The Mann Center is back with our annual Black History Month Celebration, Voices of Hope! This year's event's central themes are love, hope, social justice, the impact of the pandemic within African American communities, and how we as a city come together to grow stronger. This year, not only are we going virtual, but also we're celebrating the work of black artists in our community with four very special Mann Music Room: Learn performances. Each week we'll bring you a new video and activity guide exploring the importance of black artistry and its significance worldwide.
Voices of Hope is a community event that celebrates African American culture and iconic Philadelphia innovators within the health and wellness field. This year, we are proud to present Reverend Doctor Lorina Marshall-Blake, President of Independence Blue Cross Foundation, with the 2021 Innovation Award. Reverend Doctor Lorina Marshall-Blake has influenced how her organization approaches health and wellness delivery, healthcare policy, and advocacy for the Philadelphia community. Her work in the public health sphere has been nothing short of inspirational, and she has truly embodied the spirit of inclusivity and positive change that Voices of Hope aspires to honor.
2021 Innovation Award Honoree
Reverend Doctor Lorina Marshall-Blake
Benu Ausar Philly · West African
Benu Ausar Philly is a traditional West African band led by Saantis Davis, a local music educator and performer who specializes in traditional West African music as well as other global percussion styles. Having trained in New York under legendary percussionists, Saantis has since returned to his hometown of Philadelphia where he shares his drumming and global rhythms expertise to help inspire people throughout the city. “I believe music is the way to unify people,” says Saantis, who most recently has been performing with his traditional African band, Benu Ausar. When he isn’t performing with Benu Ausar, Saantis teaches and performs with other groups like Philly Reggae Band, Arrastao do Dende, Bad Kitty, and Funk Logic, among others. In addition to his role as a recording artist, Saantis is also a music teacher in the Philadelphia’s school system, working with the youth to educate them on percussion instruments from around the world.
Dr. J. Donald Dumpson · Gospel
Seeing himself as a portal of access for those excluded from mainstream artistic opportunities, at major arts and educational institutions throughout the nation, Dr. J. Donald Dumpson’s intergenerational work occurs within an educational, spiritual, psychocultural, and sociocultural framework. While he works with a broad range of art forms, his principal focus is the human voice. He believes that the human voice has been central in communicating messages from despair to jubilation, deprivation to abundance and from the impossible to the possible. His goal is to reduce artistic stereotypes that limit inclusion of art borne of the African diaspora. Currently, Dr. Dumpson is President of Diverse Arts Solutions, Minister of the Arts at Arch Street Presbyterian Church, and Founding Artistic Director of the Philadelphia Heritage Chorale.
Both pieces for Voices of Hope will be performed by the Arch Street Presbyterian Church Choir with Rev. Carla Jones Brown (Pastor) and Dr. J. Donald Dumpson (Minister of the Arts).
Eric Wortham II · Jazz
Eric Wortham II is a jazz and classically trained accomplished pianist, composer, songwriter, and producer. He is best known for captivating audiences with his soulful rhythmic feel, innovative hand technique and precise hand speed. Eric has toured with Grammy award-winning artists such as Jill Scott and Adele, and has collaborated with Vivian Green, Aloe Blacc, Kindred The Family Soul, Music SoulChild, and Jeff Bradshaw.
Chill Moody · Hip Hop
Chill Moody cemented his status as one of the top lyricists & performers to hit Philadelphia in years when he won Best Rapper in Philadelphia Magazine’s annual Best of Philly Issue. He was also named Philadelphia’s Music Ambassador by Councilman David Oh, due to his tireless efforts to "put the city on" as well as his local & national accomplishments over the years. A West Philadelphia native, his lifestyle brand “nicethings” now includes clothing line, consulting firm, a record label (nicethingsMUSIC), and even a line of craft beer (nicethingsIPA, a collaboration with Dock Street Brewery). He recently partnered with Philly R&B singer, Donn T, to start a new group called “&More”. Moody is currently in the midst of another #MoodyMonday campaign, releasing new music every single Monday.