The Apollo Theater honors historic legacy, Tyler Perry, and looks to the future at 2022 Spring Benefit concert

Whoopi Goldberg attended the event to present Perry with the Impact Award, referring to him as an inspiration

Returning after almost three years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Apollo Theater hosted its annual spring benefit concert on Monday night with the theme, “The Renaissance is Now!” TheGrio attended the event that also featured stirring performances from The Roots, Stephanie Mills and more — during which Whoopi Goldberg presented multi-hyphenate Tyler Perry with the Apollo Impact Award.

2022 Apollo Theater Spring Benefit
Whoopi Goldberg presents Tyler Perry with the Apollo Impact Award on June 13, 2022 on during the 2022 Apollo Theater Spring Benefit at The Apollo Theater in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

It was another star-studded affair as many attended to celebrate the historic theater’s past, while looking toward its future. It was hosted by Emmy award winner and Saturday Night Live mainstay Kenan Thompson who introduced “The Renaissance is Now!” theme. In a segment that featured Thompson interviewing Harlem natives, they spoke about the importance of Black art, culture and the historic nature of the Apollo Theater.

“I am hosting the NHL [National Hockey League] awards in a few days, where I’m probably going to be one of three Black people in the room,” Thompson joked during his opening monologue. “This is nice; it’s nice to be home here in Harlem amongst my people.”

What followed was a celebration of the Apollo Theater and everything it has to offer, from community outreach to education programs, and of course, legendary entertainment. The big moment of the night, however, went to Tyler Perry, who was presented with the Apollo Impact Award by his frequent collaborator and good friend, Whoopi Goldberg.

2022 Apollo Theater Spring Benefit
Keenan Thompson hosts the 2022 Apollo Theater Spring Benefit on June 13, 2022 at The Apollo Theater in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

In a powerful introduction, Goldberg highlighted Perry’s significant accomplishments, including creating the first Black-owned movie studio. “You want to talk about inspirational people, people to look up to and to aspire towards?” Goldberg asked the audience. “This man, for me, is that. He’s all the things I hoped I would see when I look to the best.”

Goldberg continued, “I love this man because he gets the point of us. Not just as a race but as a human race, and I am so proud to know him. I’m so proud to say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been in a couple of his movies, and he didn’t cut me out!'” She concluded, “I just want to say I am so honored to present the Apollo Icon Award to the amazing, fabulous Tyler Perry.”

As Perry took to the stage to accept the award, he wouldn’t let Goldberg leave without first acknowledging her. “Ya’ll give it up for Whoopi Goldberg,” he told the audience. “Congratulations to you, you’ve been an EGOT before there was another one,” referencing Jennifer Hudson’s recent milestone as the second Black woman to reach EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award winner) status, behind Goldberg herself.

In his speech, Perry urged the audience to honor a legacy as “rich” as the Apollo Theater’s. “I hope most of us understand how important it is that we support these kind of venues. So much is happening in the world where people are trying to erase our history. They don’t want it taught in schools … It’s so important that we ourselves make sure that our kids and our people know and remember our history. On this stage and in this building there have been some legends and don’t ever take that for granted, Harlem. Don’t ever take that for granted.”

2022 Apollo Theater Spring Benefit
Tyler Perry speaks on June 13, 2022 after receiving the Apollo Impact Award during the 2022 Apollo Theater Spring Benefit at The Apollo Theater in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

Perry went on to stress how important it is to give and support spaces like the Apollo and Black culture in general. Then announced that he would donate half a million dollars to the Apollo, eliciting thunderous applause. “I believe the ancestors are here, the ones who came here before us,” he said. “Last year, I wrote checks for $154 million and 98 percent of that was for Black people.”

He concluded, “If you’ve got a dream in this room, please, hear me when I say this. Do not give up on your dreams.”

The celebration continued after Perry’s speech with roof-raising and crowd-pleasing performances from The Roots, Anthony Hamilton and Stephanie Mills, who performed a stirring rendition of “Home,” the signature song from “The Wiz.”

The night was a success for the Apollo in more ways than one. Helped by Perry’s generous donation, the iconic cultural institution raised a record $3.7 million.

Proceeds from the benefit go toward, “year-round, world-class artistic, education, and community programs and collaborations,” as well as supporting arts and culture to, “articulate and project the African American narrative and create a 21st century performing arts canon,” according to an Apollo press release.

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