WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 18, 2021)—The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is celebrating its 100th anniversary with the “Art of Inclusion” concert and gala, featuring a star-studded cast of artists and leaders committed to equity and inclusion. This virtual gala will be co-hosted by Haben Girma, author of the best-selling memoir Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law; and AFB President and CEO Kirk Adams, Ph.D. Featuring music from Grammy-nominated artists Amadou & Mariam and Marcus Roberts, jazz pianist Matthew Whitaker, Tony-nominated actor and singer Sean Allan Krill, songwriter and singer Jennah Bell, hip-hop artist Aloe Blacc, students from the New York Institute For Special Education Choir, and more, this special event will celebrate historical milestones and energize the public around AFB’s vision for an inclusive, accessible society.
What: The Art of Inclusion: AFB100 Concert & Celebration
Who: An award-winning lineup of performers and other special guests
When: March 4, 2021, 7 p.m. EST
Where: Available to stream via afb.org/ArtOfInclusion; advance registration suggested at afb.org/100signup
“Throughout our 100-year history, we have confronted challenges and overcome obstacles in the name of a singular, overarching goal: to create a world of no limits for people who are blind or low vision,” Adams said. “We look forward to sharing some of our most notable achievements and celebrating with an entertainment lineup that will not only make for a thrilling event, but underscore the theme of inclusivity that we strive to make an everyday reality.”
True to AFB’s commitment to inclusion, the virtual gala will be accessible – and free – so everyone can share in this dynamic, special evening. Throughout the event, attendees will enjoy different musical styles and learn about AFB’s history and future. Over the years, AFB’s contributions to making the world more accessible include providing free radios to blind people, improving teaching methods, collaborating in the creation of a universal braille code, and pioneering Talking Books – the precursor to today’s popular audiobooks. Today, AFB continues to be a leader in creating a world of no limits for those who are blind and visually impaired. AFB conducts research and advocates for policies and laws to ensure that people who are blind or visually impaired have the same opportunities as everyone else to learn, work, and live life to the fullest.
This gala is just one of a series of centennial-themed events scheduled throughout 2021. Upcoming events include a series of curated webinars focused on the most pressing issues and topics affecting the blind and low vision communities, pairing prominent speakers with younger voices. These webinars include “Blind and Visually Impaired Women in Leadership” in March, “The Inclusive Power of Music” in April, and “Gratitude, Courage, and Joy” in May, to name just a few. The full list and additional details are available at www.afb.org/100.
These centennial events are made possible through the generous sponsorship of partners like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, JPMorgan Chase &Co., American Printing House for the Blind, Exelon, Google, Northrop Grumman, Pepco, U.S. Bank, Walmart, Microsoft, Charter Communications, and Challenger, Gray & Christmas. For those interested in sponsorship opportunities, please contact Amanda Kolling, senior engagement and brand manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the gala’s special guests:
Haben Girma is a human rights lawyer who has made it her life’s work to advance disability justice. Not only is Haben a recipient of AFB’s Helen Keller Achievement Award, she was named a White House Champion of Change by President Obama, among many other honors. Haben is the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School.
Marcus Roberts is a pianist and composer who has been hailed as “the genius of the modern piano.” From his early roots in Jacksonville and at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, he has forged a remarkable career as a modern jazz musician including launching his own record label. Marcus is serving as Artistic Director of the Art of Inclusion gala, and is also a past recipient of the AFB Helen Keller Achievement Award for Personal Achievement.
Amadou & Mariam are a musical duo known as the “blind couple from Mali,” composed of the Bamako-born couple Amadou Bagayoko (guitar and vocals) and Mariam Doumbia (vocals). Their album Welcome To Mali (2008) was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album.
Jennah Bell is an Oakland-grown singer/songwriter whose ravenous musical curiosities inspired her own creative wonderland; her quirky songwriting and undefinable genre is a direct product of her proud Bay Area roots. As the architect of all aspects of her musical endeavors, Jennah pulls from a colorful palette of folk, soul, R&B, hip‐hop, and bluegrass.
Aloe Blacc is a singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, and philanthropist. He is best-known for his singles "I Need a Dollar" and "The Man," which topped the charts in the United Kingdom, and for writing and performing vocals on Avicii's "Wake Me Up," a chart-topping hit in 22 countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom.
Sean Allan Krill is an actor who has crafted a career on Broadway, off-Broadway, at prestigious regional theaters, and in television. He was nominated for a 2020 Tony Award for his role as Steve Healy in Jagged Little Pill, and the original cast recording of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical was nominated for a 2021 Grammy Award.
Matthew Whitaker taught himself to play piano at age 3, the Hammond B3 organ at age 9, and four years later he became the youngest artist to be endorsed by Hammond in its more than 80-year history. He was also named a Yamaha Artist at 15, becoming the youngest musician to join the stellar group of jazz pianists. Just shy of 20 years old, this multi-instrumentalist is currently enrolled in the jazz studies program at Juilliard in New York City, the first person who is blind to be accepted in the program.
New York Institute for Special Education Choir. The New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx provides quality educational programs and support to students and families in a safe, caring environment, to awaken and inspire student curiosity, lifelong learning, and fulfillment.
# # #
About the American Foundation for the Blind
Founded in 1921, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that creates a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired. AFB mobilizes leaders, advances understanding, and champions impactful policies and practices using research and data. AFB is proud to steward the Helen Keller Archive, maintain and expand the digital collection, and honor the more than 40 years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. Visit: www.afb.org/100