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Gordon Parks Foundation Honors Alicia Keys and Others

The Gordon Parks Foundation has finalized the list of honorees for its Annual Awards Dinner, which will take place on Tuesday, May 21st at Cipriani 42nd St. in New York City. This year’s gala will honor athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick, acclaimed mixed-media artist Mickalene Thomas, and civil rights activist and former Chairman of the NAACP Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Fifteen-time GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, songwriter, musician, producer, and actress Alicia Keys and GRAMMY® Award-winning producer, rapper, and songwriter Kasseem Dean (aka Swizz Beatz) will be recognized as Patrons of the Arts that evening. 

Gordon Parks Foundation

Along with the honorees and the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellows (to be announced soon), there will be a special tribute to Richard Roundtree, who starred in Parks’s groundbreaking 1971 film Shaft, highlighting the enduring cultural influence of the film on both cinema and music. 

“Our annual gala is a celebration of Gordon Parks’s lasting impact on art, film, music, and activism,” Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., Executive Director of The Gordon Parks Foundation. “We are proud to honor Colin, Alicia, Swizz, Richard, Mickalene, and Myrlie – all visionaries whose brilliant work and deep commitment to advancing social justice span multiple generations over 60 years and continue Parks’s legacy.”  

Super Bowl QB Colin Kaepernick, and holder of the all-time NFL record for most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback, took a knee during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” in 2016 to bring attention to systemic oppressions — specifically police terrorism — against Black and Brown people. For his stance, he has been denied employment by the league to this day. Since then, he has founded and helped to fund three organizations – Know Your Rights Camp, Kaepernick Media, and Kaepernick Publishing – that together advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through storytelling, systems change, and political education.

In addition to more than 20 years supporting dozens of social causes, Keys and Dean have co-chaired the Gordon Parks Foundation Awards gala for a decade and hold the largest private collection of Parks’s work. “We are deeply honored to be receiving the Gordon Parks Patrons of the Arts Award in 2024. We truly appreciate the Foundation’s work providing scholarships and fellowships to the next generation of students and artists whose creative work reflects and extends Gordon’s important legacy.” – Alicia Keys and Kasseem Dean

Evers-Williams played a vital role in the civil rights movement before and after the murder of her husband, Medgar Evers. 

Her courageous, lifelong dedication to fighting for equality and human rights has fueled her activism for more than six decades. Among many great achievements, she served as Chairman of the NAACP from 1995-1998 and founded the Medgar & Myrlie Evers Institute. She currently serves as Chairman of the Institute, with the mission of championing civil rights with a focus on history, education, and reconciliation, especially among young people.

Thomas, who is acclaimed for her artwork dissecting the intersecting complexities of black and female identity within the Western canon, is also a Tony Awards nominated co-producer, curator, educator, and mentor to many emerging artists. She is the Co-Founder of Pratt>FORWARD and founder of Art>FORWARD Artist in the Market incubator for post-graduate students. “Gordon Parks has socially, politically and culturally influenced how we tell our stories. He has taught us that the camera is an empowering tool that cultivates impact. 

His legacy has changed the game for Black creatives and paved the way for artists like myself. This award exemplifies the ongoing influence and celebrates creative minds and leading voices in visual arts and broader culture.” – Mickalene Thomas.

The life and work of Richard Roundtree, who passed away on October 24, 2023, will be celebrated at the Gordon Parks Foundation gala this year with a special tribute. With a career that spanned more than fifty years, his legacy will forever be remembered as an actor who reshaped the landscape of film and television with many groundbreaking roles. Richard’s life changed forever in 1971 when Gordon Parks chose him to play private detective John Shaft in the iconic Shaft movie franchise. The role launched Richard’s five-decade career with a role that to this day is recognized as being a turning point for Black leading men in film.

The gala, which brings together changemakers across film, music, the visual arts, business and philanthropy, will include a live auction of Gordon Parks’s photographs. The Co-Chairs for the 2024 Gordon Parks Foundation Awards Dinner & Auction are: Kathryn and Kenneth Chenault; Agnes Gund; Judy and Leonard Lauder; Tonya and Spike Lee; Carol Sutton Lewis and William M. Lewis, Jr.; Crystal McCrary and Raymond McGuire; and Clara Wu Tsai and Joseph Tsai.

All proceeds from the evening will support year-round educational programming as well as the fellowships, prizes, and scholarships provided by The Gordon Parks Foundation to the next generation of artists, writers, and students whose work follows in Parks’s footsteps.

Tickets are available starting at $2,000. They can be purchased on the Gordon Parks Foundation website, or by contacting Buckley Hall Events at [email protected] or 914-579-1000.

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