The Gordon Parks Foundation hosted its annual Awards Dinner and Auction celebrating Gordon Parks’s legacy and those continuing his commitment to advancing social justice on May 23rd at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York.
The New York Art World came out to celebrate Gordon Parks at its star-studded annual Awards Dinner and Auction event with a distinguished list of some of the world’s most celebrated artists, photographers, musicians, actors, and philanthropists.
Inspiration abound throughout the evening as the Foundation as it honored scholar and activist Angela Y. Davis, artist Amy Sherald, businesswoman and philanthropist Clara Wu Tsai, author and producer Crystal McCrary, and businessman and community leader Raymond McGuire. Additionally, the Foundation welcomed Kate Clark Harris, daughter of Dr. Kenneth Clark and Dr. Mamie Clark, groundbreaking psychologists who developed the “doll test” experiments, which were photographed by Parks for Ebony in 1947.
The Gordon Parks Foundation Awards Dinner was co-chaired by Alicia Keys; Kathryn and Kenneth Chenault; Tonya and Spike Lee; Judy and Leonard Lauder; and Carol Sutton Lewis and William M. Lewis, Jr.Kaseem Dean (aka Swizz Beatz), a Co-chair for the gala, and Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr., Executive Director of the Gordon Parks Foundation, served as hosts for the evening, which raised nearly $2 Million for the foundation.
“What a spectacular and inspiring evening celebrating the power of art to advance social justice and bring about change,” said Kunhardt, “Each of our honorees has changed the social landscapes of civil and human rights, art, education, and philanthropy. Each has helped to elevate a field that Gordon Parks cared deeply about. Each exemplifies Parks’s commitment to inspire future generations.”
Pulitzer-prize-winning creator of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones presented the award to Angela Davis, whom she praised for her lifelong dedication to economic, racial, and gender justice that continues to inspire new generations to take action. “I’m very deeply moved” by the honor. “Gordon Parks was a visionary who paved the paths that many of us, artists and activists alike, are still walking,” Davis said. “The world never changes because of the statuses of individuals, whether they be presidents or senators or CEOs. Progressive change always happens because ordinary people stand together, imagine, demand and struggle together.” She implored the crowd to continue to support efforts around the world to fight “against racism, class exploitation, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia and to continue our ongoing work to save this planet” remarked Davis.
Screenwriter and producer Mara Brock Akil presented the award to painter Amy Sherald, the first African American to receive a presidential portrait commission from the National Portrait Gallery for former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sherald was also congratulated via a video message Michelle Obama sent for the occasion.
Artist Rashid Johnson presented the award to Clara Wu Tsai, businesswoman, philanthropist, criminal justice activist, and co-owner of the Brooklyn Nets, New York Liberty, and Barclays Center. Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, Thelma Golden, presented the award to Crystal McCrary and Raymond McGuire, who were honored as Patrons of the Arts.
Leslie Parks Bailey, daughter of Gordon Parks, and Liz Moskowitz, former wife of Parks, introduced Kate Clark Harris, who recounted how the doll test study started at Howard University as part of her mother’s master’s thesis and evolved into work with her father as they both earned Ph.D. degrees at Columbia University. Dr. Mamie Clark and Dr. Kenneth Clark were the first African American woman and the first African American man to earn the highest degree in psychology at Columbia. Parks photographed some of the doll test subjects for Ebony magazine in 1947.
The 2023 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellows awardees are artists Jammie Holmes and José Parlá and art historian and Howard University professor, Melanee C. Harvey, who received the Genevieve Young Fellowship in Writing.
The gala kicked off with a powerful performance by Anthony Morgan’s Inspirational Choir of Harlem and included a live auction conducted by Hugh Hildesley of some of Gordon Parks’s iconic photographs. All proceeds from the evening 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.