FROM THE PRESIDENT & CEO
As we continue into the New Year with renewed hope and exciting plans, I’m thrilled to share the Apollo Theater’s Spring season line-up. Although we will be gathering virtually this season, we are committed to providing opportunities for joy, reflection and entertainment during these turbulent times. As many of you know, the Apollo Digital Stage has been a first for our institution, and we’re incredibly grateful to the artists who presented their work with us and to you, our generous Apollo audience members, who have tuned in—whether as a regular or for the first time. Though our Theater remains dark for in-person performances, we’re thankful we can still convene the Apollo family in new and exciting ways. We will continue offering digital programs until we can come together again on 125th Street.
Kicking off our spring season on Saturday, February 27 Apollo Film Presents: 30 Years of House Party, an evening featuring a conversation with the film’s stars, Kid ‘N Play—Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin—and director Reginald Hudlin, performances by legendary hip-hop group Full Force, Lisa Lisa and other surprise guests and highlights from the cult musical comedies House Party (1990) and House Party 2 (1991).
In March we will honor Women’s History Month with our bi-annual WOW (Women of the World) Festival presented in partnership with the WOW Foundation. This year’s theme “Black Women Transcending” will feature more than 80 thought leaders, scholars, and artists over two days of panels, workshops, and performances, including the WOW: Teen Summit, a special Live Wire conversation focused on activist and café society darling Hazel Scott, an Apollo Music Café performance by French-Caribbean singer/songwriter and bassist Adeline, and many more exciting events. Throughout the season we will also bring Roc Nation’s Infinity Song to the stage of our Apollo Music Café and offer a range of Apollo Education events for families and audiences of all ages, including a career panel, Footprint – Design and Creativity in Sneaker Culture, an exploration of the cultural, societal, and aesthetic impact of the fashion industry behemoth: the sneaker. For the full roster of Apollo events this spring, please visit our website here.
This season’s transformative programming would not be possible without Apollo Theater’s Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes, so please join me in congratulating Kamilah on her NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Direction for Between the World and Me. It’s truly well deserved. There is still time to see this impactful work, it is streaming for free here: hbo.com/watch-free-episodes
In many ways, it feels like the dawn of a new day—we are enthusiastically looking forward to an exciting season, and watching closely as vaccines are being rolled out, eagerly anticipating having you back safely at the Apollo. It goes without saying that arts organizations around the country face a difficult road ahead, and we’re incredibly grateful to the foundations and generous individuals who have supported the Apollo over the past year. For those who are able, we hope you’ll consider supporting the Apollo Theater’s upcoming season and future, by making a donation here.
I’m delighted to share that in October, the Apollo Theater Board of Trustees unanimously elected Charles Phillips as our new Chairman of the Board. As you may know, Charles is not new to the Apollo. Since 2015, he has served on the Board, most recently as Vice Chairman, and has provided astute advice, counsel and oversight to me and the leadership team over the years. Charles is a well-known leader across a number of sectors—he is currently Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Recognize, the former CEO and Chairman of Infor, and board member of ViacomCBS and American Express—and his background and expertise will be invaluable in guiding the Apollo Theater during this critical time. He also has a deep love of music and an interest in emerging artists that aligns with the Apollo’s mission to provide a home for Black artists and Black culture. Reaffirming his deep connection and immense commitment to our Theater, Charles marked his new role with a generous $1 million gift to the Apollo Theater’s Emergency Fund, which was created to ensure the Theater’s continued financial stability.
Last spring, Charles’ support, coupled with donations from many generous donors, enabled the Theater to meet our $4 million emergency fund goal, allowing us to create dynamic, free events and education programs on the Apollo Digital Stage and ensuring that we continue to serve our community. We couldn’t be more grateful for the myriad efforts Charles has made to help our Theater thrive, both now and for generations to come.
Charles succeeds longtime Chairman of the Board Richard “Dick” Parsons, an outspoken advocate for artistic excellence, and a dear friend and colleague. Having led the Apollo Theater Board since 2002, Dick anchored the turnaround of the Theater and set the institution on the path to success by preserving our cultural landmark as a place for artistic innovation and unforgettable programming. It is under his guidance that the Apollo is expanding its footprint to include two new theaters at the Victoria Theater, and I am incredibly grateful to him for his leadership and dedication to the Apollo for nearly 20 years. That said, this is not a goodbye; Dick has been elected Chairman Emeritus and will remain on the Executive Committee while continuing to champion our mission and programming, educational, and community initiatives.
