New York City, the vibrant metropolis that never ceases to amaze, recently played host to a remarkable event that left attendees spellbound. Dignitaries from around the globe flocked to the city that never sleeps to witness the grandeur of the New Yorkers for New York Gala. This enchanting evening showcased the epitome of touching philanthropy and celebrated the selfless contributions of extraordinary individuals.
The prestigious event welcomed a multitude of distinguished guests, including the esteemed Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, award-winning author and television personality, Michelle Miller, and the brilliant Chief Executive Officer of Citizens Committee for New York, Dr. Rahsaan Harris. The air was thick with anticipation as these influential figures took to the stage, delivering impassioned speeches that emphasized the significance of giving back to society. Their words resounded through the hearts of the attendees, highlighting the dire need to support the less fortunate and provide hope to the vulnerable youth of New York City.
The undeniably common thread that wove through the narratives of these leaders and other luminaries present on that picturesque Monday evening, June 5, 2023, was their indescribable affection for the illustrious New York City. The gala not only served as a platform for publicly declaring their unwavering love for the city but also provided an ideal setting for honoring four exceptional individuals who have left an indelible mark on their communities.
The glamorous event unfolded at the captivating LightHouse at Chelsea Piers, a venue that exuded sophistication and elegance. Dressed in their finest attire, the crème de la crème of New York City’s elite, alongside their friends and associates from across the globe, convened to support a noble cause and contribute generously to programs designed to cater to the diverse needs of the less privileged segments of society. The Citizens Committee for New York City, renowned for its philanthropic endeavors since its establishment in 1975, has already granted over $1 million to fund 328 projects, positively impacting the lives of 100,000 New Yorkers residing in 119 neighborhoods.
Michelle Miller, the esteemed co-host of “CBS Saturday Morning,” enraptured the audience with her powerful presentation. Her words reverberated throughout the venue, underscoring the unparalleled essence of New York City. She eloquently emphasized the profound impact of art and how it breathes life into the city’s cultural fabric. The crowd erupted in thunderous applause as Tony Award nominee Colton Ryan, from the sensational Broadway musical “New York, New York,” took the stage, delivering a show-stopping performance that left the audience on their feet in awe.
The awardees, accompanied by their families, friends, and esteemed associates, basked in the glory of their recognition. Among them, Bobby Digi Olisa stood tall, surrounded by a distinguished entourage that included Ambassador Lot Egopija, Consul General of Nigeria in New York, Laurie Angela Cumbo, New York City’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Washington DC Representative Adeoye “Oye” Owolewa, and Commissioner Emmanuel Awe, father of Christopher Awe, Chairman of the City Council of East Orange, New Jersey.
Numerous notable figures rallied behind Bobby Digi Olisa, a testament to his exceptional achievements. Dr. Lori Weintrob, a distinguished Professor of History at Wagner College (Holocaust Center), renowned filmmaker Heather Quinlan, and Black Arts and Culture Consultant Lorna Harris, were just a few among the esteemed supporters of Bobby. Celia Lervasi, Mitchell, Sarah Sayeed, actively involved in New York City’s Civic Engagement in the Budgeting process, and Mr. Ruben Ade Shuko, an esteemed elder from one of Brooklyn’s largest Nigerian churches, renowned for running one of the most impactful food pantries serving thousands of people in the City.
Bobby Digi Olisa, who is also the President of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), New York Chapter and Coordinator of the Organisation (NIDO) for the Tristate area – New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, expressed great joy at being recognized by Citizens Committee for New York for his service to New York City, especially the immigrant and underserved communities on the North Shore of Staten Island through his Canvas Institute and Island Voice. He also expressed his deep passion for service to Nigerians and Africans in the Diaspora, as well as African Americans in general, especially those that are vulnerable.
The memorable event ended on the dancing floor to the melodious tunes supplied by DJ Dynamite Black.
Pictures here by Ceylon Creative Studios, show some of the amazing personalities that graced the memorable event.
BRIEFS ON THE HONOREES
Peter Duchin exemplifies the spirit of bringing NYC communities together. He formed his first professional band, which played the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, in 1962 and has contributed to the city’s art, music, and culture ever since. He has played well over 6,000 events around the world.
In addition to his long-time service on the CitizensNYC Board, he has played a leadership role in supporting NYC communities through involvement in organizations such as American Ballet Theatre, Carnegie Hall, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and others. He is the co-author of two books, Ghost of a Chance and Face the Music.
From presidential elections to the climate crisis, her area of coverage is wide-ranging, but her reporting on social justice has been particularly groundbreaking. From her coverage of the killings of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown, the Emanuel 9 Massacre in Charleston, to sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, Russell Simmons, and Harvey Weinstein, Miller has been at the forefront of these issues. She was the first CBS News correspondent on the ground at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Miller’s reporting has earned her several prestigious journalism awards including an Emmy for her series of reports on the National Guard’s Youth Challenge Academy, a Gracie award for “48 Hours” and a Murrow Award for her coverage of a daycare center stand-off in New Orleans.
Bobby Digi Olisa, a social entrepreneur, founder, community organizer, educator, and lecturer, has devoted his life to strengthening and building community on a local and global scale. Bobby founded Canvas Institute and Island Voice to service and advocate for immigrant and underserved communities on the North Shore of Staten Island.
Born in Brooklyn, New York to parents of Nigerian descent and raised in the multi-ethnic Clifton section of Park Hill/Stapleton Staten Island, Bobby has always been inspired by the desire to bring people of diverse backgrounds together to discover solutions to the most challenging issues of our time. Bobby leads by example and utilizes his educational and professional opportunities to give back to the community and to inspire the next generation of leaders.
Tanya Birl-Torres uses the arts to help people create change within themselves and contribute to the collective spirit of the community in which they belong. She is the founder of SoHumanity, which combines her 15 years of experience as a Broadway performer, choreographer, and movement director with her social justice activism.
Tanya is also the Artistic Director of the Washington Heights Womanist Arts Festival, which she founded in 2022 along with Julissa Nuñez and Sarah Grosman. With CitizensNYC support, the Festival is expanding its community building in 2023 through two Equinox community dinners in the spring and fall, the Festival in the summer, and a retreat in the winter.
Tanya is also a 2023/24 Map Fund Grantee and NoMAA micro-grant recipient for her development of A Play in 3 Movements, and is currently an artist in residence with the Hi-ARTS Critical Breaks program.
New Yorkers for New York Campaign Co-Chairs are Jason Duchin, Rodney Hawkins, Sharon King Hoge, Thomas C. Isreal and Joel Press.