By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The 2019 Ralph Ellison Foundation celebration gala, “A Night with Ralph Ellison” will be held on Saturday, March 9 from 6 – 9 p.m. The event will take place at the Oklahoma History Center’s Devon Great Hall in Oklahoma City. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
The evening will feature a three-course dinner with wine and a program of music, dance, literary readings, and awards.
Speakers and presentations throughout the evening will highlight the Foundation’s development of projects and outreach efforts designed to honor Ralph Ellison and enhance Oklahoma City’s multicultural landscape in the areas of community development, artistic programming, education, and the pursuit of positive social change.
Born in Oklahoma City, Ralph Waldo Ellison was a 20th Century African American novelist, literary critic, and scholar. He is best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953.
During the program the Foundation’s Shadow and Act Awards will be presented to two leaders in the Oklahoma community whose work reflects the values of Ralph Ellison’s legacy. The 2019 awards honorees will be announced the week before the event.
Recipients of the 2018 Shadow and Act awards were Stanley Evans, Assistant Dean at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, and former City of Norman Council member and newly elected Mayor of Norman, Breea Clark. The two were recognized for their civic and professional leadership in Oklahoma.
“The event will be an evening of movement,” said Michael Owens, the Foundation’s executive director and founder. “Ellison cultivated himself as a Renaissance man, so we wanted to put forward a program that harmonizes the many different aspects of Ellison’s life and work together—as a writer, musician, sculptor, cultural critic, and as a teacher. We want to honor Ellison in all of his complexity.”
“From modest beginnings just a few years ago, we’re proud to have grown into a fully-realized contributor to Oklahoma City’s cultural vitality,” said advisory board member, Mayor David Holt.
“Our mission to promote Ellison’s legacy and to do good works in his name is being fulfilled in more ways than ever,” Holt added. “Our work is largely made possible by the proceeds of the annual Gala celebration, so we’re deeply grateful for the support of all who attend.”
Gala general admission tickets are $75. VIP tickets are $85, which include access to a special reception at 5:30 p.m. on the second floor of the History Center featuring free wine and hors d’oeuvres, a jazz duo, and a meet-and-greet with the 2019 Shadow and Act Award winners and members of the Executive Board.
The Foundation’s work includes projects such as conducting a reading clinic for area children, launching a new curriculum for teaching Ellison’s work in high schools, and presenting a series of creative writing workshops for adults, and fostering public conversations on race relations in America.
“That’s what moves the conversation forward. It’s where change can take place, when you can have honest dialogue that is healthy and respectful,” said Owens.