ENTERTAINER OBBA BABATUNDÉ RECEIVES LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FROM JAMAICA CENTER FOR ARTS AND LEARNING

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[Entertainment News\ Movies\Music]
Obba Babatundé, the multi-talented and highly celebrated, award-winning entertainer is a Broadway, film and television star, whose career spans more than four decades grew up in the diverse community of Queens. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a daytime Emmy for his role in CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful, was nominated for a Tony for his role in the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls, is a Critic’s Circle Awards-winner for the musical Sammy, and the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for A Soldier’s Play.
Photo: Dominick Totino

Multi-talented entertainer Obba Babatundé, was recently given a lifetime achievement award from Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning.

The Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning (JCAL) recently held its 2019 sold-out gala fundraiser, Celebrating A Creative Jamaica. A mix of local political representatives, partners, donors, board members and members of the community came out to honor the work that JCAL does year-long and to celebrate the honorees – three outstanding individuals representing the entertainment industry, New York City politics and the financial world.

Obba Babatundé, a native of Queens, New York received JCAL’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The multi-talented and highly celebrated, award-winning entertainer is a Broadway, film and television star, whose career spans more than four decades grew up in the diverse community of Queens. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a daytime Emmy for his role in CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful, was nominated for a Tony for his role in the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls, is a Critic’s Circle Awards-winner for the musical Sammy, and the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for A Soldier’s Play.

The other luminaries honored by the organization at the event were, New York City Public Advocate, Jumaane D. Williams, a first-generation Brooklynite who traces his heritage to the island of Grenada. One of New York City’s young, rising political stars, Jumaane served on the New York City Council representing the 45th District in Brooklyn, which included East Flatbush, Flatbush, Flatlands, Marine Park and the Midwood section, prior to winning the Public Advocate’s position vacated by State Attorney General Leticia James. In accepting his award, Jumaane took time to remind the audience to exercise their right to vote and he stressed the importance of supporting organizations like JCAL. He spoke about the power of the arts and programs like those offered at JCAL, which were valuable when he was growing up, in helping him manage his Tourette and ADHD.

A former Spelman College Magna Cum Laude graduate, Marilyn F. Booker, was also an award recipient. Cited as one of the most influential women of power and listed among the top 100 Executives in America –– just a few of her many accolades, Marilyn is a career financial specialist with Morgan Stanley, who heads up their Urban Markets Group, with a portion of her mandate devoted to providing financial education to inner city and underserved communities. Although unable to attend due to a previous family commitment, she was well represented by her colleagues who celebrated her leadership, her devotion to the job, family and friends, as well as her passion for the work of helping underserved communities better understand and manage their finances.

The Gala event was held at the Jamaica Performance Arts Center (JPAC) which was transformed for the evening, into a banquet hall, with catering provided by Chef Elvis Caribbean Cuisine. The event kicked-off with a performance by a very special young student, Charlie Shneller, a perfect example of the value that JCAL provides, no matter what age you are. He wowed the audience with his magic tricks, charm, and tap dancing skills.

Cathy Hung, JCAL’s Executive Director opened the evening with a brief year-in-review presentation, highlighting a few of the programs that JCAL presented during the year, which tie directly back to the mission of the organization, and the successes of the 2019 season – including the addition in summer of 2019 of the Jamaica Downtown Jazz Festival, which brought out an audience of several thousand jazz enthusiasts and music lovers over a three-day period, to hear iconic musicians like Milford Graves and today’s most innovative young artists such as MacArthur Fellow, Jason Moran.

The Making Moves Dance Festival celebrated its 10th year in September. It is a platform for presenting emerging choreographers and new dance companies. Each year JCAL commissions new dance works to encourage and challenge these young creatives. In addition to creating special programming throughout the year, there is also the year-long, school of the arts, offering opportunities for artistic development to children and adults of all ages, across all arts disciplines.

The evening was filled with a sense of wonderment at the achievements of the chosen honorees, and a celebration of the organization hosting the event. The highlight of the evening came when Obba Babatundé took the stage at JPAC in a Vegas-styled performance with a full orchestral band behind him. This magnificent showman sang, danced and told stories about his early days touring with Liza Minnelli, and his chance encounter with the legendary Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr. that would lead to a life-long friendship. Obba took the audience on a magnificent musical ride down memory lane, literally tapping into his inner Sammy Davis, Jr. and bringing him to life for a brief and touching moment with songs that included “Candyman” and “Mr. Bojangles”. It was the perfect cap to a beautiful evening, and Obba was gloriously in his element.

If you are interested in learning more about the programs that JCAL offers, or would like to support the organization, please visit www.jcal.org.

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