The Artist Empowerment Coalition (AEC) hosted an historic and inspirational pre-Grammy brunch yesterday at the New York Hilton Hotel.
Superstars, legends and lawmakers spoke about artists' rights and the AEC's dual mission of artist rights advocacy and community service. Artist Empowerment Award of 2003 honors were presented to New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Congressman John Conyers and artists and notables such as Roberta Flack, Faith Evans, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett and Hezekiah Walker. Other celebrity attendees included Jill Scott, Kimora Lee Simmons, renown trumpeter John Fattus, Sam Moore, Sarah Dash, The Charlie Daniels Band, Musiq, Anthony Hamilton of The Nappy Roots, Ashford & Simpson, Talib Kweli, Nickelback, and many others.
The affair began with a moving tribute to music and creativity by Altovise Davis, widow of the late Sammy Davis Jr. and the regal Adelaide Sanford of the New York State Board of Regents emphasizing the value of the arts to our youth. Other performances included Grammy nominee Jill Scott, legendary Ashford and Simpson, Miri Ben Ari (dubbed the "Hip Hop Violinist"), and a host of new artists including Jessica, Chris Rob and Kanye West. Alicia Keys presented Roberta Flack with a 2003 Artist Empowerment Award and noted that Ms. Flack was a personal inspiration. Veteran Isaac Hayes spoke about survival in a challenging music business and the need for organizations like the AEC who promote both artists' rights and responsibility. Legendary MC Doug E. Fresh received his award for his work within the community and for advocacy among hip-hop artists. He spoke movingly about the importance of music in the lives of today's youth.
Also addressed at the brunch were the AEC legislative goals. The 2003 Artistic Freedom Act introduced in NY State would address the unfair term and duration of artist recording contracts. Under the aegis of the Artist Empowerment Coalition (AEC), and with the guidance of prominent entertainment attorney, L. Londell McMillan, the artists and founders of the AEC (which include Stevie Wonder, Prince, Roberta Flack, DMX and Faith Evans, among others) have defined their agenda to reform a myriad of these unfair practices in the recording industry. "Today's difficult times in the music industry require a genuine system of partnership and commitment, not a system of ongoing indentured servitude." McMillan said.