In many ways it was like a family reunion.
By switching coasts this year from New York to L.A. in order to attract more talent, Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 Gala was able to place the entertainment’s brightest stars together at the Avalon Hollywood on Wednesday night to honor industry legend Quincy Jones.
During the gala, attendees were entertained with a wide array of musical performances, each one representing Jones’ career and influence in the music industry over the past sixty years. Guests bobbed their heads, stood to their feet and sang along as each genre of music was presented.
Beatboxer Doug E. Fresh and rapper Slick Rick brought the audiences back to ’90s by performing their hit raps. Patti Austin and crooner James Ingram, and Kem performed, while Chaka Khan closed the night with some of her most well-known tracks, including “Sweet Thing.”
After the myriad of performances, Jones addressed the crowd, saying, “It’s amazing to be around and have a career last almost seven decades and watch everything that’s happening. Everything’s going to be all right.”
Traditionally the December issue of Ebony is dedicated to the 100 most influential African Americans. However, this year’s issue will focus on race. They decided to do a more in-depth analysis of the topic in light of race relations issues and uprisings in the nation, including in Ferguson, Mo.
“This year it was impossible to ignore the fact that the biggest stories of the year were not about the latest secret album release or even a fabulous celebrity wedding (sorry Kanye and Solange),” Ebony editor-in-chief Mitzi Miller said. “It’s really been about race. It brought light to the need for renewed public discourse on how to achieve the human – not just American – dream for all of us.”
Many celebs in attendance commented on the role Hollywood can play in widening the conversation of race in America. Star of the upcoming “Selma” film David Oyelowo told Variety that getting “Selma” to the silver screen was an example of how the entertainment industry can move the discussion further.
“‘Selma’ the film shows that things haven’t changed that much when you see images that are very evocative of Ferguson,” Oyelowo said. “So I think that films are incredible for reminding us where we’ve been and how far we still need to go.”
Other honorees said encouraging service is the best way to use the power they’ve been given as a public figure.
Actor Jesse Williams said, “It’s in everything we do – I think people lead by example. So [it’s] the choices that we make, roles that we take, scripts that we write, projects that we support, friends and acquaintances that we lift up.”
Jones echoed this sentiment. Though greatly known for his influence in the entertainment industry for his creative ear, Jones told Variety that his focus is also much broader.
“I’ve been traveling for 66 years, I know 26 languages now and I just care about children. I care about them all over the world,” Jones said. “The favelas in Brazil is the same thing as the South Side of Chicago in the ’30s. I can’t help but relate to it.”
During the gala many performers and speakers touched on the legacy the Ebony founder John H. Johnson left in American culture. While accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award, Jones mentioned how Johnson was a close mentor to him and inspired him to aim high.
“I will cherish it for the rest of my life, knowing that it represents the legacy of a great, great man — Johnny Johnson,” Jones said of his award. “And the knowledge that all can be dreamed can be achieved. He always used to say, ‘If you can dream it you can be it.’ I believe that.”
The mogul added, “You made one 81-year-old dude,” he paused. “You really know how to make my soul smile.”
After the gala, guests mingled upstairs at the afterparty in the Bardot room. Other guests included George Lucas and wife Mellody Hobson, “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, Niecy Nash, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, LL Cool J, T.D. Jakes, Beverly Johnson and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
(Pictured: Quincy Jones, host Wayne Brady and LL Cool J at the Ebony Power 100 gala)