2006 AFABW Int Awards Event and Concert

Chris Lavrar, The Rhymatist

October 7, 2006 – Hollywood: Music, singing, dance, and awards marked the celebration of the 2006 Artists For A Better World annual Awards Event & Concert, held tonight in the Garden Pavilion, on the grounds of Celebrity Centre International, in the heart of Hollywood. Artists For A Better World International has been positively impacting the world through the arts and this evening’s event acknowledged artists who are changing conditions in society through their aesthetic and social contributions. This year’s Awardees span diverse areas of the arts and a broad array of social betterment activities. This 6th annual Awards Event & Concert, is the highlight of the 5-day AFABW Arts Festival, and the festival is held in support of The Way To Happiness Foundation International. Tonight’s event featured a special video presentation presented by Youth For Human Rights and Artists for Human Rights and included awards for some of the young leaders forwarding a greater awareness of human rights in our world.

The opening of the show was precipitated by the soothing sounds of pianist and composer, JoJo Zawawi. Actress, Lindsay Bartilson, who has guest-starred on many TV shows and is best known for her role as Lilly Finnerty on Grounded For Life, was the MC for the evening and remarked “Artists for a Better World International is dedicated to building a worldwide network of artists who share a vision of creating a better world through aesthetics and is open to artists and art enthusiasts of all religions, nationalities, creeds, races and cultures.”

Singer-Songwriter Michael Duff captivated the audience with his piano and voice by way of his song, “Rise.” Duff is the former lead singer and songwriter of Columbia Records’ critically-acclaimed alternative rock act, Chalk Farm.

Artists For A Better World member, Barbara Cordova, performed her song, “Renaissance,” accompanied by dancers, Rachel Lindley & Vanessa Guerrero.

The Garden Pavilion went into high-gear, rocking with the dancing, singing group, Kids In The Mix, presented by Sheila Baker, who received an award later in the evening. The group of 6 young artists led the audience through a raucous rendition of “We Are Family.”

The evening’s first award was presented by Tracy Repchuk, the President and Founder of the Canadian Federation of Poets; Editor and Founder of “Poetry Canada” magazine; author of The Poetry of Business; and editor of 5 books. She presented the AFABW Int Humanitarian Artist Award to Francisco Ramirez, who is a talented, multifaceted visual artist, performing artist and humanitarian. Ramirez was awarded for his roles in supporting The Rose Breast Cancer Society, Adult Day Care Centers in L.A., the New York Fire Department 911 Victim’s Funds and for his dedication to preserving and forwarding Mexican cultural traditions.

Several artists were awarded Certificates of Appreciation for their help creating sculptures for the Parade of Angels which was part of a project for the Rose Breast Cancer Society and was created to draw attention to breast cancer detection and cures. The “Parade” was conceived by Carmelita Pittman, Founder of the Rose Breast Cancer Society, and the prototype for the Angel sculpture was designed by Francisco Ramirez. Jenny Love, Uziel Martinez, Marlynn Northcutt, Eli Ramirez, Gabrielle Utz, Azahal Landa Verde as well as Ms. Pittman and Mr. Ramirez, were each acknowledged for their contributions. Mr. Ramirez also introduced the Centeotl Traditional Mexican Folk Dancers, who performed while accompanied by the musical pieces, “La Iguana” and “El Toro Rabon.”

Mesmerizing 13-year old singer, Mercedes York, belted out a powerful and soulful rendition of the song, “Walk Away,” also presented by Sheila Baker.

Host for Celebrity Centre International, Desiree Grenier, performed the popular song, “You’re The Voice” and then presented a Special Recognition Award to Sheila Baker for her ardent work showcasing the work of very talented kids and adults. Ms. Baker formed B’Shey Productions in January 1990 in the city of Compton and has been touching children’s lives for the past 33 years. Ms. Baker then introduced her hip hop dance troupe, Ill Effect, who dazzled the audience with their singing and dancing.

