The Brotherhood/Sister Sol (BHSS) held its 9th annual Voices celebration at Espace on Wednesday May 29th, 2013 in New York City. Our honorees for the evening were Esperanza Spalding, Grammy Award winning singer and bassist, and Susan L. Taylor, Editor in Chief Emeritus of Essence Magazine, and Founder of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, and special guest Tony Award nominated actor Norm Lewis (lead in Porgy and Bess, Scandal) performed. Our host for the evening was MSNBC News Anchor Tamron Hall. This year’s dinner included an awards reception, a silent auction, and words & performances by our award winning collective of poets and other youth members. Their words resonated throughout the venue and all 400 attendees were deeply moved.
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Paul Butler*Co-Chairman, Board of Directors, BHSS
Rahsan-Rahsan LindsayCo-Chairman, Board of Directors, BHSS
Charles N. Schorin
B. Alan Echtenkamp*
Tiffany R. Warren*
Rabbi Rachel Cowan*
Stephen C. Graham*
Gia Cavellini Guzman
Ellen McClain Haime
Rashida K. La Lande
Pedro A. Noguera*
Michael J. O’Brien*
Nicole G. Valentine*
Reverend John Vaughn*
Douglas H. White*
Susan L. Taylor
Editor In Chief Emeritus, Essence Magazine
Founder, National CARES Mentoring Movement
Susan L. Taylor is synonymous with Essence magazine, the brand she built—as its fashion and beauty editor, as editor-in-chief and editorial director. For 27 years she authored of one of the magazine’s most popular columns, In the Spirit. For nearly three decades, as the driving force behind one of the most celebrated Black-owned businesses of our time, Susan Taylor is a legend in the magazine publishing world.
She was the first and only African American Woman to be recognized by the Magazine Publishers of America with the Henry Johnson Fisher Award—the industry's highest honor—and the first to be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame. She is the recipient of the NAACP President's Award for visionary leadership and has honorary degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities.
A fourth-generation entrepreneur, Susan grew up in Harlem working with her father in his women’s clothing store. She founded her own cosmetics company, a first for Black women, which led to the beauty editor’s position at Essence. She is the author of four books: In the Spirit: The Inspirational Writings of Susan L. Taylor; Lessons in Living; Confirmation: The Spiritual Wisdom That Has Shaped Our Lives, which she coauthored with her husband, Khephra Burns; and her most recent, All About Love, Favorite Selections from In the Spirit on Living Fearlessly. She is a much sought-after speaker, inspiring hope and encouraging us to reclaim our lives and create sustainable communities.
She is an avid supporter of a host of organizations dedicated to moving the Black community forward, but her passion and focus today is the National Cares Mentoring Movement, a call to action, which she founded in 2006 as Essence Cares. The Cares mentoring movement is a massive campaign to recruit one million able adults to help secure our children who are in peril and losing ground. “Not on our watch!” she says. “Our children are the mothers and fathers of our tomorrows, and their future is in our hands.” The goals of the Cares movement are to increase high school graduation rates among African American students, end the violence in Black communities and the over-incarceration of our young. “Creating safe, top-tier schools in every underserved community in this nation is the mandate—and it’s doable,” Taylor says.
Susan is a cofounder of Future PAC, the first national political action committee devoted to providing a network of support and sources of funding for progressive African American women seeking federal and state-level political offices. She is co-chair with Danny Glover of Shared Interest, a capital campaign to raise money to build housing in the rural areas of South Africa, and serves on the boards of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. She has worked passionately to help restore the lives of people in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region who were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Grammy Award Winning Artist
From the beginning of her life to her current success as a creative musician, Esperanza Spalding has charted her own course. The young bassist/vocalist/composer was one of the biggest breakout stars of 2011—not just in jazz, but in all genres of music. Her receipt of the 2011 GRAMMY® for Best New Artist was unprecedented—the first time a jazz musician had won the award— but Spalding continues to make the unprecedented the norm.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Spalding grew up in a single-parent home and learned early lessons in the meaning of perseverance and moral character from the role model whom she holds in the highest regard to this day – her mother.
But even with a rock-solid role model, school did not come easy to Spalding, although not for any lack of intellectual acumen. She was both blessed and cursed with a highly intuitive learning style that often put her at odds with the traditional education system. On top of that, she was shut in by a lengthy illness as a child, and as a result, was home-schooled for a significant portion of her elementary school years.
However, the one pursuit that made sense to Spalding from a very early age was music. At age four, after watching classical cellist Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the roadmap was suddenly very clear. “That was when I realized that I wanted to do something musical,” she says. “It was definitely the thing that hipped me to the whole idea of music as a creative pursuit.”
