African Ball Fundraiser Kicks Off Black History Month in Style

St. Ann Center’s first Indaba African Ball was a feast for the eyes, ears and taste buds. Close to 100 people gathered at the Bucyrus Campus on Feb. 1 to help raise funds for the Indaba Band Shell, located at the north side campus, and ensure an upcoming summer of quality entertainment.

Guests arrived in colorful African-inspired garb, from head wraps to robes to dashikis. No one hesitated to show off their eye-catching style during an impromptu fashion show. Setting the evening to music, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Steel Pan Drum Ensemble filled the building with Calypso rhythms. Saxophonist Chris Pipkins drew guests to the dance floor, and vocalist Robin Adkins impressed with favorites from Nat King Cole.

Hors d’oeuvres from Events by Day combined African and Caribbean flavors, including spicy African chicken wings, jollof rice, sweet plantains and more.

To help kick off Black History Month, the evening also featured the Hall of History Makers, saluting outstanding African-American leaders for their contributions to Milwaukee and beyond. Honorees included: Clayborn Benson, founder and director of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum; Lisa Caesar, chief operating officer of NO Studios, Milwaukee’s new film and creative arts hub; G. Spencer Coggs, Milwaukee City Treasurer; Cecilia Gore, Executive Director of the Brewers Community Foundation; Dr. Eve Hall, President/CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League; Lynda J. Jackson Conyers, publisher of the Milwaukee Times Newspaper; Eugene Kane, an award-winning journalist and former columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Carole Meekins, a reporter and news anchor at Today’s TMJ4 and host of “Positively Milwaukee;” John Ridley, a celebrated screenwriter, film director, novelist and winner of an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for “12 Years a Slave;” Thelma A. Sias, retired Wisconsin Energy Group executive and professional speaker and Gaulien “Gee” Smith, owner of Gee’s Clippers Barber and Beauty Salon, one of the largest barbershops in the Midwest.

Funds raised at the ball will help pay entertainers performing in the Indaba Band Shell’s free summer concert series, Indaba Nights, beginning in June. The 250-capacity band shell is wheelchair accessible both in the audience and on stage. There’s a covered seating area in front and also a grassy hillside where people can set up lawn chairs and spread out blankets. The Band Shell officially opened last June, and since then has welcomed gospel choirs and several performers from the United Performing Arts Fund. St. Ann Center is a partner with UPAF Connect, which works to bring the arts to Greater Milwaukee communities.

For information on future performances, visit: facebook.com/indababandshell.

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