Celebrities, Culture, Events, Life, New York City, Nonprofit

Join the 40/40 Club

…Maybe 40 is a good number for me. I always thought that would be an age where I would really buckle down and focus on my music. I felt that by then I would be fully in my womanhood, settled in my career, maybe be divorced, have a kid who adored me, and be fiercely independent.

This week I attended two events that were 40th Anniversaries. One was the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program‘s 40th Anniversary-Celebrity Pro-Am and Dinner Gala. It was held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. It was a pretty snazzy venue as dazzling faces of all shades filled the room. Katrina Adams, Executive Director of HJTEP is beautiful, down to earth, and about the mission of the organization. She inspired this young Black Female to be as dedicated to my purpose as she is to bringing tennis to youth from inner-city neighborhoods while offering them opportunities for education and self growth. Some of the youth stood at the podium to receive recognition and give honor to various leadership in the organization, one of which is my best friend, Mekellah Matthias, who is the Executive Assistant at HJTEP, who is set to be the next generation of leadership at the program. Everyone glowed with satisfaction as the night went on, and as the tables were cleared, a glass of champagne was toasted as the stress of the weeks leading up to the event was finally released. If you know anything about non-profit,  you know that the staff of HJTEP had to do a ton of work to make this happen even with hired help. The funds raised that evening will go on to support such bright and dynamic young people such as Vashni Belleste, now an alum, who will be attending college in New Orleans in the fall. To all of the staff at HJTEP I say “Job well done, now let’s pop champagne.”

The second  event I attended I literally had to drag myself to, but I’m so glad I did. I was invited to sing at The 40th Annual Spring Poetry Festival at City College held by  the University’s Poetry Outreach Center. I was sick as a dog that morning, but was able to visualize doing one of my favorite things (performing) in the Great Hall that evening. It worked. Writer, professor and Director of Poetry Outreach Pam Laskin, whom I met through JP Howard, founder of the Woman Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon (WWBPS), invited me to sing at this event after she heard me sing at WWBPS’s anniversary (but it was only their first!). I gladly accepted but had no idea I’d be sick that day. Still I arrived.  They honored Barry Wellenstein, who founded the Poetry Outreach Center which services public school children and the writing community as a whole. The Great Hall, where the event was held, was mighty and massive in its architecture. The acoustics make you sound like you’re in a cathedral in the late 18th century. I was called up by Pam to sing my one or two songs a capella, and I was seemingly shy, because I was confident in my skills yet nervous because I was so congested. I sang a snippet of a standard, “Body and Soul” and then an original, “You Told Me You Loved Me” and then it was over. The gracious audience continued to thank me the whole evening, and I felt  my sense of gratitude  for sharing my gift grow.  (And a sense of missed opportunity, because so many great people, so little energy and so little cards! Oh how I need a business card. That’s gotta be on my to-do list before 40!) The conn
ections you can make through people are amazing. I met JP Howard through a long time friend of mine, Akinfe Fatou, who’s new book of poetry Swoon is out now. The Universe is something, ain’t it?

So, there you have it. Two 40th’s in one week and here I am. I survived. I’m intuiting that the events of this week are only going to mirror, in a grander way, what’s in store for me when I get to 40. I hope you’ll stay along for the journey.


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2 thoughts on “Join the 40/40 Club

  1. jppoet says:

    Thanks for this post Helese! You were fantastic at the Poetry Outreach 40th Anniversary Celebration! I know the future holds continued opportunities for you to share your amazing talents with folks. Much thanks, JP

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