Last night Philadelphia’s Art Sanctuary wrapped up it’s 33rd Black Arts Festival with a the Legacy Awards Ceremony. The theme for this year “Black Men I know,” highlighted the individual successes of four men from across literary and music genres.
CBS 3’s anchor Ukee Washington, was honored with the Chuck Stone Award for Excellence in Journalism. He credited his early years performing in the Philadelphia Boys choir as building improvisational skills he uses on air today.
“Because of my rearing, I think I like to think out of the box,” said Washington who traveled around the world with the boys choir, but never learned to read music. “I like to take chances, I like to take risks, I like to do things other people might not think about. If I think out of the box and do it my way- the way that makes me feel good and in turn- I think will make others feel like they’re satisfied- then I’ve made it,” he said.
Children’s book illustrator Bryan Collier was honored for his contribution to visual literacy. He credited his grandmother, a quilt maker, as an early inspiration for his talent. “It didn’t come out of nowhere… when you look at the artwork I’ve made, it’s a reflection of a quilt maker,” he said.
Minister and producer J. Donald Dumpson, was honored for his contributions to song writing. The honoree also got to hear his request, a spiritual called ‘If I could help somebody” played by the Art Sanctuary house band Urban Guerilla Orchestra and singer Paula Holloway.
Author Colson Whitehead’s award for Excellence in Literature, wasn’t his first this year- he won the 2016 National Book Award for his latest novel The Underground Railroad. But the attention hasn’t gone to his head.
“Well this is my eighth book and sometimes people get what you’re talking about and sometimes they don’t,” explained Whitehead. “So when it goes well I try and enjoy it. On the other hand, I was working on a manuscript this morning and it’s terrible. So no matter what happens it’s the daily struggle of the work to cut you down to size.”
The hard work behind the awards permeated the honorees’ acceptance speeches. Collier described seven years of rejection, before finally publishing his award winning book Uptown. Washington, by the end his speech, was ready for work. “Thank you all and I’ll see you tonight at eleven,” he said.