yes to the next 90 years of The Apollo. The time is now to stand with us.”

The evening concluded with the Benefit’s legendary afterparty, DJ’ed by D-Nice with surprise performances by hip hop royalty Big Daddy Kane and Fat Joe. Throughout the party, guests enjoyed an array of delicious cuisine from Black-owned Harlem restaurants Vinateria, Angel of Harlem, Field Trip and Charles Pan Fried Chicken and danced the night away in the stunning tent designed by celebrated event designer and Apollo board member Bronson Van Wyck.

Notable attendees included Andra Day, Ava Duvernay, Bevy Smith, Doug E. Fresh, Ariana DeBose, Susan Kelechi Watson, Reverend Al Sharpton, Governor Kathy Hochul, Kara Young, Leon, Malik Yoba, Nikole Hannah Jones, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Tonya Lewis Lee, Janai Nelson, Kwanza Jones, Sherrese Clarke- Soares, and more.

The proceeds from the spectacular fundraiser will support the non-profit organization’s year-round, world-class artistic, education, and community programs, as well as its commitment to articulating and projecting the African American narrative using arts and culture and creating a 21st century performing arts canon. 

The Spring Benefit wraps up a thrilling week of celebrations for The Apollo’s 90th Anniversary where Ebanks joined Babyface and D-Nice for lighting of the Empire State Building in the organization’s colors red and gold. Also, The Apollo in collaboration with Apple Music also released an exclusive Apollo 90 anniversary playlist featuring the greats who've played the hallowed venue over the last nine decades. With artists spanning from Jay-Z to Al Green, Etta James to Lauryn Hill, the playlist is a collection of legends who have both contributed to and gained from their time onstage at The Apollo.

June 11, 2024
The Apollo's Historic Theater
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About The Apollo

The Apollo is an American cultural treasure. It is a vibrant non-profit organization rooted in the Harlem community that engages people from around New York, the nation, and the world. Since 1934, The Apollo has celebrated, created, and presented work that centers Black artists and voices from across the African Diaspora. It has also been a catalyst for social and civic advocacy. Today, The Apollo is the largest performing arts institution committed to Black culture and creativity.

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The Apollo is a commissioner and presenter; catalyst for new artists, audiences, and creative workforce; and partner in the projection of the African American narrative and its role in the development of American and global culture.

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Artist on stage at Apollo Theater

The Apollo envisions a new American canon centered on contributions to the performing arts by artists of the African diaspora, in America and beyond.

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