Photo by: NAN-(c) 2019
Al Sharpton’s 2019 NAN Triumph Awards Was An Experience!
Story By: Sura Khan
On October 21, 2019, the world-famous Apollo Theater opened its doors to the National Action Network 2019 Triumph Awards celebrating Rev. Al Sharpton’s 65th birthday and over 50 years of activism. The program was host by TV/News Anchor from NY1 Cheryl Wills and The Rev. Al Sharpton. The evening honorees were Patrisse Cullors – Co. founder of “Black Lives Matter”, Alicia Garza- Co. Founder of “Black Lives Matter”, Van Jones- News Commentator & Author, Ivy McGregor – CEO of IVY Inc. & Social Responsibility/Beygood, Dominque Morisseau- Play Wright & Director, Naturi Naughton –Actor & Singer “Power TV Series” and Isiah Thomas- NBA Hall of Fame. It was an honor to be in the company of such great contributors to the African American community and the world.
The evening started with some acknowledgments and a wonderful and moving performance by the “Grace Baptist Church Choir” that set the tone for the rest of the evenings’ celebration. Their performance was moving and had the audience engaged in the spirit. Next up was the singing of a rendition of the Stevie Wonder hit song “Happy Birthday” to Rev. Sharpton by the entire auditorium. A cake with burning candles was rolled out on to the stage followed by Al Sharpton, supporters, and loved ones.
The evening events were more than an award show and birthday celebration; it was indeed an experience. A well-organized event that hardily kept audience members in their seats. A video collage played on a giant screen on stage recapturing the life and times of Al Sharpton. It was entertaining and educational for onlookers. I learned a great deal about Rev. Sharpton and the NAN that evening. President Obama appeared on the screen wishing the Reverend a happy birthday. The former President also spoke very highly of Sharpton and his great accomplishments and contributions, with some little joke that kept the audience laughing. Video footage and photos appeared on the screen giving visual of a 7-year-old Al preaching in the church too the 1980’s heavyset Al with his famous processed hairstyle. The audience loved it.
Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson- Chairman of the board, National Action Network was also in attendance presenting the Chairman’s Award to NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. Richardson also appeared in the video presentation speaking highly of the NAN and Sharpton. Sharpton refused to allow the awards evening to be dampened with talks of President Donald Trump or currents events. It was his night and happiness was the order of the day. Sharpton also had at his side his two lovely daughters, grandson, and son-in-law among others. He also sang the praises of one of the central park 5 who is now employed by NAN and working behind the scene to support the work of NAN. The audience applauded the young man as he thanked everyone and held his fist high in the air (Victory).
Honoree Dominique Morisseau gave an inspiring speech and brought along with her the cast members from her Tony-Winning Musical show now on Broadway at the Imperial Theater “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations. The 5 siging actor’s-dancers hit the stage with a rendition of some of the Temptations’ greatest hits including “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” among many others. The audience was dancing in their seats to the memorable sounds of Motown.
A spectacular performance by the “Greater Allen AME Cathedral Ensemble moves the audience even more with their powerful voices. Honoree Van Jones –Attorney and Organizer sang the praises of Sharpton, calling him his mentor. Jones was almost moved to tears recapping his journey. Jones also brought with him two young gentlemen, former prisoners whom Jones and his organization lead the way to their freedom. Thousands of others also benefit from his efforts as he led the charge on passing the FIRST STEP ACT. a bipartisan Federal bill that the NY Times calls the most substantial breakthrough in criminal justice in a generation.
After all the wonderful award presentations and speeches by all the honorees, the evening came to a close as Gospel recording artist Le’Andria Johnson BET (Sunday’s Best) took to the stage singing her inspirational music from her album “Bigger Than Me”. Johnson leads the Apollo audience straight to church as she filled the room with a spirit emerging from deep within her soul. The Reverend Al Sharpton then lead the audience in prayer as the program came to a close.
In conclusion, the evening was inspiring, entertaining and educational on many levels. I thank Al Sharpton, the National Action Network and its board of directors and members for all the great work they’ve done over the years. It was indeed an eye-opener for me. Congratulations to all the honorees for the great work each of them does to better our community and the world over. Happy birthday Brother Al Sharpton and may you be blessed to continue on the front line for social justice and reform for all.
Note: Listen to my Podcast Covering this Event.. NOW AVAILABLE!
Sura Khan Podcast Page: https://surakhan.net/