I hope you will join me in celebrating Charles’ new role and his immense generosity, and commending Dick for his immeasurable and ongoing support. The Apollo Theater is renowned for its dynamic artists, from Ella Fitzgerald and Luther Vandross to Lauryn Hill and performances such as Between the World and Me and the events currently on our Digital Stage. It’s a tribute to Dick, Charles, and our innovative Board of Trustees that the Apollo can amplify and celebrate these voices while nurturing the artists of our future. If you would like to be a part of the Apollo’s future, please considering making a donation here.
Best wishes for safe and joyous holiday season,
I am thrilled to share that, last week, the 2019 HBO documentary The Apollo received the Emmy Award for “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special.” It is an honor to receive this recognition, as the film tells the singular history of our theater, our community, and the important role that art and Black artists play in American culture.
Autumn has officially arrived, and the Apollo’s fall programming is in full swing. Thank you to the 20,000 viewers who tuned in earlier this month for Wyclef Jean’s return to the Apollo’s mainstage for the live performance of his groundbreaking album, The Carnival. For those who missed it, you can still view the concert on the Apollo’s Digital Stage, as well as our recent conversation with Grammy Award Winner John Legend and scholar, writer, and activist Salamishah Tillet. Inspired by their mutual role model, Nina Simone, and her belief that it is the artist’s responsibility to reflect and respond to contemporary issues, Legend and Tillet came together for a timely discussion about art, social justice, and what Legend believes the role artists can and should play at this critical moment in our history.
Speaking of our responsibilities to make our voices heard during this crucial time, for those who have not yet filled out the 2020 Census, I encourage you to do so. You have until September 30 and it takes less than 10 minutes to fill it out. The Census will make a crucial difference in shaping the future of our communities and the amount of federal funding they receive over the next 10 years.
Last, but most importantly, we are only 43 days away from the 2020 election. Please make sure you are registered to vote. Early voting begins in New York State on October 24 and extends to November 1. Election day is on November 3. So please make a plan to vote in person or, if you are using an absentee ballot, mail in your ballot. Your voice matters!
With your support, we will continue to be a home for artists, a home for you, and for generations to come. If you are in the position to make a gift to support the Apollo’s programs, please consider doing so by clicking here.
Thank you, and be well,
As many of you know, the Apollo Theater doesn’t slow down for the summer, and we’ve been hard at work putting together an exciting line-up of virtual programming to keep you connected to our world-famous stage. On Wednesday, we celebrated HARLEM WEEK 2020 with an online dance party featuring Apollo Music Café regular DJ Hard Hittin’ Harry, followed by the very first chance to hear from two Apollo New Works artists: Ebony Noelle Golden and Kamau Ware. The artists joined Apollo Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes to discuss what they’re creating for our first multi-work commissioning initiative, and the significance of the Apollo’s ongoing support and amplification of Black voices. In case you missed it, you can watch a recording of the conversation on the Apollo Digital Stage.
The Apollo is committed to developing the next generation of diverse arts leaders, and our arts education team is on the front lines ensuring that we provide the skills and support to make it happen. Earlier this summer, the education department pivoted their six-week summer internship program to take place completely online, culminating on August 11 with the Apollo’s Teen Takeover. It was so inspirational to watch these students using their powerful voices to share their visions for a more equitable future. You can watch their production, entitled “Dear Future…”, here. The fall internship program will also be virtual, and I encourage you or those with teens at home to visit the Apollo’s website for more information on how to participate.
Earlier this week, we shared news about some exciting fall Apollo programming, kicking off with a very special performance by Wyclef Jean of his Double Platinum album The Carnival, presented in partnership with ADCOLOR. The free concert will be streaming live from the Apollo’s Main Stage (with minimal crew and no physical audience). Wyclef will bring the energy and Apollo sound back to our Theater for the first time since we closed our doors in March. I hope you’ll tune in to the Apollo Digital Stage on Wednesday, September 9 at 8:00pm ET for what is sure to be an extraordinary night. To check out the rest of our virtual fall season line-up, I encourage to you visit our website here.
Also tremendously exciting, the 2019 HBO documentary The Apollo has been nominated for “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special” at this year’s Emmy Awards, which air on September 20. The nomination is a testament to our community and the stories we’ve been fortunate to share over the past eight decades. That said, there are many more stories about the Black experience that need to be told, especially regarding violence against Black and Brown communities in America. To continue the conversations that we started at the Apollo in 2018 with the world premiere staged adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, HBO will be adapting the production for the small screen, once again directed by our very own Kamilah Forbes and premiering this fall (more here).
I would also like to thank the NYC COVID-19 Response and Impact Fund for their generous support of the Apollo Theater. As effects of the pandemic continue to challenge our Theater, we’re grateful that we’re able to continue our mission-driven work and support our staff and our community.
