An original Dreamgirl returns to Hollywood for Divas 24.
Divas Simply Singing, created and produced by Sheryl Lee Ralph, is the longest running music concert benefiting HIV and AIDS in the United States. It is produced in conjunction with the DIVA Foundation in order to raise vital funds for those living with HIV or AIDS as well as provide opportunities for prevention, testing and much needed education through a night of stellar performances from some of the music industry’s most recognized performers. Over the years, artists such as the great Patti LaBelle, Chaka Kahn, Faith Evan, Amber Riley and Martha Wash have graced the stage with their powerful voices.
Rolanda Watts, Amorosa and Judge Mablean were some of the celebrities who walked the red carpet while County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Los Angeles council members Herb Wesson Jr, and Bernard Parks sent their congratulations and support.
The Queen Diva herself, Jenifer Lewis got the night started off just right by riding her bike on the stage saying “I had to ride my bike because my car wouldn’t fit” She told a few jokes that took her off stage and into the audience before setting on the steps for a more intimate performance. She had the audience leaping to their feet from her signature gut-busting comedy and from her performance
Glee’s Alex Newell belted out a Whitney Houston hit that thrilled the audience, while HIV-positive singer Jamar Rogers from NBC’s The Voice also gave a great performance and Kenny Lattimore took the stage to sing a new song that he dedicated to Sheryl Lee Ralph.
The award-winning original cast member of Dreamgirls, Loretta Devine, had the audience laughing and cheering in her performance of “You’ve Changed”. Her performance was sexy, sassy and lots of fun and had the house on its feet.
The evening also shared the talent of some young folks with powerful and positive messages. Get Lit Players (GLP) had people in tears. Their performance was real and electric and Auburn Road dazzled with their vocals and powerful new sound.
Dionne Warwick was honored, but not present, to receive her award.
“There's always somebody that stands in the gap for you. They do the work, they build the road, they lay the foundation. Sometimes you don’t recognize their faces or know their names. But we remember Dionne Warwick’s efforts on AIDS” said Sheryl Lee Ralph
But the night belonged to Anthony Wayne who took the stage in a tribute to the late, fabulously talented and entertaining disco singer Sylvester. All I can tell you is that everyone was on their feet and this was the show stopper. I had thought it would be hard to top performances from Jenifer Lewis, Loretta Devine and Renee Lawless, but Anthony who is the star of Fabulously Sylvester, took the stage for two show-stopping numbers that had everyone dancing, clapping and cheering. His performance was stellar and took us back to those magical days when Disco was KING.
On a personal note, it was nice to walk by the red carpet and say “hello” to my photographer fiends. I left my camera at home, because I was able to enjoy Divas Simply Singing with someone who has become a pretty special and dear friend. He’s someone I can always call to get honest answers and real talk about living with HIV and it was the night before his 60th birthday. We both shared our memories of Sylvester and just how grand he was in our lives growing up. We talked about how much we appreciate that Sheryl Lee Ralph continues to put on this benefit concert, but also makes sure people like us are able to attend.
I’ve been living with HIV for over six years and access has not been very easy, so this is why I raise my voice and do the work that I do so that those of us who are often spoken about, but not heard from directly have the opportunity to have their stories told in their own words, from their own mind. It is why I will always fight to make certain that we not forget that Black people are still becoming infected in greater numbers and our lives are being extinguished far too soon.
For both of us it was a night to remember our friends and even family members who have passed from AIDS, but also to celebrate our lives, especially his on the eve of his 60th birthday.
There are more than 66,000 people living with HIV or AIDS here in Los Angeles and nationally, every nine and half minutes someone in the this country becomes infected with HIV. It is so vital that prevention and education about HIV and AIDS become the norm and that we begin taking this messages to the masses and not just those who are already infected.
HIV and AIDS are HUMAN conditions and as HUMANS we all should be fully educated.