The 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors were held last night. The awards honor people in the arts who’ve made lifetime achievements in American popular culture and in some cases, have brought something new to the traditions. This year’s honorees are: dancer/choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, musicians Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan, rapper and actor LL Cool J, and television pioneer and political activist Norman Lear.
Brown people, women and liberals, no wonder POTUS did not attend. It was only the fourth time in 40 years that a sitting president was a no-show at the gala, and the first time that the absence was not because of a national crisis. Our current president said he would skip the event ”to avoid a political distraction”. But, maybe it was because he would need to refrain from tweeting while in front of the cameras. His statement simply emboldened presenters and honorees to speak their minds last evening
Caroline Kennedy began the evening with a an especially appropriate quote from her father:
”The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.”
While speaking about the life and career of her friend, the Cuban-American Estefan, Academy Award-winner Rita Moreno quoted a segment of the State Department’s Mission Statement: ”…to foster conditions for the betterment of people everywhere.” Moreno, who is Puerto Rican went on to remark:
”Some of us have rattled the chains for issues of justice, well, mi amiga, Gloria, it is not lost on me tonight that one immigrant girl will honor another.”
Accepting her honor, Estefan said:
”People here think you can never lose this, but you can lose this. We all have to stand up for what this country is, for its values.”
LL Cool J is the first Hip-Hop artist to receive the Kennedy Center Honors. With a three decades-long career, he is a pioneer of the Rap genre. He is also, like the president, a native of Queens. Speaking of queens, fellow rapper Queen Latifah paid tribute to LL Cool J on stage before he received his award, along with Busta Rhymes, DMC and DJ Z-Trip. LL Cool J has earned many awards for music and acting, including two Grammy Awards.
Estefan is the first Cuban-American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. She was the singer and co-songwriter for the Miami Sound Machine for nearly two decades. Her song, Get On Your Feet, was also the title of last season’s Broadway musical based on the singer’s life.
At 95-years-old, writer and producer Lear is the oldest Kennedy Center Honoree so far, and LL Cool J, at 49-years-old, became the youngest to receive the honor.
The president announced he would be missing the ceremony back in August after Lear and de Lavallade said they would boycott the awards if he was present.
POTUS’s 2018 budget proposal calls for eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts. Last summer, all 16 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities resigned after the president embraced the White Nationalists during the events in Charlottesville.
“I’m thankful he chose not to come. All it does is overshadow the accomplishments of people who spent a lifetime trying to do something.”
De Lavallade, one of the first black dancers at the Metropolitan Opera, said she felt good about deciding she would decline to honor if POTUS would be there:
“This is the first time in my life I said no, and something in my soul, I’ve never felt that before — said no, no more.”
“Trump is the middle finger of the American right hand. Why is this happening? Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, can we all seriously agree this is bad for America?”
The Kennedy Center Honors will be aired on December 26 on PBS. I love to watch them. I will really miss The Obamas. They would have really have dug this night.