Covenant House New Jersey provides comprehensive residential care and related services to help New Jersey’s youth who have suffered from abuse, neglect, abandonment, homelessness, and human trafficking build a life for themselves that is good. Covenant House journeys with young people from the streets, to its Residential Crisis Centers, to its transitional living homes, and on to independent living in the community to help them break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Vanguard connected with Covenant House during rehearsals for Runaways, a show that tells the real life stories of homeless youth. Vanguard learned about, raised money for, and held a Sleep Out, an event that helps Covenant House raise awareness about the problem of youth homelessness while raising critical funds needed to continue caring for the more than 3,000 homeless kids that come to Covenant House New Jersey (CHNJ) each year in crisis. Please read more about Covenant House here.
Doreen Oliver is a writer, performer, and speaker whose work illuminates the beauty, heartbreak, and unpredictability of life, often through the lens of parenthood. Her critically-acclaimed one-woman show, EVERYTHING IS FINE UNTIL IT’S NOT, debuted at the New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) and broke the record for the fastest sell-out of a run in the festival’s 20-year history. Doreen’s essays on autism, race, and the chaos and contradictions of motherhood have appeared in several national publications including the New York Times and the Washington Post Sunday Magazine. She has performed her pieces at the Yale Repertory Theatre, Symphony Space and the South Orange Performing Arts Center, and was twice selected for the national storytelling showcase, “Listen To Your Mother.” Doreen is a graduate of Yale University and Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she was a Charles Bonini fellow. Read more about Doreen on her website here.
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD
Gala honoree, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, is a professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. He is the former Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a division of the New York Public Library and the world’s leading library and archive of global black history. Khalil is an award-winning teacher at Harvard and has received numerous honors for his commitment to public engagement, including BPI Chicago’s Champion of the Public Interest Award (2018), The Fortune Society’s Game Changer Award (2017), Ebony Power 100 (2013), The Root 100 of Black Influencers (2012-2014), and Crain’s New York Business magazine 40 under 40 (2011). The work Khalil does epitomizes the power of creativity to jump charge communities, using his teaching, writing and advocacy to shine a light on the intersectionality of race, democracy, inequality and criminal justice. The work that Khalil does inspires artists to use their voices and their art to evoke change in this world - which is why we are honoring him on November 9 at our Gala at the Montclair Art Museum. Please read more about Khalil and listen to some of his talks here.
THE ACTORS FUND
We are thrilled to honor The Actors Fund, which envisions a world in which individuals contributing to our country's cultural vibrancy are supported, valued and economically secure. The Actors Fund fosters stability and resiliency, and provides a safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals over their lifespan. One of The Actors Fund's crown jewels is The Actors Fund Home in Englewood, NJ, where Vanguard has performed for a very special community of unique seniors: people who have dedicated a major portion of their professional lives to performing arts and entertainment. Read more about The Actors Fund on their website.
It was impossible to know Erica Branch-Ridley and not feel like you’d met a very special human being. She was one of those rare, shining stars who lit up every room she entered, and brought beauty and warmth (and a wonderfully infectious smile) to every personal encounter. Erica joined Vanguard's Board of Directors as Co-President in 2018, and took on the position in May 2019.
Erica was a two-time children’s Emmy Award-winning producer who joined the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network in 2013 following a career with CBS News, Black Entertainment Television, Viacom (Nickelodeon, TV Land), and Sesame Workshop. At the time of her death she was producing content for HITN Learning to make it the premier destination for parents of Hispanic preschoolers.
Erica was a sister, daughter, granddaughter, cousin and – the role she treasured more than anything – Mother. Erica was tragically taken from us far too soon on September 16, 2019, leaving behind her three beloved children: Nya, Jon, and Olivia. We are beyond devastated that she’s no longer with us.
Vanguard Theater Company is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit producing original, collaborative and re-imagined works of theater. Dedicated to D.R.E.A.M. - Diversity, Reciprocity, Education, Awareness and Mentorship - Vanguard is committed to imaginative, non-traditional, multi-cultural casting, and professional artistic mentorship. Vanguard Theater Company's year-round programming is made possible through generous support from TeeRico by Lin-Manuel Miranda; The New York Community Trust; Seton Hall University; Investors Bank; collaborations with Montclair Film, and the generosity of many individual donors. Please watch this video to learn more about us.