Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Usher, Gayle King, and more attend the Gordon Parks Foundation Gala

Colin Kaepernick, Amy Sherald, and more were honored during the Gordon Parks Foundation gala.

Usher, Gordon Parks Foundation, galas, Black galas, gala season, Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz,
(Left to right) Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Usher and Jennifer Goicoechea Raymond attend The Gordon Parks Foundation's Annual Awards Dinner And Auction Celebrating The Arts & Social Justice at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 21, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Gordon Parks Foundation)

Gala season in New York is well underway, and one Black organization celebrating both art and activism has just raised record-breaking funds during its annual event. The Gordon Parks Foundation’s star-studded annual gala netted the institution more than $2.3 million, which may be partly thanks to Usher.

The organization, named after the late prolific Black photographer Gordon Parks, held its annual gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on Tuesday. The A-list guest list included Gayle King, Spike Lee, Chelsea Clinton, Ben Stiller, artist Carrie Mae Weems, photographer Ming Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Alicia Keys, her husband Swizz Beatz, Usher, and more.

While on the red carpet, Parks’ daughter, Leslie Parks Bailey, told Vogue, “[The gala] is a memory; it’s about my father, who I deeply miss.”

She added, “It’s a celebration of Black art and moving forward.”

The event is also an annual fundraiser for the foundation’s fellowships and scholarships. In addition to an auction in which Usher scored not one but two photographs by Parks, the evening featured dinner, dancing, drinks, performances by the Anthony Morgan Inspirational Choir of Harlem, Patti Smith, and a special tribute to the late actor Richard Roundtree, who died in October. 

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Other honorees included Kaepernick, Keys, and Swizz Beatz. The husband and wife have cochaired the gala for more than 10 years and currently own the largest private collection of works by Parks. Some of the works by Parks they own are currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum, in addition to more of their personal art collection in the exhibition titled “Giants.” 

While accepting the recognition, per Women’s Wear Daily, Keys told the crowd, “One never knows where they can go. And one might be told that they can’t go where others go.

She continued, “It’s up to those like Gordon, those like us in this room, to remind each other and those that come after us that there is nowhere that we don’t belong.”

During his remarks, Kaepernick told the crowd how privileged they were for even being in the room. He added that he was thinking of those who weren’t in the room due to lack of opportunity and systemic barriers.  

“All the doors, all the barriers that we still have to kick down so everybody else can come through,” he said. “So when we leave here today, ask for one thing: That all of us walk in that power. Kick those doors down. Open those windows up. Break those walls down.”