Within a year, she had essentially taught herself to play the violin well enough to land a spot in The Chamber Music Society of Oregon, a community orchestra that was open to both children and adult musicians. She stayed with the group for ten years, and by age 15, she had been elevated to a concertmaster position.
But by then, she had also discovered the bass, and all of the non-classical avenues that the instrument could open for her. Suddenly, playing classical music in a community orchestra wasn’t enough for this young teenager anymore. Before long she was playing blues, funk, hip- hop and a variety of other styles on the local club circuit. Her first band, Noise for Pretend, expanded Spalding’s musical horizons and presented her earliest opportunities to sing and write music.
She also came under the influence of several elders in Portland’s musical community, including Greg McKelvey, Ronnie Harrison, Geoff Lee, Warren Rand, Stan Bock, Ronnie Steen, Janice Scroggins, Dr. Thara Memory and many other teachers in the Cultural Recreation Band and Mel Brown’s Jazz Camp.
At 15, Spalding left high school for good. Armed with her GED and aided by a generous scholarship, she enrolled in the music program at Portland State University. “I was definitely the youngest bass player in the program,” she says. “I was 16, and I had been playing the bass for about a year and a half. Most of the cats in the program had already had at least eight years of training under their belts, and I was trying to play in these orchestras and do these Bach cello suites. It wasn’t really flying through the material, but if nothing else, my teachers were saying, ‘Okay, she does have talent.’”
Berklee College of Music was the place where the pieces all came together and doors started opening. After a move to the opposite coast and three years of accelerated study, she not only earned a B.M., but also signed on as an instructor in 2005 at the age of 20 – an appointment that has made her one of the youngest faculty members in the history of the college. She was the 2005 recipient of the prestigious Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship.
In addition to studying and teaching at Berklee, Spalding also had a chance to perform with many jazz icons, including pianist Michel Camilo, singer Patti Austin, guitarist Adam Rogers, and saxophonists Donald Harrison and Joe Lovano. “Working with Joe was terrifying,” she recalls, “but he’s a really generous person. I don’t know if I was ready for the gig or not, but he had a lot of faith in me. These years playing with him have been an amazing learning experience.”
Spalding has gone through several phases, which have been well documented during her brief recording career. Her journey as a solo artist began with the 2006 release of Junjo, on the Spanish label Ayva Music, which featured pianist Aruán Ortiz and drummer Francisco Mela. She presented the many different sides of her writing on Esperanza, her 2008 international debut recording for Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, which quickly topped Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart and became the year’s best selling album worldwide by a new jazz artist. Numerous awards and appearances followed, including an invitation by President Barack Obama to appear at both the White House and the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, and an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman that found Letterman and bandleader Paul Shaffer proclaiming the young musician the “coolest” guest in the three-decade history of the program.
“The objective of Esperanza was to show many sides of my musical personality,” Spalding explains; “but I also imagined that my next records would be built around a more concrete project-concept.” What followed, Chamber Music Society from 2010 and her newly released Radio Music Society, made it clear that her initial triumphs were just the beginning.
“Originally I conceived the two albums as a double record, with intimate, subtle explorations of chamber works on one and jazz musicians exploring melodies, grooves and song associated with what we categorize as ‘pop-songs.’ Those are the two ways of looking at music that really interest me.”
Returning to her ever-expanding book of musical sketches, “taking my notes and organizing them into something coherent,” Spalding began with Chamber Music Society, the 2010 release on which the bassist was joined by longtime colleagues Leo Genovese (keyboards) and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), plus percussionist Quintino Cinalli, vocalists (including the legendary Milton Nascimento) and a string trio (arranged by Gil Goldstein and Spalding). The disc was another instant chart topper and gained multiple awards, none more imposing than the Best New Artist GRAMMY®.
Spalding’s latest release, Radio Music Society, expands the cast to include, among many others, jazz legends Lovano, Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart; hip-hop giant Q-Tip, Algebra Blessett, Lalah Hathaway, Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke, among an array of notable vocalists; and Portland mentors Scroggins and Memory, as well as the horn section of Memory’s American Music Program ensemble. “I’ve had the honor and blessing of working with so many phenomenal jazz musicians over the years,” Spalding explains, “As I’ve gotten to know them and their music, I’ve grown to love them as family and colleagues. I wished for an opportunity for us all to interpret songs together, so that they can be heard and received by a larger audience. All my personal heroes who are revered in the jazz world – like Joe Lovano and Terri Lyne Carrington – should be heard by a mainstream audience, because what they manifest in their music is so beautiful, sincere and uplifting. I think they literally bring good into the lives of the people who hear them”.
Radio Music Society is another unprecedented chapter in the Esperanza Spalding story, building on her past triumphs and achieving new heights that she will no doubt exceed in the future. “The main way in which the Grammy has changed my life is that I keep getting asked how the Grammy has changed my life,” she says.
