Reflections From A Celebrant: Kindred Spirits Meet at Reel Sisters Awards
Submitted by Lonai Mosley 11/3/2016
As soon as I received the email invitation sent by African Voices board member Jeanette Curtis Rideau, I knew I needed to attend the legendary media mogul Cathy Hughes awards ceremony scheduled to be presented at the Schomburg Center. It had been a rough couple of months, both personally, due to family issues, and also professionally, due to budget and management challenges at work, so I welcomed the possibility of an inspirational evening with positive sisters, doing positive and creative things. And, at a reasonable $35 or 2 for $50, it was truly a win-win value for me. Besides, I remembered how I had missed a previous event invitation to be in the presence of this pioneer some years ago, while working in the music industry, so at the risk of not missing out again, I immediately secured my online RSVP with a couple of clicks.
By the time this Friday came, several weeks later, and, although I was a bit mentally drained, I organized a mini-meeting of work details with my staff, thought about how refreshingly comfortable the night was for mid-October, selected my black textured suede pants, and snake skin printed jacket from my closet, took a much needed lavender aromatherapy bath, swept my natural hair up into a head wrap which allowed my curls to be secured, yet bounce. I then applied a delicate mixture of Egyptian musk and Patchouli oil, and accessorized my outfit with a red beaded African necklace and earrings set. I drove the hour up the Jackie Robinson Parkway from Brooklyn, to the Grand Central Expressway, across the RFK Bridge, to Harlem.
Thrilled to have a stress and traffic free trip, I arrived 40 minutes early, found a parking right on 135th St., and thought, “this was meant to be.” I was one of the first ten to arrive. Securing a spot inside the foyer, I had a great view, where I could check out the red carpet interviews and photo opportunities with songstress Melisa Morgan, Mistress of Ceremonies Kim Coles, actress-singer honoree Naturi Naughton, and of course, Ms. Cathy Hughes, to name a few. I thought Langston Hughes, himself would have welcomed the night unfolding on the circle above him. I met new friends and greeted old acquaintances while waiting on the forming line to enter the auditorium, and engaging in friendly chatter.
Although Carolyn Butts, Founder of Reel Sisters, would later claim it was their “First Red Carpet event,” Lisa Durden, Reel Sisters Curator, and the Reel Sisters Committee delivered a no less than spectacular experience, like the pros that they are. From beginning to end the room seemed about to burst with heightened excitement. I was so glad I attended, thinking it was one of the more unique and moving events of the year, on many levels.
Legendary icons, like Susan Taylor of Essence fame, Dr. Jeff Gardere, TV Psychologist, The incomparable actress, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, flutist Bobbi Humphrey, Terrie Williams, and others, arrived one by one, ready to mingle. Rising stars alike, contributed to the vibration in the room with an energy, as well as a fashion sense that would ultimately be coined as “Black Magic” before the night was over. Radiant, elegant, powerful, and unstoppable, were these women who wore their profound histories like badges of honor as they graced the room, and would later share their special brand of talent on that intimate stage.
As we settled in our seats, The Voice’s TV sensation, Kimberly Nichole opened the show with her brand of folksy blues. The ladies in my row and I exchanged tissues when video stories of overcoming challenges were shared. The theater then erupted with laughter with Kim Coles from the onset, as we heard one of her many character voices, before we saw her bright smile peek out from the wings. We later enjoyed a sneak peek into her up and coming show. Naturi was gracious as she accepted her award, and later her proclamation, along with Cathy Hughes, presented by Dyana Williams. Meli’sa Morgan tore the rough off the house, as the audience and awardees stood to their feet during her sultry “Fool’s Paradise.”
After the show, once again catching up with old friends, and family members, it was while I was heading towards the exit that I was compelled to stop. I saw a quiet beauty, donning beautiful locks, a pleasant mocha face, and subtle oddly glowing presence, radiating from beneath sad eyes. I was moved to ask, “Did you enjoy your evening?” She seemed to beam at the thought of expressing her thoughts. “Oh yes, it was great! So glad I came!” She then told me how she just buried her Daddy a few days earlier, and how he had lived just blocks away from the Schomburg Center. She went on to say how resistant she was to come back to Harlem from Long Island, where she now resided, so soon after his passing. And just then, the pain in her eyes seemed to subside, revealing a sincere thoughtfulness. She then said how grateful she was that her girlfriends had convinced her to come to this event, because this night truly lifted her spirit, like nothing or no one had been able to do recently.
Our eyes connected, as they welled up with a connected knowing. We hugged, and I told her I understood, as I thought about my recent challenges, and how I too, had pushed to attend this evening. Grateful I had. I then wished her Peace and a blessed night.