The multi-talented actress, singer, dancer, and activist Lena Horne is being recognized with a historic acclaim: New York City’s acclaimed performing arts theater The Town Hall has announced a new award called the Lena Horne Prize for Artists Creating Social Impact.
As the first major entertainment award named for a woman of color, this is quite groundbreaking. It honors excellence in art and activism, and was created to “recognize today’s leading artists that are using their platform to promote awareness and create social change,” according to the press release, which also states:
“Horne’s place as the prize’s namesake is more than fitting as she spent her trailblazing career fighting for equality and justice. In an industry that perpetuated racial stereotypes, she only accepted roles that empowered African American women. When Hollywood producers suggested Lena pass as Latina or white, she outright refused, notably saying: “I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become.” Horne’s legacy extended into political activism, working with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws and later speaking at the March on Washington. Horne was awarded an honorary doctorate from Howard University, the Spingarn Medal by NAACP, Kennedy Center Honors, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.”
The diverse advisory board for the award includes Horne’s daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, Harry Belafonte, Judy Collins, Billy Porter, Deesha Dyer, Roxane Gay, Bruce Cohen, Bob Santelli, and Jose Antonio Vargas. The inaugural winner of the prize will be honored at an event at The Town Hall in February 2020. The recipient will receive a $100,000 donation to be given to a charity of their choice. Leading up to the event, the Lena Horne Prize will work with the Grammy Foundation & Museum to create workshops that will promote music education and activism.
“My mother used her platform as an entertainer and activist to empower and stand up for women and people of color,” said Horne’s daughter in a statement. “It was a family tradition. Lena Horne’s grandmother, Cora Calhoun Horne, was a suffragist, an activist and a director of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Federation. For my mother it was never just about being a household name, it was about advocating for equality and justice and I am so proud that her legacy will continue through the Lena Horne Prize.”
In an interview with The Glow Up, Horne’s granddaughter Jenny Lumet referred to the future recipients of the award as Horne’s spiritual children. “We wanted to do it right, with the right team, with the full understanding that’s it’s about artistry that’s lasting and commitment that’s meaningful,” she said. “It’s about who we are now. The recipients feel like her spiritual children, and will undoubtedly be walking the walk for the next hundred years.”
To learn more about the Lena Horne Prize, please visit www.lenahorneprize.com.