The historic Apollo Theater nestled in the heart of Harlem holds an enormity of cultural significance and its newly appointed board chairman is ensuring that the theater is around for generations to come. Businessman Charles Phillips recently donated $1 million to the New York City landmark.
The endowment will go towards the theater’s emergency fund which was created amid the pandemic. The Apollo has transitioned all its programming to the virtual space and Phillips’ generous gift will enable the cultural landmark to provide free events and programs that are at the intersection of arts and education for the local community and beyond. As many entertainment venues face an uncertain fate, Phillips wanted to ensure that The Apollo—an epicenter of Black culture and entertainment—can withstand obstacles derived from the public health crisis. He believes the current social climate illustrates the vitality of its existence. “The Apollo Theater has been the keeper of the culture and a vibrant platform for artistic innovation for over 86 years. I am honored to partner with my good friends and great leaders, Jonelle Procope and Dick Parsons and the board of trustees for the next stage of growth and discovery at the Apollo,” Phillips said in a statement. “The Apollo has been a force for the progress led by artists with values as rich as their talents. In times of social change, artists come home to the Apollo in the spirit of unity and purposeful expression.”
Phillips, the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Recognize, has served on the Apollo’s Board of Directors for five years. He has been on an array of boards including President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and the boards at the Council of Foreign Relations and ViacomCBS. In his new role, he hopes to evolve the theater’s community and educational initiatives and bring awareness to social issues impacting Harlem residents and the country as a whole. Phillips succeeds businessman Richard Parsons, who served at the helm of the Apollo’s board for 19 years.
The Apollo has led several efforts to not only secure funding for the theater, but to support small businesses within the Harlem community as well. In June, it hosted a virtual benefit concert dubbed “Let’s Stay (in) Together” to support local businesses. “Given this moment in COVID, where we’re also seeing this horrific pandemic has been disproportionately hitting Black and brown communities and mainly, obviously, the community that the Apollo is situated in Harlem,” Kamilah Forbes, who serves as the theater’s executive producer, told Vulture. “We wanted to make sure that we use our platform to also be a resource for our community.”