MoAD’s Afropolitan Ball 2018 Honorees

The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) is proud to announce the honorees for this year’s Afropolitan Ball scheduled for Saturday evening October 27, 2018 at the Fairmont Hotel.

This year MoAD honors two black women who have transformed the literary and visual art worlds with their powerful presence and inspirational careers, emblematic of MoAD’s dedication to justice and the everlasting impact of art and culture – Elizabeth Alexander, recently appointed President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and San Francisco gallerist, collector and philanthropist Karen Jenkins-Johnson.

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Elizabeth Alexander is being honored as our “Visionary Leader in the Arts”; recognizing her outstanding career as a renowned poet, essayist, playwright and scholar. Additionally, this award acknowledges her commitment as a social justice arts advocate through her work at the Ford Foundation examining how media and the arts create the narrative that effects social change. And for the vision and impact she will have as the President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Currently on display at MoAD are paintings by Alexander’s late husband Ficre Ghebreyesus in a first major museum exhibition of Ghebreyesus’ work entitled Ficre Ghebreyesus: City with A River Running Through (September 19-December 16, 2018), inspired by Ficre’s life as a refugee from Eritrea and his experiences traveling the globe and eventually settling in New Haven, CT. About the major themes in the exhibition, Alexander writes, “Ficre’s presence in my life reminds me of the limits and dangers of nationalism everywhere, that families can be torn apart for generations and that in the words of the poet W. H. Auden, ‘we must love one another or die.” (NY Times, July 21, 2018)

Karen Jenkins-Johnson receives honors for “Patron of the Arts; recognizing her outstanding career as a gallerist, collector and mentor for visual artists nationally and across the globe. As the founder of the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco and Brooklyn as an African American woman leading in business and the arts. As a bi-coastal arts leader, this year has been a banner year for the Jenkins Johnson Gallery with major critical reception of her pop-up installations in Brooklyn and the major exhibition of new works by Deborah Roberts in the spring of 2018 to major critical acclaim. Johnson is also being recognized by the Museum for her leadership at MoAD and other organizations and for mentoring a growing percentage of collectors in the importance of supporting and collecting Black artists.

Entertainment for the night includes spoken word artist Marvin K. White, live saxophone by Charles McNeal, and the Medea Sirkas dance troupe with the Bay Area’s Lady Ryan rocking the entire affair. Informed by this year’s theme – the Color of Time — the Fairmont Hotel will be transformed once again in collaboration with event designer Riccardo Benivades. The night’s Mistress of Ceremonies will be MoAD Board member Tiffany Stevenson, Vice President of Global Talent for Box Inc. (Redwood City, CA).

Following up on a hugely successful $1 million-plus event last year, this year’s leadership again will be the Honorary Chairs The Honorable Willie L. Brown and Lloyd H. Dean, President and CEO of Dignity Health and President of Dignity Health Foundation; and the event Chairs, too, again will be Monetta White and David Lawrence and Eric F. Reed and Michelle Miller Reed. Supporting the chairs are members of the event committee, including: Katie Allen, Suzette Clarke, Jill Cowan Davis, Hala Hijazi, Bianca Mallory, Wayne Perry, Narda Skov, Marc Spencer, Celia Tejada, Henry Williams, and Sonja Johnson Williams.

The goal this year is to exceed last year’s successful $1 million mark. With the Museum well on its way to the goal and with thanks to generous contributions from the Board and early, lead sponsors, event expenses are now covered. All contributions will go 100% to ensure the Museum’s ability to expand the reach of its highly acclaimed and innovative exhibitions, as well as our educational and public programs. This last year was the most well attended in MoAD’s history and 2019 looks to be even better, with forthcoming exhibitions Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem (January 14-April 15, 2019), followed by Coffee, Rhum, Sugar and Gold (May 8 to August 11, 2019). On the education front, the Museum’s MoAD in the Classroom (M.I.C.) now reaches over 1,500 kids in predominantly Title 1 schools with both free transportation to MoAD, along with teacher training. Evaluative work around the program prove that engagement is much higher than in many similar programs based on national standards, and often because students literally see themselves in the pictures.

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