Tamron Hall, Esperanza Spalding appear on behalf of Harlem-based youth organization

theGRIO REPORT - It was a night filled with inspiring performances as the Harlem-based youth organization Brotherhood & SisterSol honored special guests and highlighted the talents of their students during a special evening ceremony...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

It was a night filled with inspiring performances as the Harlem-based youth organization Brotherhood/Sister Sol honored celebrity guests and highlighted the talents of their students during a special evening ceremony.

The non-profit organization, often simply referred to as “Bro/Sis,” celebrated their 9th annual benefit gala on Wednesday at their event, Voices 9.

Three-hours were quickly filled with a combination of spoken-word performances and special recognition announcements. Awards were also given to this year’s honorees, which included Grammy-winning singer Esperanza Spalding and Susan L. Taylor, the editor-in-chief emeritus of Essence and founder of the National Cares Mentoring Movement.

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Seated around elaborate table settings in a dimly-lit room were around 500 of Bro/Sis’ biggest supporters who donated money to help fund some of the organization’s impressive programs.

“Voices is the biggest gala of the Bro/Sis fundraising plan,” the organization’s Executive Director told theGrio. “The idea is to raise substantial amount of money for our programming in Harlem which ranges from our international study programming in Africa and Latin America to after school care, rites of passage, environmental education and then also to spread awareness and bring new people into our circle of supporters.”

It was certainly a memorable night for both the students and attendees as several alumni members of the organization performed and recited original poetry.

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One particularly emotional moment of the night occurred as 24-year-old Nicholas Peart told his story of how he was left to care for his younger siblings after his mother passed away in 2011 due to cancer. He also recounted his experiences being stopped-and-frisked, a tactic that many of those in Bro/Sis say they have fallen victim to.

It was one special moment followed by another after special guest and Tony Award-nominated actor Norm Lewis began the night by singing a soothing melody. Lewis is also currently performing in the lead role for Broadway’s Porgy and Bess.

As for the honorees, both Spalding and Taylor delivered heartfelt speeches and showed their appreciation for the recognition they received.

“I feel like I should be here to honor their work, hopefully this is a doorway for me to connect with people more experienced and who guide me and show how to tie our talents into service,” Spalding tells theGrio.

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MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall hosted the event as guests donated money and participated in a silent auction that ranged from tickets to the Essence Festival, the BET Awards or an all-inclusive trip to Brazil.

The event raises approximately half a million dollars each year and the proceeds go towards funding all of the organization’s programming throughout the year.

Bro/Sis is a comprehensive youth development program that provides support services to over 350 students ages 8 to 22.

“We provide after school care, we teach people to be community organizers and bring awareness but at the core, we’re really about developing people’s voices,” says White. “We’re taking what we learn on this grassroots level in Harlem and now we’re informing the policy conversation in a much broader way.”

Follow Lilly Workneh @Lilly_Works