By Miles Marshall Lewis
Harlem’s historic 125th Street once again earns its bona fides as the center of black America Monday night, when the legendary Apollo Theater hosts its 13th annual Spring Gala. Hosted by Tony-nominated In Living Color alumni David Alan Grier, the annual fundraising benefit with the starry red carpet plans to throw back to the 1990s: performers include Tony! Toni! Toné!, Salt-N-Pepa and Bell Biv DeVoe. (Newbies Sarah Ikumu and 4th Ave, straight from Showtime at the Apollo, will also appear.) Per usual, proceeds raised all support the nonprofit Apollo organization’s educational and artistic programming in the Harlem community.
“Now more than ever, we recognize the importance of nurturing the next generation of community thought leaders,” says Jonelle Procope, president and CEO of the Apollo Theater. “The Spring Gala gives us an opportunity to celebrate our legacy as an ever-present driving force in music, but it also gives us a chance to highlight the importance of our year-round community and education programs. Throughout its 84-year legacy, the Apollo has always nurtured young talent, musically and professionally, providing a springboard for countless careers. As we have all stood on the shoulders of others, it is very important that we give our young people the same opportunities and let them stand on ours.”
Oakland, California’s Tony! Toni! Toné! paved the way for neo-soul on hits like “Feels Good” and “Anniversary,” rarely regrouping since 1996 when singer-songwriter Raphael Saadiq went solo. Rap duo Salt-N-Pepa (“Shoop,” “Push It”) still maintain the all-time-highest selling album by female MCs: 1993’s Very Necessary. Reports recently revealed that New Edition members Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill have split from the group, the remaining members of which will now be known as RBRM (i.e., Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike). But sans Bobby, that subset has always gone by Bell Biv DeVoe, and the trio will bring their signature energy behind hits like “Poison” and “Do Me!” to the Apollo stage Monday night.
Annually, the Apollo Spring Gala throws light on a specific corporation for its community leadership and exceptional philanthropy. 2018’s Corporate Award will be presented to SiriusXM satellite radio. President and chief content officer Scott Greenstein is expected to accept the honor on the company’s behalf.
“We are thrilled to receive this recognition and extremely grateful to the Apollo Theater and its community,” Greenstein shared in a statement. “We feel a kinship for and share a credo with the Apollo: we believe in the power of diversity, and making available multi-ayered programming that celebrates unfettered free speech and a chorus of diverse voices. Our commitment to the Apollo and its community is strong and years deep as we have hosted multiple exclusive and landmark shows at the venue throughout the years. SiriusXM is honored to receive this award and looks forward to many continued successful collaborations.”
The star-studded evening concludes in a post-performance party, featuring DJ D-Nice on the turntables.