The next featured AFABW Int Award was presented by Rachel Lindley. Ms. Lindley is an actress, dancer, and singer/songwriter and for the last 4 years has been the Youth Spokesperson for the Hollywood Drug Free Marshals. She has helped to educate kids and their parents about the harmful effects of drugs. Last year Ms. Lindley was the recipient of the AFABW Int Spirit of Youth Award, and tonight she presented this year’s same award to co-recipients, Claire Kevitt and Taron Lexton. Each has used their creative talents to forward the cause of human rights and decency.

16-year-old Claire Kevitt was recognized as the Youth President for Youth for Human Rights International. In that capacity she has traveled South Korea, India and England, as well as to the United Nations headquarters in New York City to promote the new public service announcements, directed by Taron Lexton, depicting each of the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

22-year-old Taron Lexton has focused on creating films with positive social messages. His music video, United, which he made when he was just 19, has inspired millions of kids to get involved in the subject of human rights. Lexton’s recent human rights public service announcements have aired to over 100 million people on CNN, ABC, Fox, and hundreds of other stations around the world, creating a massive surge in interest in the subject of human rights across the globe. The complete list of human rights has never before been illustrated on film, and so this is a truly historic accomplishment.

Celebrity fine artist, Pomm Hepner, spoke about Artists for Human Rights and introduced a video presentation featuring 4 of the Public Service Announcements.

Punctuating the achievements of Ms. Kevitt and Mr. Lexton, as well as the entire Youth for Human Rights International and Artists For Human Rights organization, singer/songwriter Aaron Nicolson performed his song, “Declaration.”

The President of Artists For A Better World International, George Alger, gave a presentation about AFABW International compilation projects including the AFABW Int poetry books, short story books, and fine arts calendars, and also spoke of AFABW Int’s support of The Way To Happiness. Mr. Alger then presented the AFABW Int Advocate For A Better World award to Lance Miller, President of The Way To Happiness Foundation International “For continued service to the creation of a better world by delivering humanitarian messages of positive values and human rights, including dissemination of The Way To Happiness, to the peoples of America, Europe, Africa and Asia, through aesthetic, inspirational and oratory artistry.”

Singer Jeannie Deva, appearing on House of Carter’s, E! Entertainment TV and author of the Contemporary Vocalist, was accompanied by Michael Duff, Shelby Lindley and Brandon Thomas, to perform an enchanting rendition of “Never Let Go” by Josh Groban.

Carmelita Pittman took the stage to present the next award. Ms. Pittman is a 2002 AFABW Int Award recipient herself, and she is Founder of the Rose Breast Cancer Society. Ms. Pittman presented this year’s AFABW Int Setting A Good Artistic Example Award to Erin Holt, who has been teaching modern dance and classical ballet for over 25 years. Ms. Holt founded the California DanceArts and several years after the establishment of that school, Ms. Holt initiated California Theatrical Youth Ballet, a performing company for dancers preparing for professional careers. Today, the company provides Los Angeles communities with many inspirational dance programs. Ms. Holt then introduced a performance by members of her California Theatrical Youth Ballet, who entertained the audience with their fluid movements of elegant grace.

Richard Stewart was present to honor the next AFABW Int Awardee. Mr. Stewart is a long-time social betterment advocate through his work as a comedian, public speaker and community service leader. He is the Co-Founder of Laughworks, a sketch comedy group and co-founder of Renaissance Speakers, an award-winning Toastmasters public speaking group.

Mr. Stewart presented the 2006 Artists For A Better World International Spirit of Youth Award to Nadirah Shakoor, singer, songwriter, lyricist and community volunteer. She is the recipient of a Grammy Nomination and an MTV Video Award and is a seasoned professional who has performed for thousands at such mega concert events as Lollapalooza, Womad and Woodstock II. Most people remember Nadirah as the lead female vocalist of the ground breaking hip hop group, Arrested Development, which she joined in 1992 and remained with until the group disbanded in 1995. Others know her as the featured female vocalist in Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band. Nadirah has performed for the Women And Children Shelters and wrote the song “Break Away,” which is an ode to abuse individuals, inspiring them to make the decision not to be hurt anymore. Her lyrics are socially and spiritually conscious and Nadirah firmly believes that Artists must use their talent to help change the world. Ms. Shakoor performed her song, “Tree Of Life.”

