On Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, Solange Knowles will be the very first recipient of the Lena Horne Prize for Artists Creating Social Impact when it’s given to her at New York City’s Town Hall.
The prize was named after the late entertainer, who was involved in causes like the civil rights movement. In 1963, for example, Horne joined Medgar Evers at an NAACP desegregation rally in Jackson, Mississippi.
Horne also performed and spoke at the 1963 March on Washington, and in 1983 the NAACP gave her the Spingarn Medal, given to those for outstanding achievement. She received an NAACP Image Award in 1999 as well.
On top of that, Horne refused to perform for segregated crowds during World War II when she sang for troops and noticed the Black soldiers were made to sit behind German POWs.
Knowles issued a statement about the prize and talked about learning of Horne when she played her character Glinda from the film adaptation of “The Wiz.” Horne died of congestive heart failure on May 9, 2010, in New York City at the age of 92.
“I will never forget being a young girl and the impact of hearing the great Lena Horne so radiantly and powerfully singing the words ‘believe in yourself’ from that remarkable moment in ‘The Wiz,’” said Knowles.
“I have carried it with me closely my entire life,” she added. “At the age of 12, I played this very role at the Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Texas and it was then I learned about Lena’s dedicated activism and fearless integrity as a woman and groundbreaking artist.”
Knowles will also be given $100,000 for Project Row Houses, a nonprofit based in Houston’s Third Ward that “Enriches lives through art with an emphasis on cultural identity,” according to its website.
“We are thrilled for Solange as the inaugural recipient of the Lena Horne Prize and are grateful for her continuous support of Project Row Houses and the historic Third Ward community,” said Project Row Houses’ executive director Eureka Gilkey in a statement.
“For more than 26 years, Project Row Houses has proven that the intersection between art, activism and neighborhood development can be a sustainable vehicle for community transformation,” she also stated.
Harry Belafonte — who recorded the 1959 album “Porgy and Bess” with Horne — sits on The Lena Horne Prize Advisory Board, as do “Pose” star Billy Porter, Roxane Gay, Deesha Dyer, Dolores Huerta and Judy Collins.
Some of Knowles’ activism involves her support of the Black Lives Matter movement and speaking out after the mass shooting of Black parishioners by white supremacist Dylann Roof at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.