Urban Arts Partnership Hosts Star Studded 25th Anniversary Benefit [Interviews]

Wall street was lit up with big-named stars this Wednesday March 15th, in honor of Urban Arts Partnership 25th anniversary.

Honored guest including Michael Ealy and Ashley Graham gathered to celebrate the nonprofit organization’s efforts to bridge the achievement gap in underserved public schools, as well as their success in bringing arts-integrated education programs to 100 low-income public schools across New York City and Los Angeles. We caught up with some of the heavyweight guest to find out more about their involvement with the charity and the impact mixing art and education had on their lives:

Allen Maldonado, Blackish:

On the importance of Urban Arts initiative in today’s world:

“I grew up in a neighborhood- I grew up in a rough part where the arts and resources were slimming up and it’s important for kids who may have been over looked to have opportunities to showcase their talents and find ways to put energy to good use. I find myself having a lot of options where it could have went the wrong way for me if I didn’t have the arts, or if i didn’t have acting, or if I didn’t have basketball or something to put my energy towards. My mom’s favorite message was ‘If you’re not doing nothing, you’re getting in trouble.’ So keeping me busy was the goal, with all the programs and organizations such as this, it’s keeping the kids informed and busy. I have a program for myself where we teach foster kids acting and film. Where they get to see short films, we have a red carpet Gala, screening for the friends and family. So we’ve been doing it for five years and I believe this is their (Urban Arts Partnership) 25th anniversary, so I admire what they’re doing and hope for the same from my organization.  

Personal Mentors and Significant teachers:

“Several, several, several. From high school being Mary Barnet, my first high school teacher, Michael Kane, who is the writer of All The Right Moves with Tom Cruise, he was one of my first writing mentors. To now Kenya Barris, the showrunner for Blackish is now my mentor he’s ushering me through entertainment now, so I think mentorship is important.”

Upcoming Projects:

“Yes, Yes. I have a huge show with me and Tracey Morgan and its executive produced by Jordan Peele, it’s on TBS it hasn’t been titled yet but we start filming it now.”


Yolonda Ross, The Get Down:

On the importance of Urban Arts initiative in today’s world:

“Well, because music is such a huge part of what I do and how I learn things, keeping arts in school I think is very important. And then to be able to have the arts and music, you know singing, all of that to take place as far as kids learning  is super important because right now the way the curriculum is it’s really geared to only the test, not retaining the information. So, through song and through music and all of it together we can put arts into class, and at the same time have the kids retain the information. This is how people learn and retain.”

Personal Mentors and Significant teachers:

“I had an English teacher named Fran Cohens she was a huge part of my life through school and out of school. In a time where pushing individuality and teachers helping your own individuality was not really a big thing in school. She did it, and she stayed with me until her deathbed, last year, she came to all my screenings.”

Upcoming Projects:

“Yes, my show ‘The Get Down’ is airing April 7th on Netflix. I’m doing some music and I’m also getting ready to shoot a new show called ‘The Shine.’

Rotimi, Power:

On the importance of Urban Arts initiative in today’s world:

“Urban Arts for me represents what I wish I had as a kid. Where someone who is still of youth and is doing singing and acting can entrepreneur. I wish I had someone who was doing that for me when I was younger. So being here is kind of representing that you can do it, you can be apart of it, you can live your dream and still be of youth. It’s cool to be here because its a lot of support and I love to be apart of positive things.”

On how to fill the gap between public schools and arts funding:

“I think what Chance the Rapper is doing is very important because if you’re not a vessel for somebody then what are you doing this for. We start having those selfish moments of keeping it to self then we’re not really helping anybody. So I feel like, if I have the platform it’s almost my duty to give back.”

Upcoming Projects:

“I have a movie that’s out right now called ‘Burning Sands.’ I have a T.V that I’m on called ‘Power’ that’s coming out this summer and I have my new single called ‘Nobody’ featuring 50 cent and T.I and its coming out next month.”


Andra Day, Singer:

On the importance of Urban Arts initiative in today’s world:

“I think you know why Urban Arts is special for me. I have to say I am a product of an arts school in a neighborhood that was riddled with gang violence and so to have that group of teachers and everyone from the community coming to support a change that was going on in my life was amazing. So to see Rosie doing it, and taking her opportunities that she’s been given and doing this on a large scale for so many kids-and these opportunities are above and beyond this is once in a lifetime opportunities and for her to do it constantly no matter how challenging it gets, it’s encouraging for me to go back to my neighborhood and say you know I want to inject these programs. It’s definitely a cycle.”

Rosie Perez:

On the importance of Urban Arts initiative in today’s world:

“I co-founded Urban Arts and I came on 24 and a half years ago. At that time it was only in one school and it was in response to the Crown Heights riots.  For days, the student community, the African American community and the children didn’t understand what was going on. So Amy had this brilliant idea, why don’t we teach these kids to make a documentary they’ll think it’s a fun project but what they’ll be doing is learning what’s going on, learning the history of crown heights and Brooklyn, and learning the history of New York city, and all of the racial tensions. And Amy was like ‘We got something’, you know what if we use other art disciplines to help kids comprehend other types of studies such as reading,math, science, global warming, history.”

Personal Mentors and Significant teachers:

“Mr. Mackey, he was my 5th grade teacher and I got in touch with him as an adult which was pretty fantastic. He was the one who brought me out of my shell because I felt so different, I was bussed to a predominantly all white school  and I felt ostracized and I felt less-than, he pulled me out of my shell and really cared about me. He made the school and the classroom so much fun and I remember he said ‘Rose, you know how to dance why don’t you teach us how to dance.’ and I said ‘what?’ and he goes ‘You know Michael Jackson. Dance Machine. And he goes ‘why don’t you teach that to the kids’ and I was so nervous and he was like ‘you could do it’ and I got up and I did it and the classroom applauded me and I was shaking and he goes ‘good job sit down let’s start learning.’ And all of a sudden I wanted to be a dancer, it was just that so he had the biggest effect on me.”

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