By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The seventh annual “A Night with Ralph Ellison” gala celebration is scheduled for Saturday, February 29 from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Oklahoma History Center’s Devon Great Hall, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, in Oklahoma City. February is recognized nationally as Black History Month.
The gala will feature a three-course dinner with wine as well as a full performance program of music, literary readings, and dance.
“It 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.”
A statement from the Ralph Ellison Foundation said, “Developments this past year have been truly exciting. For starters, Ellisonians the world over have been granted a long-awaited, intimate view of the author with the recent release of Ralph Ellison’s Selected Letters, a major publishing event that has already made Ellison’s life and legacy more accessible for both scholars and general readers alike.
“And we’re proud to say that local support for our own organization this past year, from generous benefactors like the Kilpatrick Family Fund and Fowler Automotive, has let us begin to increase the scale of our operations so that we can do more in Ellison’s name in 2020,” the statement continued.
During the event, developments and plans for the Foundation will be share along with “some surprises the Foundation has in store for the evening of our Gala extravaganza,” according to the event press release.
Speakers and presentations that evening will highlight the Foundation’s development of projects and outreach efforts designed to honor Ellison and enhance Oklahoma City’s diversity in the areas of education, community development, artistic programming, and the pursuit of positive social change.
“Considering our city’s growth and all the fantastic people working locally and nationally in the service of the work Ellison cared about, it seems like there’s more and more to celebrate every year at the party we organize to commemorate the author’s birthday on the first of March,” the website states.
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.
“We’re so eager to share our work and vision with you as we grow our organization and look into the future in Ellison’s spirit,” Owens said. “Appropriate to its number, we think 2020 is already shaping up to be a year of enhanced visibility for Ellison as well as one of enlightenment, blessings, and mutual discovery as we pursue the course we’ve set together.”
Gala general admission tickets are $85. VIP-level tickets, for $95, include access to a special reception at 5 p.m. on the second floor of the History Center featuring a free wine bar and hors d’oeuvres, music, as well as a meet-and-greet with the Shadow and Act Award winner, members of the Executive Board, and other community leaders.