×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Stephen Colbert, Martin Scorsese, Usher Celebrate Gordon Parks’ Legacy

“Well, good evening,” began Stephen Colbert, a presenter at Tuesday night’s Gordon Parks Foundation Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street. “I’m so happy to be here tonight to be talking about a man who makes my show special every night… and for once, I am not talking about Donald Trump!”

The 45th president may not have been in the room — where political and musical figures including congressmen John Lewis and Keith Ellison; former Senior Adviser to Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett; New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman; Harry Belafonte; Swizz Beatz; and Chelsea Clinton had gathered to honor the late photojournalist, civil rights activist, and pioneer African-American filmmaker Gordon Parks. But the feelings of protest – and camaraderie – summoned seemed to harken back to the time period Parks once famously documented.

“Here I find myself on this stage, at this event, in this world, with the responsibility to inspire action,” said Usher, in a poetic and rousing address. “Not being silent. Not taking for granted this opportunity that I have to lift my voice and inspire someone else, as well as lead.”

The singer, in a munificent gesture with fellow event co-chair Swizz Beatz last year, more than doubled the number of annual Gordon Parks Foundation arts scholarships.

In honoring singer and activist Mavis Staples, whose family performed in Martin Scorsese’s documentary “The Last Waltz,” the director recalled the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Will we march only to the music of our time, or will we, risking criticism and abuse, march to the soul-saving music of eternity?”

“Music has many purposes, and Mavis has that rare ability to make music that seems to serve all these purposes,” Scorsese said. “Joyful songs in times of sorrow, and uplifting songs when there doesn’t seem to be any hope, and political songs when freedom for so many is just a dream. So it’s really fitting that Mavis receive this award for her remarkable contributions to the world of music, and for the strength and power and emotion that her voice has given to the cause of civil rights.”

Common – who performed a set including Oscar-winning song “Glory” (from 2014’s civil rights film “Selma”) also spoke to the political power of song. “I realized that I could make changes in the world with my music,” noted the rapper, who used a Parks photo depicting segregated drinking fountains in his album “Like Water for Chocolate.”

Honoree and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” bandleader Jon Batiste – who believes we can definitely use the arts in this “very tumultuous time” – similarly uses music to lead. Said Colbert, “He led my entire audience onto 53rd Street for a New Orleans-style musical parade that he calls a ‘love riot’ and police call a ‘funky gridlock.'”

But the most heated crowd reaction came in response to Congressman Lewis. “Growing up in a little town of Troy, outside Montgomery, I saw those signs that said ‘white men,’ ‘colored men,’ ‘white women,’ ‘colored women,’ ‘white waiting,’ ‘colored waiting’; I didn’t like that,” Lewis said. “I asked my mother and my father, ‘why?’ ‘Well, that’s the way it is, boy. Don’t get in the way.'”

“Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired me to find a way to get in the way, and I got in the way,” he relayed, before delivering a promise. “There are forces in America that are trying to take us back. We’ve come too far, we’ve made too much progress, and we’re not going back.”

More Scene

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Mick Jagger

    Mick Jagger Makes First Post-Surgery Appearance at Rolling Stones Ballet Premiere

    Rock legend Mick Jagger made his first public appearance post-heart surgery on Thursday night to catch a glimpse of the world premiere of the Rolling Stones ballet “Porte Rouge.” “I hope you are going to enjoy this wonderful new ballet, and, of course, the music,” the frontman declared in a pre-recorded message to the audience [...]

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

  • Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg, Arianna

    Katy Perry and Anita Hill Honored at the DVF Awards

    Katy Perry was among the honorees at the 10th Annual DVF Awards on Thursday night. The singer was recognized for her advocacy work with both UNICEF and the LGBTQ community. “Music has opened the doors for so many opportunities for me,” she said while accepting the inspiration award. “The ability to meet people and champion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content