This year the Kennedy Center celebrates 40 years of Honors with a dancer and choreographer, a sitcom creator, and three award winning musicians including the first Hip-Hop artist.
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Carmen de Lavallade, Norman Lear, Gloria Estefan, LL Cool J, and Lionel Richie will all be honoured in a gala event on December 3.
Speaking on the new recipients Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said, “the Kennedy Center Honors spotlights the extraordinary careers of five artists whose talent and ingenuity have enriched and shaped cultural life in America.”
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter added, “each of this year’s Honorees became known to and loved by the world because of their complete originality and bold genius. They are creators of the highest order, and as President Kennedy’s living memorial, the Kennedy Center is proud to shine a light on their boundless ‘contributions to the human spirit.'”
The 2017 Kennedy Center Honours will mark the first time the recipients will be honoured under the presidency of Donald Trump. This occasion has caused some contention among a few of the recipients. Norman Lear has stated that he will not attend the White House reception in protest of Trump and his policies. Speaking on his decision Lear said, “this is a presidency that has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities — deliberately defund them — and that doesn’t rest pleasantly with me
Cuban born entertainer Gloria Estefan has stated that she will attend the reception in order to take the opportunity to express to the President the contributions that immigrants have made to the United States. Trump has stated his intentions to crack down on immigration and elimination of arts programs.
An outspoken musician, LL Cool J noted being the first Hip-Hop artist to be honoured, “to knock the door down for a new genre — the word is just ‘dope!’ To be able to come from the corner of Farmers Boulevard in Queens, banging on a garbage can, all the way to the Kennedy Center Honors, that’s a long journey.” Never considering to not attend the gala said, “I don’t have any stunts planned. I’m not saying I need to be there backslapping and all of that, but this time, this one ain’t about him (the President). I’m not going to block my blessings or let the political divide stop me from embracing my art. I’m banking on the goodness and the optimism of people to say: ‘You know what? I get it. Let this guy have this honor.’”
Beginning his career as a part of The Commodores, Lionel Richie penned the 1984 charity single “We Are the World” with Michael Jackson.
For Carmen de Lavallade the event is a bittersweet one. A former member of the advisory artist committee with her husband Geoffrey Holder, she was widowed in 2014. Carmen de Lavallade said, “I’ve been there with many, many presidents — some people have liked, some people haven’t. I know this particular occasion is really over the moon, but we have to band together.”
Only the recipients have been revealed, the performers who will salute them have not yet been named. There is no word yet as to whether any other artist will elect to protest the event by not attending or performing. During the inauguration celebrations in January a number of entertainers refused to be a part of the events.
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