Actor Bob Caso was the next Award presenter, most known for appearing in TV shows 90210 and Crusade, and starring in films such as Phoenix Pictures’ Ocean Tribe and Out of the Wilderness, opposite David Carradine. Mr. Caso is known as a man with a “New York attitude and a Caribbean soul.” Mr. Caso presented the AFABW Int Outstanding Contribution As An Artist Award to Debor’ra Hall, as a singer and long-time community volunteer and social activist.

Ms. Hall has used the passion of her voice to perform and promote concerts for AIDS Awareness for 10 years in Cincinnati, Ohio and performed as a solo singer for 9 years in many cities throughout the United States, in support of the National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People (NAACP) to promote civil rights for ethnic minorities across our nation. Ms. Hall worked with her mentor, Michael Jordan, to book the “Who’s Who” Entertainment Industry Talent for his Chicago restaurant and she promoted ground breaking, upcoming talent at the Cotton Club which helped develop the career of many artists. Furthering her sincere desire to celebrate the accomplishments of performing artists, Debor’ra established a red carpet event called Outstanding Blues Artists with the purpose of honoring the great local talent in Chicago. Ms. Hall is a regular gospel singer at the Chapel Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles and she welcomes each of us to join her and her friends any Sunday morning for a rousing experience of impassioned joy.

6 kids from Universal Dance Designs performed “Traffic Jam.” Founded by Paul and Arlene Kennedy, this company has entertained audiences all over the world, ranging in ages from 7 to 19.

Actress Denice Duff presented the final award for the evening. Ms. Duff is a well-known artist as the face of many commercial campaigns, and her TV credits extend from Matlock to CSI Miami and most recently she had a contract role on The Young and the Restless. Her biggest passion has always been helping other artists and she is the head of one of LA’s busiest Talent Agencies, the Commercial Print Department.

Ms. Duff presented the AFABW Int Lifetime Achievement Award to Jerry Burchfield, a photographer, fine artist, curator, author and educator, Professor of Photography and Photography Gallery Director at Cypress College in California. Known as an environmentally conscious artist-activist, his work has received numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. Additionally, Mr. Burchfield co-founded the Laguna Wilderness Press. His biggest endeavor was a multi-faceted project in Laguna Canyon, California, in protest of a major housing development and toll road planned for the area. The largest and most dramatic phase of the project was The Tell Mural, a 366 foot site-specific sculpture comprised of over 100,000 photographs. “The Tell” became a catalyst for community interaction, environmental activity, and served as the inspiration for a walk of 11,000 concerned citizens to the Tell site. As a result of these efforts, the housing development was abandoned and the area was subsequently saved as a wilderness park.

Chris Lavrar, The Rhymatist, and especially known for his Hip Hop 4 Children and “teaching without preaching” while delivering positive and inspirational messages, jumped and danced around the stage and among the audience to rap an entertaining, impromptu performance created especially for the audience and the event.

Wrapping up the evening was Debor’ra Hall, who came back on stage to sing a classic gospel song, “Glory, Glory.” Ms. Hall was accompanied by the Victory Singers: Unique (a unique name) and Sharon Henry, who also played piano.

Special thanks to the Celebrity Centre International Showcase Production staff for their help in producing the show. And very special thanks to the show’s volunteer staff: Director, Richard Reich; Stage Manager, Larry Williams; Backstage Manager, Terry Williams; Photographer, Jerry Keane (who photographed the images on this page); Videographers, Reinhard Schulte, Mike Rubio, and Michael O’Brien; Reception and Hosts, Becky Mate, Yvonne Harrington, and Joe Scoglio; Award Designs by Allen Harris; and Award Presentation Assistants, Petrina Sharp and Alexa Sharp.

Artists For A Better World International is dedicated to building a worldwide network of artists who share a vision of creating a better world through aesthetics and is open to artists and art enthusiasts of all religions, nationalities, creeds, races and cultures. AFABW Int believes in a world where good morals are valued; AFABW Int favors art that inspires and helps make the world a better place; AFABW Int supports artistic and other social improvement programs that are making positive changes in society.