The Mayor’s Arts Awards on Sept. 30 allowed for a host of celebrities and D.C. creatives to gather virtually and celebrate their contributions and accomplishments to the local arts community. (Courtesy Photo)

By Lauren E. Williams
Special to the AFRO

“Born and raised in the city, D.C.’s own so she got it going on.  Putting in work for this District, encouraging our people to keep going strong,” proclaimed Be’la Dona, who kicked off the 35th Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards on Sept. 30 with their Go-Go inspired “Mayor’s Anthem” dedicated to Mayor Muriel Bowser. The upbeat song set the tone for a special broadcast night of surprises, celebrating arts, culture, creativity and vitality in the nation’s capital.

Native Washingtonian and world-renown comedian, Tommy Davidson served as emcee for the awards show.  “I grew up in D.C., and as someone who has had the opportunity to showcase my talent around the world, I know firsthand the enormous amount of creative ability and artistry that exists in D.C.,” said Davidson. “The culture and diverse talent in all eight wards makes us a world class city.”

“2020 has been a challenging time as we all have found ways to keep ourselves and families safe and healthy, creatives in D.C. as well as across the country are finding new and innovative ways to keep the arts alive and thriving,” Davidson added.

Joining Davidson were a list of well-known local entertainers and other famous members of the creative community. In fact, the first award of the night, the Excellence in Creative Industries, was presented by D.C. native and Howard University alum, actor Laz Alonzo. Other celebrity appearances included Wale, Mya, Joe Clair, and DJ Heat.

The show displayed diversity in its truest form – across age groups, sexual orientation, disabilities, disciplines and genres. Students from the world’s only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hearing students, Galludet University, offered a visual clap and sign presentation, the Gay Men’s Chorus provided a musical interlude, and youth rapper Fly Zyah dropped a few lyrics on the current state of D.C. and the world.

“All lives are supposed to matter, Black lives too, you just can’t forget that factor,” said Fly Zyah as she stood in front of an artistic rendering of Michelle Obama.

Like last year’s event, members of the public were invited to vote for their favorite artists via the internet between Sept. 10-15 for presented awards. Votes could be cast for as many categories as selected, but only one per category.

“The Mayor’s Arts Awards allow us to showcase and celebrate the diverse artistic and creative communities in Washington, DC,” said Mayor Bowser in a press release. “This year, I was proud to present the Award for Distinguished Honor to Virginia Ali. For decades, the Ali Family has been there for DC residents – not only serving up delicious half smokes, but also building our community and uplifting the culture of local DC.”

Other awardees included:

  •       Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honor: Virginia Ali, Ben’s Chili Bowl
  •       Award for Excellence as a Community Arts Advocate: Ron Moten
  •       Award for Excellence in Arts Education: Rain Young
  •       Award for Excellence in Media Arts: Icy the Artist
  •       Award for Excellence in Performing Arts: DC Black Broadway
  •       Award for Excellence in Visual Arts: Rodney Herring
  •       Award for Excellence in the Creative Industries: Nelson Cruz
  •       Award for Excellence in the Humanities: Joy Ford Austin
  •       Award for Excellence in the Nightlife Economy: Hendres Kelly
  •       Award for Visionary Leadership: Tiara Johnson
  •       Emerging Creative Award: Artbae

The 35th Annual Mayor’s Arts Awards was produced by DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment (OCTFME) and the DC Creative Affairs Office and held virtually for the first time. Washingtonians were also invited to view the show, first come first serve, at Park Up DC drive-in located at RFK Stadium.