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The Omni-American Future Project’s Second Annual Awards Ceremony ‘Straight Ahead: An Omni-American Future, Fighting Bigotry Together’ Held in Harlem

December 1, 2022

(New York, NY – December 1, 2022) – The Omni-American Future Project — an initiative committed to fighting racism and antisemitism and strengthening unity between the Black American and Jewish communities through music and the power of culture — hosted its second annual awards ceremony “Straight Ahead: An Omni-American Future, Fighting Bigotry Together” on Monday, November 28, 2022.

Convening a host of notables, artists, influencers, executives, and tastemakers, the event was held in-person for the first time at the historic Minton’s Playhouse/The Cecil in Harlem.

Co-hosted by the Omni-American Future Project’s Co-Executive Directors Greg Thomas and Aryeh Tepper, the night kicked off with a festive reception held at Minton’s followed by dinner and the Awards Ceremony taking place in the dining room of its sister restaurant, The Cecil.

During the program, both Thomas and Tepper spoke to the impetus behind starting the Omni-American Future Project with Thomas stating: “There’s a history of substantive Black-Jewish collaboration in the fight against bigotry.” He continued: “Tonight, we’re also celebrating and reimagining that history, and in so doing, designing a path forward.”

Greg Thomas speaks at the “Straight Ahead: An Omni-American Future, Fighting Bigotry Together” awards ceremony, held on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, at Minton’s Playhouse/The Cecil in Harlem, New York. Photo: Richard Conde.

 

In his remarks, Tepper detailed the historic importance of not only the Civil Rights movement but also jazz music in the alliance between the Black American and Jewish American communities and how the Omni-American Future Project is working to build on that legacy: “Albert Murray, who coined the term Omni-American and whose thought animates much of this evening, reminded us that we must learn to embrace the dragon because the dragon calls forth the hero. If there’s no dragon, then there’s no hero, and no stomping the Blues. Well, the bigoted dragons have returned…Their return means that it’s our turn to stomp these Blues once again – the Blues of racism and antisemitism. The difference [this time] is that…we have a shared history of collaboration to draw upon.”

He went on to call the Omni-American Future Project an opportunity to be “the cultural complement to the Civil Rights Movement.”

Omni-American Future Project Co-Directors Aryeh Tepper and Greg Thomas. Photo: Richard Conde.

 

Using jazz music as a cultural unifier and connector throughout the event, the evening also included several dazzling performances by the award-winning Israeli-Sephardi trumpeter and band leader Itamar Borochov, pianist Miki Yamanaka, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Charles Goold.

Additionally, the program featured readings, presentations and remarks by journalist, poet, and commentator Roya Hakakian; psychologist and writer Pamela Paresky, social entrepreneur and author Ian Rowe; and founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values David Bernstein.

For the Awards presentations, the Omni-American Future Project recognized two individuals who — through their work — embody the initiative’s ideals of intellectual and cultural excellence and vitality. Renowned political theorist, public intellectual, and Harvard professor and Director of the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics Danielle Allen received the Albert Murray Award for Omni-American Excellence for her crucial contributions toward strengthening the democratic character of American political and social life. Writer, podcast host of the popular Conversations with Coleman, and jazz and hip-hop artist Coleman Hughes was presented with the Omni-American Young Leaders Award for his role as a staunch champion of free speech, free thought, and open debate.

In his acceptance speech, Hughes underscored how integral the Omni-American Future Project is in the current landscape and cited Murray as inspiration for heretics and those who champion open dialogue.

“In a cultural moment in which Black and Jewish Americans are being pitted against one another, it’s nice to see an organization that partners across ethnic lines and reminds us that we have more in common than that which divides us,” he said. “So be kinder to the heretics of our age, consider being a heretic yourself, and in doing so, we can all keep the legacy of Albert Murray alive.”

Coleman Hughes receives the Omni-American Young Leaders Award. Photo: Richard Conde.

