One of the most significant and influential Black women in media and American publishing today, Hermene Hartman is a well-rounded media personality addressing the soul, spirit and sensibility of America with insight, curiosity, historical context, wit and reality.
Rolling out recently spoke with Hartman about the N’Digo Foundation’s upcoming 2015 Jazz Enchantment gala and what attendees can look forward to this year.
Tell us about the origins of the gala. Did you ever envision it growing to the “must do” status it’s obtained over the years?
The gala started in 1995. The first event was held in February at the Terra Museum on Michigan Avenue. Mr. Terra himself attended and one of our honorees was the late Mr. John Sengstacke of the Chicago Defender. It was a beautiful night. We outgrew the gala that night and I wanted it to move. We did not have music. Music was added. The first time at Symphony Center the talent was Mr. Ray Charles with orchestra. I definitely wanted it to be a must do, gotta be there event. We change it every year to keep it exciting and fabulous.
How difficult has it been to keep the gala going throughout the years?
It is challenging and fun. Innovative, Change is key. I would like to have all of Chicago corporations, universities involved at some contributing level. The gala is multigenerational. We pay it forward and backward. We recognize those before us and those coming. We stress the importance of education and following career paths that have have been carved. The challenge is always financial. The kids are fun and easy. The party with a plan is always on and marvelous. Biz Bash Magazine called it one of the best events in the city.
An interesting fact that I don’t think most people know in regard to the gala is that over the years it’s been responsible for almost 300 scholarships for deserving students. Has this always been a focus of the event?
The focus of the event and the Foundation is always education and education and more education. I approached one of the larger banks for a sponsorship and an internal nitwit said I was a front. I said right, I am a front for the kids. We have to look at our children in a collective and provide opportunities for them to attend school. The first step toward career success is to go to college.
What can attendees look forward to at this year’s gala?
This year’s event is Jazz Enchantment featuring the incredible music of Dianne Reeves and Gregory Porter. They are the hottest artists on the jazz scene now. They travel the world with their music. It was a real coup to put these Grammy Award-winning artists on the same stage. The gala entertainment is always unique. Ray Charles with an orchestra was amazing. One year we featured Jerry Butler and Nancy Wilson. What a wow show that was. This year these jazz artists will grace the stage. Dianne is the regal lady of jazz and Gregory just rocks it.
Any final words or thoughts on the upcoming gala you’d like to share?
It’s a labor of love. Save the children. Help the Children. Remember those who went before you. Pay it forward. Let’s just do it.
The N’Digo Foundation’s 2015 Jazz Enchantment gala will be held on Sunday, June 21 at the Chicago Symphony Center located at 220 S. Michigan Avenue.
For ticket information, please visit www.ndigo.bpt.me Readers are also invited to participate in the online auction at www.ndigo.com