eta’s 40th Anniversary Gala honors founder Abena Joan Brown

Abena Joan Brown, beloved former president and CEO of eta Creative Arts Foundation, gets her “come-uppance” at a grand 40th anniversary gala celebration and tribute, Honoring our Past, Embracing our Future, on Sept. 10 at eta Square, 76th and

Abena Joan Brown, beloved former president and CEO of eta Creative Arts Foundation, gets her “come-uppance” at a grand 40th anniversary gala celebration and tribute, Honoring our Past, Embracing our Future, on Sept. 10 at eta Square, 76th and South Chicago Ave. The annual benefit will acknowledge “the importance of those who laid the foundation and in anticipation of what lies ahead,” so say gala chairs, Greg Hinton, of U.S. Cellular, and Katherine Smith, of Motorola. Coordinating chairs are sisters, Gloria Jenkins-Harvey and Lola Jenkins, of the Westside Association for Community Action.

After serving for 40 years as eta’s president and producer Brown stepped down on March 1, exactly 40 years after eta’s founding in 1971, passing the torch to her successor, Phillip Thomas. During her tenure Brown steered eta to the purchase and renovation of a 15,000-square-foot facility which houses a 200-seat theater, a gallery/community space, classrooms and studios. She later spearheaded the acquisition of an entire city block from 75th to 76th Streets, along South Chicago Avenue for future expansion.

Recognized internationally as a major force in theater and organizational and artistic development, Brown has produced over 200 productions. Celebrated for her business acumen and insights on various aspects of the arts, she was a participant in the First Black Theatre Summit convened by playwright August Wilson in 1999 and published on BTNs’ Black Theatre’s Unprecedented Times on the topic of “Audience and Institutional Development.” She built eta into a major presence and is being recognized for her legacy to Chicago, the nation and the next generation. eta is Chicago’s only cultural arts complex of its kind in the African American community, recognized as one of the city’s leading non-profits. eta co-founders are Okoro Harold Johnson, Archie Weston Sr. and Al Johnson.

“It is altogether fitting that as we celebrate eta’s 40 years, we take the opportunity to thank Abena for her vision which led to the development of this cultural institution,” said Nancy McKeever, eta’s board chair. “Now, the community’s new call is for continued support of those walking in our footsteps as the custodians of eta.”

Tributes to Brown will come from such local and national personalities as T’Keyah Crystal Kemah, actress; Lois Weisberg, former cultural affairs commissioner; Dr. Carol Adams, DuSable Museum president; Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theatre founder; Joan Gray, Muntu Dance Theatre president; Sue Ish, daughter of Etta Moten Barnett; and several others. Actor Hill Harper, who was honored by eta, and Carlos Tortolero, president of the National Museum of Mexican Art, will participate in absentia. There’ll also be live music, dancing, Karaoke, silent and live auctions, buffet supper by Fanfare by Faye and other surprises. For $125 Gala tickets, call eta at (773) 752-3955 or visit www.etacreativearts.org.

And more! On Monday at 10:30 a.m., South Chicago Avenue, between 75th and 76th Streets,, will be renamed Abena Joan Brown Way. The honorary street sign unveiling takes place on the northwest corner of 76th and South Chicago Avenue. The public is invited.

Jazzapalooza! – Trinity United of Church Christ, 400 W. 95th St. (at Eggleston), hosts a free Live Jazz & Spoken Word Concert, “Jazzapalooza!,” this Friday – an outdoor evening on the campus and in the parking lot highlighting renowned jazz artists and emerging young poets. Gates open at 4 p.m. “Bring canned goods (for admission), your lawn chairs, a picnic basket, family, friends and enjoy ‘Ravinia on the Southside of Chicago’, just a few blocks west of the Red Line,” says Rev. Otis Moss III, TUCC’s senior pastor. Jazzapalooza, a public stage for new poets, vocalists and jazz artists, offers a fun space for folks to sit back, relax and listen to live jazz in the cool summer evening breeze.

In the spotlight: jazz aficionados, such as legendary Maggie Brown (daughter of jazz legend, actor and community activist, Oscar Brown Jr.), Joan Collaso, the Erick Glikey Quartet, ART featuring Angela Walton, Bill McFarland & The Chicago Horns, The MECCA Band featuring James Perkins, Keith Henderson and Baby Doll. (Visit www.trinitychicago.org for an interview with Maggie Brown.)

Free game night will be available for senior citizens and youngsters inside the church from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The donated canned goods will support Trinity’s Operation Food Share that provides complete Thanksgiving dinners to needy families in Chicago and Benton Harbor, Mich. Last year over 3,700 families were served.

Happy B’day – to Worsom Robinson, Bonnie DeShong, Jamell Meeks, Dianne Hooks Gonzalez, Darlene Hill, Geralyn Hopson, Marshall Thompson, Dwain Kyles, State Rep. Monique Davis, Adrienne Jones, Deborah Haruna Taylor, Hedy Ratner, Morris Smith, Sporty King, Christopher Nolen, Carol Moseley Braun, Bill Clinton, Loni Swain, Loretta Tisdel, Fred Nelson III, Ald. Walter Burnett, Phillip Strong, Dedric Roberts, Vanessa Church, Ted Wordlaw, Valarie West, Al Smith and to the Rat Pack’s Bill Williams and Al Palmer, who celebrate this Wednesday at the Marmon Grand along with a fave media brutha, Art Norman. Norman comes out of retirement in September to host Art Norman’s Chicago twice a month over NBC 5’s airwaves.

Dinner Date – Congrats to Christopher R. Reed, historian, author and Roosevelt University professor emeritus, specializing in Black Chicago history. He receives the distinguished Timuel D. Black Jr. Fund award at a dinner on Sept. 18 at the South Shore home of Prof. and Mrs. Harold Rogers as a fundraiser for Vivian G. Harsh Society Inc., Black Metropolis Research Consortium and Timuel D. Black Fellowships in African American Studies.

Prof. Reed, who celebrates “Everyday Achievements of Black Chicagoans,” is the author of The Chicago NAACP and the Rise of Black Professional Leadership, 1910-1966 and in 1967 and All the World is Here! The Black Presence at White City, which is about African American participation in Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. For more info or to order $150 tickets, call (312) 544-9188 or click the “Donate Now!” button on the left side of the Vivian G. Harsh Society’s Facebook page.

Earlier in the day at 2 p.m. on Sept. 18, Prof. Reed will present a free lecture entitled “Celebrating the Everyday Achievements That Shape Chicago Black History” at the Carter G. Woodson Library, 95th and Halsted. The lecture is open to the public.

The Timuel D. Black Fellowship program supports scholars, community researchers, writers, educators and institutional researchers who would benefit from research conducted at the Vivian G. Harsh Collection which is housed at the Woodson Library. The 2011 fellowship awardees are Prof. Bonnie Claudia Harrison, of City Colleges of Chicago, and Assista
nt Prof. Worth K. Hayes, of Benedict College in Columbia, SC.

The Vivian G. Harsh Society Inc. is a non-profit organization that focuses on preserving, making accessible and publicizing the cultural treasures housed in the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature. Founded in 1932, the Harsh Collection is the oldest and largest archival repository of Black history and culture in the Midwest. A unit of the Chicago Public Library, the collection is nationally renowned for the range of materials it makes available to the public. Wanna know more? Contact Susan Motley, (312) 305-0007 or susanmotley@me.com.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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