On Tuesday (June 6th), Grammy Award winning Rock N Roll Hall of Fame inductee Mavis Staples, Congressman John Lewis, philanthropist Alexander Soros and musician John Batiste were honored by the Gordon Parks Foundation at their annual awards gala which took place at Cipriani’s.
The foundation preserves Parks’ work and honors those who embody his legacy of art and activism. At the gala Staples said about Parks’ influence on her, “Well you know he’s the arts and he’s film and I’m a singer and that’s all I am is a singer. But I feel like the arts and the music are relatives, we’re cousins we go hand in hand we need each other. So I’m so honored. I met him [Parks] years ago. I’ve been out here a long time. I was at the Apollo in the fifties. But this is quite an honor I already talked to my father about it. I told my father ‘Pops I’m at it again’. Every time I get an award like this I tell the people that my father’s telling the angels ‘my baby daughter that’s Mavis you can’t stop her she’s getting up’. I just feel good, I feel good to be with Congressmen John Lewis. We together with Dr. King during the civil rights movement. It’s always good to see him, I took pics with him. I’m just like a kid in a candy store.”
Meanwhile in speaking with Congressman Lewis about Parks’ and the prevalence of his legacy today he said, “Well I think when you look at the unbelievable work, this body of work that he left it inspires all of us to keep on keeping on. I had an opportunity of meeting him twice. He was so just prince of a man. He used his eyes to make his camera talk, and when you look at some of his photographs they look so alive, they’re so inspiring. You know during the sixties when people were shooting for whether Life Magazine, some other major publication, or for the Afro American or the Pittsburgh Courier or New York Times, a Newsweek, it was very dangerous to be a photographer in the South to be a reporter to carry a pad and a pencil to carry a camera because people wanted to destroy the evidence. And many of these guys and a few women were out there. I saw reporters who were trying to cover the news beaten and left bloody and unconscious and then they would turn on us especially during the freedom rides, and the marches and sit ins.”
The gala included a special performance by Grammy and Academy award winning rapper and actor Common who chatted with us about his favorite piece of work by Gordon Parks telling us, “Well my favorite one, I don’t know the title of it but I used it on the cover of my album Like Water for Chocolate. So it has something to do with that civil rights movement, and it was like a picture of this young girl drinking water at the fountain and her mother was right there by her. It’s on my album Like Water for Chocolate.”
Other attendees included Usher who brought his son Naviyd, Martin Scorsese who was a presenter, Stephen Colbert, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Chelsea Clinton and Swizz Beatz who when asked about what’s next for him said, “The sky is not the limit it’s just a view.”
In total the gala raised over $1.3 million for the foundation.