This year is unlike any other we’ve faced, and we rely on our incredible community of supporters to continue our mission. As August is Black Philanthropy Month, we’re teaming up with the Young, Black & Giving Back Institute for the “Give 8/28” campaign, which raises financial support for black-led non-profits around the country on one of the most historic days for Black culture. It’s the day Emmett Till was brutally murdered, the day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his indelible “I Have a Dream” speech, the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, and the day President Obama accepted the Democratic nomination in 2008—signifying both the highs and lows of the Black-American narrative. “Give 8/28” takes place on August 28, 2020, but I hope you will consider donating to the Apollo today. If you would like to be a part of the Apollo’s future, please considering making a donation here.
Finally, we are just 74 days from one of the most important elections in our lives. Please make sure you are registered to vote, because your voice matters.
President & CEO
It goes without saying that we are in unprecedented times. And yet, it is also important to recognize that this is not new - as a nation, as a community and as a theater that supports the work of artists who have too often been oppressed, silenced, and ignored.
As is all too often the case, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately ravaged Black and Brown communities and created immense personal and financial hardship for many across the country. In addition to our fight for survival, numerous small, Black-owned businesses are struggling, while simultaneously dealing with health challenges or the loss of loved ones due to this virus. There is no minimizing the pain being felt by so many.
And then another virus, one which has plagued our country for 400-years, has burst onto our screens and into the media through the murder of George Floyd: eight minutes and forty-six seconds of horror. In the aftermath of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and countless others, thousands across the country - people of all races and ethnicities are marching and raising their voices to demand justice. It is my hope that we can channel our anger and rage into constructive change. We must finally create a new narrative that addresses our nation’s history of racism.
And so, the question remains: how can we, the Apollo Theater, help to safeguard our democracy, our freedom, and our humanity?
The Apollo will do what we have always done. Our history is rooted in the fight for human dignity and racial equality and mirrors the history of our community. For more than 86 years, the Apollo has been a home--at times the only home--for Black artists and activists. For more than eight decades, we have amplified the movements and conversations around civil rights, social justice and racial inequality. Even with our physical doors closed, we won’t stop now.
At the Apollo we have rallied around the power of art and culture to transform, connect and heal.
Because, whether we stay home and quarantine, take to the streets in peaceful protest, or fight for justice and equality in other ways, we always need to remember that we are in this TOGETHER. And until we can come together to recognize racism as the pandemic that it is and create lasting change, the story will remain the same.
One way we can begin to change the narrative is to vote like your life depends on it, because it does!
President & CEO
Thank you to everyone who joined us for “Let’s Stay (In This) Together: A Benefit to Support the Apollo Theater.” The Apollo has always been a place for the community to convene in moments of celebration and during our darkest times. We remain committed to providing a platform for artists and audiences to express themselves by using the arts to advocate for the safety, dignity, and justice for Black people worldwide. It was inspiring to me to have thousands of people from around the world come together online to support the Theater and the Harlem community. I also want to thank the artists who shared their performances and words, Gibson—our lead supporter, and the generosity of viewers who donated. The gifts from those of you who donated to the Apollo during the event will provide critical funding to safeguard our institution and support our innovative artistic and educational programs that serve more than 200,000 people annually. While there is still much work to be done, your help has been essential. Thank you!
We are proud to call Harlem our home, with its rich and distinctive culture, and we are grateful to our Harlem community for its unwavering support of the Apollo. To that end, we have set aside a portion of the funds raised on June 4 to give back to local, independent businesses and non-profit organizations in the neighborhood through the Harlem Entrepreneurial Micro-Grant Initiative. This initiative will provide micro-grants to small businesses that help to define the culture and vitality of our community. We are grateful to our partners at Harlem’s 125th Street Business Improvement District and the Harlem Commonwealth Council for joining us in this project. The deadline for applications is Thursday, June 25, so there are just a few more days to apply. To learn more and to apply, please click here.
I hope that throughout June, you were able to visit our Digital Stage as we celebrated Black Music Month. On our Digital Stage, you will find our recent conversation with DJ D-Nice, never-before-seen archival footage of Stevie Wonder, and resources and performances for those seeking to engage in conversations and activities around race and injustice. We will continue to add virtual performances and more that showcase the vibrant sounds of the Apollo for you and your family and friends to enjoy all summer long.
For more than eight decades, the Apollo’s strength and resiliency have been as constant as the talent on our stages. As we approach the end of the fiscal year, the need for financial support has become crucial, and we are reaching out to donors and friends of the Theater to help us reach our goal to raise $4 million. The outpouring of support is truly meaningful and has brought us much closer to reaching this goal, but if you are in the position to make a gift to the Apollo, please consider doing so now by clicking here.
Thank you, and be well,