On March 27, 2023, the Ford Foundation hosted a cocktail party to honor Jonelle Procope, the retiring president and CEO of the Apollo Theater. The event was held at the foundation’s headquarters in New York City and brought together a diverse group of guests from the worlds of arts, culture, philanthropy, and politics.
Procope had led the Apollo Theater for over two decades and had overseen a period of transformation and growth for the historic institution. She was widely regarded as a visionary leader who had helped to modernize the theater while preserving its rich legacy as a cultural landmark.
The cocktail party was an opportunity for Procope’s friends, colleagues, and supporters to come together and celebrate her remarkable career and her contributions to the arts community. The event featured a reception with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, as well as speeches and tributes from several guests.
The evening began with a welcome from Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, who praised Procope’s leadership and dedication to the arts. He emphasized the importance of supporting cultural institutions like the Apollo, which play a vital role in promoting diversity, inclusion, and social justice.
The event also included remarks from several guests who had worked closely with Procope over the years, including Apollo’s Board Chair Charles E. Phillips, who made the surprise announcement of the naming of the 99-seat auditorium in the re-furbished Victoria Theatre in her honor.
In her own remarks, Procope expressed gratitude for the support she had received throughout her career and highlighted the importance of community and collaboration in the arts. She also spoke about the challenges facing cultural institutions in the current climate and the need to continue to innovate and evolve in order to remain relevant and impactful.
The cocktail party was a fitting tribute to Procope’s remarkable career and her impact on the Apollo and the wider arts community. Her leadership and vision had helped to transform the Apollo into a dynamic and inclusive institution that had touched the lives of countless people. As one of the guests remarked, “Jonelle Procope is a true leader and visionary, and her legacy will continue to inspire us all.”