The acclaimed British actors, both of Nigerian descent, attended the Impact Africa Hollywood event to receive the org’s Global Promise Award.
Ejiofor was especially touched by the organization that provided computers, clothing, medicine and educational supplies to two Nigerian schools — one of which was founded by his mother.
“My mother really wishes that she could be here. She can’t be here, because she’s there. She does the work, I get the award,” he quipped at the podium.
The L.A.-based nonprofit also funded medical care and mental health support for the girls terrorized by Boko Haram. The org has drawn large donations from Oprah Winfrey, in honor of Oyelowo, and Ejiofor’s “12 Years a Slave” co-star Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B.
“We share a desire, a need and a want to reach back to our country of origin,” said Oyelowo about himself and Ejiofor. “To help particularly with those who are marginalized and those who are not as privileged as others and especially young girls, who are being really marginalized educationally, emotionally, physically.”
Upon presenting the awards, Afam Onyema, co-founder The GEANCO Foundation, described the evening as “not some artificial award that Hollywood hands out, this is a promise.”
“It’s fantastic, Nigerians are a very proud people,” said Oyelowo about Uzo Aduba’s Emmy win for supporting actress in a drama. “What Viola acknowledged last night, in terms of there still needing to be ground to be broken… What I think is that you have someone like her, who is undeniably talented, someone like Chiwetel… you have great actors and I think it’s just a question purely on not waiting for anyone.”
The auction at the fundraiser included Clippers tickets, an autographed bat by Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun and a lunch for two with Oyelowo, which was valued at $5,ooo. Celebrity guests in attendance were Oyelowo’s “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, Freida Pinto, “Captain Phillips” scribe Billy Ray and “The Knick” star Andre Holland.