Black History Month: Salute to Sutton

Percy. E. Sutton, founder and chairman emeritus of Inner City Broadcasting Corporation.
AP Photo/Ron Frehm

Percy E. Sutton, one of Harlem’s most prominent political, civil rights, and business leaders will be hailed during the premiere showcase of emerging and celebrated artists of the Black Diaspora slated for Black History Month at Riverside Church.

A salute to the founding chairman of New York’s first Black-owned radio stations – WBLS and WLIB — and former Manhattan Borough president is in order when the fourth annual Harlem Fine Arts show will run from Feb. 7 – 10, 2013.

“HFAS is proud to salute the life and legacy of Percy E. Sutton, an avid collector and patron of the arts, as we celebrate the rich cultural and artistic legacy of artists of African and Caribbean heritage,” Dion Clarke, HFAS founder said.

Born in Texas, Sutton was revered as an intelligence officer who served his military career with the revered, Black unit known as the Tuskegee Airmen. He was attorney to Malcolm X.

Sutton who coalesced some of New York’s prominent Black, business entrepreneurs to form Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1974 bought and operated the FM and AM radio station which programmed Black news and information while the AM station focused on Caribbean demographics.

Sutton also bought into ownership of the city’s largest Black newspaper — The Amsterdam News.

In 1981, he led a mission to restore The Apollo Theater which was closed for decades. The corporation successfully purchased the landmark, Harlem entertainment complex and in 1985 it reopened to a rebirth that continues and flourishes with the discovery of new talent.

“Most people remember my grandfather for his business acumen, his brilliant political achievements and his legendary work as a civil rights activist, but he was also a man of great passion for the performing and visual arts, Keisha Sutton James, his granddaughter and chairperson of the HFAS salute said.

Sutton died in 2009 at age 89.

In addition to the opening night salute, HFAS promise a four-day exposition and will include a series of events and activities.

Among the roster of artists are: Dane Tighman, whose paintings have appeared on TV shows such as “The Cosby Show” and “Roseanne,” and have been presented to notables including Ozzie Davis, Nelson Mandela and Bill Cosby; George Nock, distinguished sculptor and former running back for the New York Jets and Washington Redskins; Margerine Gordon, an innovative textile artist who uses recycled fabric to create “Pictorial Quilts;” Michael Escoffery, a Jamaican-born visual artist whose work has been published in over 70 books worldwide and in 9 languages; and Woodrow Nash, a prolific ceramic sculptor whose work reflects a marriage of 15th Century Benin and 18th Century French Nouveau, creating what he has coined “African Nouveau.”

Following is a listing of events for the 2013 Harlem Fine Arts Show at Riverside Church:

Opening Night Preview

Feb. 7 — 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

The Opening Night Preview salutes the late Hon. Percy E. Sutton, one of the nation’s most prominent Black political and business leaders and legal representative for Malcolm X, and features performances by the cast of “Mama, I Want to Sing” and “Motown: The Musical.”

The event will benefit The Mama Foundation, a foundation for the arts dedicated to present, preserve, and promote gospel, jazz, and the R&B arts.

Youth Empowerment Day

Feb. 8 — 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Children and youth are the target audience for tours of the art exhibition. Also scheduled is a special program of theatrical performances and series of motivational presentations by notable New York City business and educational leaders.

Motown Night

Feb. 8 — 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

The cast of “Motown: The Musical” will preview a performance from the upcoming Broadway show of the life and legacy of Berry Gordy, the R&B mogul.

Fine Art Exhibitions

Feb. 9 — 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

The HFAS will present an exhibition of modern and African Diasporic art.

Ecumenical Services

Feb.10 — 11:00 a.m.

All of the events will take place at Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Avenue (between 121st and 122nd Streets) in Harlem.

For more info. visit or call (914) 980-4427.

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