“I love all Spelman women,” the Apollo Theater in Harlem’s chief, Jonelle Procope, a Howard graduate, said. “They’re the total package: smart and accomplished.” And that explains how these women pulled off a major fundraiser at The Plaza that brought in $2.5 million and drew people from around the country including Magic Johnson’s wife Cookie Johnson, investment star and Good Morning America contributor Mellody Hobson, as well as honorees Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, and Rosalind Brewer, Vice President of Walmart and President of Walmart Stores, Inc.’s South Business Unit.
The mission: to raise scholarship funds for students at the all-women’s college in Atlanta, considered the Harvard of historically black colleges. As Kim Davis, class of 1981 and head of JPMorgan Chase’s foundation, put it, “Our stage is broader.” Yet currently Spelman only meets about 25% of students’ financial need. “We need Spelman and Morehouse just as we need a Yeshiva or a Notre Dame or a Brigham Young,” filmmaker Spike Lee said during the cocktail reception. He noted his major debt to the Spelman women in his life: “My mother put my ass through Morehouse and NYU film school. Also, my first girlfriend went to Spelman.”
Samuel L. Jackson married a Spelman graduate, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who co-chaired the gala. The actor served as emcee, wishing everyone a cheerful “Bon Appetit” before dinner.
Later, more of his on-screen personality came out when he quieted the room during the live auction, in that very forceful, booming voice. “Hey, my wife is talking. Shut up!” It worked.
Photo credit: Clockwise from top left: Spike Lee (center) with honoree Kathryn Chenault (right) and her mother Elaine Hancock; Kimberly Davis, alumna and trustee of Spelman; Jonelle Procope, president and ceo of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, with her husband Frederick O. Terrell; Honoree Marian Wright Edelman, Spelman class of 1960 and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, gets a hug from Johnnetta B. Cole, Spelman’s first female president, now director of the National Museum of African Art.