 

This year’s Awards were especially significant amid the current national conversation centering around antisemitism and racism. With this in mind, the Omni American Future Project’s leadership also issued a joint statement in response to recent headlines surrounding former President Trump’s dinner with white nationalist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye formerly known as Kanye West:

“At the core of the Omni-American Future Project’s mission is the principle of working together in unity to forge a path ahead towards a more humane American future for everyone. As such, we remain committed to standing up to and speaking out against bigotry, hatred, white supremacy and antisemitism of any kind, from anywhere and in any form. It is unacceptable for any world leaders to engage with persons who are proponents of antisemitic and racist ideas and belief systems.”

Other notable guests for the evening included: Khalil Ayed, Muslim American Leadership Alliance; Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Sephardi Educational Center; David Hubbard, Deputy General Counsel, Verizon; Tracy Hyter-Suffern, Executive Director, National Jazz Museum; Ephraim Isaac, distinguished professor and renowned peace-maker; Princess Jenkins, Owner, The Brownstone; Matt Ludmer, Founder of The Aligned Center in Westchester; Jacob Mackey of Free Black Thought; author Melanie Notkin; Niki Quarmyne, Executive Director, Fintech Business Development and Partnerships, Morgan Stanley and author and artist Clifford Thompson.

A full recording of last Monday’s awards ceremony can be viewed below:

Launched in 2020, the Omni-American Future Project was conceived by leaders from the American Sephardi Federation, the Jazz Leadership Project, and the Combat Antisemitism Movement with the goal to create a unique platform and event that encourages collaboration and mutual understanding between the Black American and Jewish communities.

The term “Omni-American” is borrowed from the writings of Albert Murray, the great 20th-century Black American thinker and writer who, together with the legendary novelist Ralph Ellison, extolled America’s pluralistic and diverse culture. By robustly critiquing racial essentialism and strongly emphasizing the power of culture instead of race, Murray’s writings strike at the root of ideologies that foster division, manipulation, and hatred, and ultimately develop into antisemitism and racism. Last year’s inaugural event, “Combating Racism & Antisemitism Together: Shaping an Omni-American Future,” honoring Wynton Marsalis and Rep. Ritchie Torres, took place over two days online and was broadcast nationally.

The Omni-American Future Project General Partner Statements:

“While some have put the focus on divisiveness, we at the Omni-American Future Project are building upon the legacy of cooperation between and among Black Americans and Jewish Americans in jazz and the Civil Rights movement.” — Co-Director, Omni-American Future Project Greg Thomas

“By celebrating what connects the jazz bandstand to the Civil Rights movement, the Omni-American Future Project is articulating a vision in which Black Americans and Jewish Americans fight bigotry by aiming high.” — Co-Director, Omni-American Future Project Aryeh Tepper

“Now, more than ever, it is vital that Black and Jewish Americans focus on what unites, rather than divides them. That is what the Omni-American Future Project is all about, and we are proud to be part of this important initiative to foster deeper social solidarity and harmony by nurturing the historic Black-Jewish bonds and taking them to new heights.” — Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) CEO Sacha Roytman Dratwa

“Dave Chapelle was right in his monologue to call out Kyrie Irving’s promotion of an antisemitic film that is rooted in Holocaust denialism as well as to accentuate how antisemitism has largely been absent from the African American experience. Unfortunately, we know from experience that antisemitic beliefs compel antisemitic attacks. Instead of just criticizing, the Omni-American Future Project is doing the difficult work begun by our ancestors, from Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel to Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, to achieve a new birth of freedom and friendship.” — American Sephardi Federation Executive Director Jason Guberman

For more information about The Omni-American Project, please visit: event.omniamerican.org.

For exclusive photos, updates and more, follow us across social media on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter: @Omni_American #OmniAmericanFuture

About the Omni-American Future Project:

The Omni-American Future Project is a collaboration of the American Sephardi Federation (ASF), the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), and the Jazz Leadership Project (JLP). Greg Thomas of JLP and Aryeh Tepper of ASF serve as co-directors of the initiative, which emphasizes character and culture, not color. The Project’s variation on the nation’s motto, “E Pluribus Unum” is, “Out of many, one pursuit of civic and cultural excellence.” 

Media Contacts:

Nina Flowers

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Ashley Perry

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Christina Burch

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