Spalding continues to spread her message around the globe. In addition to over 110 Chamber Music Society concerts, she still found time to tour with Joe Lovano’s US 5, perform at Rock In Rio with Milton Nascimento, play at Prince’s “Welcome 2 America” tour and join Wayne Shorter in celebrating Herbie Hancock’s 70th birthday at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. As Jeff Baker of The Oregonian once raved of her electrifying talent, “This was about art, performed at the highest level by someone with the vision, talent, and determination to make it happen”
Downloadable Images of Esperanza Spalding, Profile, Press Release & Album Art Available At: http://mediakits.concordmusicgroup.com/33174/
Tony Award Nominated Actor
Scandal, Porgy and Bess
Norm Lewis can be seen as 'Senator Edison Davis' on the hit ABC drama, SCANDAL. He recently received Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle Award nominations for his performance as 'Porgy' in the Broadway production of The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess. Broadway:Sondheim on Sondheim, The Little Mermaid, Les Miserables, Chicago, Amour, The Wild Party, Side Show, Miss Saigon, Tommy. West End/London:Les Miserables, Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert (London’s O2 Arena, PBS). Off-Broadway:Dessa Rose (Drama Desk nomination, AUDELCO Award), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Drama League nomination), Captains Courageous, A New Brain. Regional: Porgy in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (A.R.T.), Ragtime, Dreamgirls (with Jennifer Holiday), First You Dream, Sweeney Todd, The Fantasticks. Film: Winters Tale, Sex and the City 2, Confidences, Preaching to the Chior. Television: "Scandal," “Mystery Women,” “All My Children,” “As the World Turns,” “Cosby,” “Strong Medicine.” CD: Norm Lewis: This Is the Life! www.normlewis.com
Tamron Hall anchors “NewsNation,” which airs weekdays from 2-3 p.m. ET on MSNBC. “NewsNation,” which was launched in 2010, features high profile interviews and in-depth coverage of U.S., world and entertainment news. “NewsNation” has covered countless important American milestones, including a live broadcast from Ground Zero after the death of Osama Bin Laden, where President Obama joined the families of 9/11 victims to mark the occasion. In addition, “NewsNation” presented live coverage of the final space shuttle launch from KSC in July 2011. In her popular segments, “Gut Check” and “We Just Thought You Should Know,” Tamron encourages viewers to give their opinions on some of the most controversial stories in the news via Facebook and Twitter.
In addition to her role at MSNBC, Tamron can also be seen on NBC News as frequent substitute host for “TODAY” and “Weekend Today.” She has also hosted several special reports for MSNBC and NBC News, including “Making the Grade,” “Debating The Black Agenda,” several “Dateline” pieces, and “Education Nation: Teacher Town Hall,” which has been nominated for an Emmy Award. Tamron also served as correspondent of the NBC News special “The Inauguration of Barack Obama,” which won an Emmy for Outstanding Live Coverage in October 2010.
Prior to joining MSNBC in July 2007, Tamron spent 10 years at WFLD in Chicago, where she held a number of positions including general assignment reporter, consumer reporter and host of the three-hour “Fox News in the Morning” program. She also anchored the weekday mornings and served as a noon anchor. While at WFLD, Tamron covered several breaking news stories including one of Amtrak’s most devastating accidents in Illinois, and she secured a one-on-one interview with Sen. Barack Obama shortly before he announced his run for the presidency. Tamron was nominated for an Emmy for her consumer report segment, “The Bottom Line,” which she launched in 1999. Before joining WFLD, Tamron spent four years as a general assignment reporter at KTVT in Dallas. She began her broadcasting career at KBTX in Bryan, Texas, as a general assignment reporter.
Tamron is an award-winning journalist, and was the recipient of Temple University’s prestigious Lew Klein Alumni in the Media award in 2010. Tamron is involved with several charitable organizations that strive to end homelessness and illiteracy, as well as others that fight domestic abuse. She has been recognized by Day One, a New York-based advocacy group for victims of domestic violence, for her work and support of their efforts. She wrote a personal account of her sister’s death for theGrio.com in 2010, which garnered praise from several outlets for its honesty and attention to the often-overlooked issue of domestic and dating violence. In addition, Tamron is an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists. An avid dog lover, Tamron has hosted the popular Westminster Dog Show in both 2009 and 2010. In addition, Tamron has been featured in several major publications and media outlets, including Ebony Magazine, Uptown Magazine, Heart & Soul Magazine, BET’s “The Ed Gordon Show,” Huffington Post, AOL Black Voices and others. Tamron is a native of Luling, Texas, and she holds a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from Temple University.