A bevy of Hip-Hop heavies past and present turned up for the first annual Hip-Hop Summit Action Awards benefit at the Laura Belle private event venue in Manhattan on Tuesday. Russell Simmons played host as decade-spanning artists Jay-Z, P. Diddy, MC Shan, Grandmaster Flash, and others arrived alongside civil rights advocates Jesse Jackson and the evenings keynote speaker, civil rights lawyer Willie E. Gary.
Entertainers are realizing that you can make money and make a difference at the same time, and that awareness is going to help young people we lost get involved again, Gary said as he entered the event flanked by Reverend Jackson and Mayor Bloomberg.
Chaired by Russell Simmons, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) is a non-profit coalition of artists, entertainment industry executives and community leaders who advocate positive social change by leveraging the power and influence of Hip-Hop. The groups primary focus is the welfare of at-risk youth in the United States.
Event honorees included Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Tommy Hilfiger and Pepsi-Cola North America President Dawn Hudson for their outstanding work and dedication to community and youth empowerment. When asked how each of the honorees were chosen, Simmons noted Jays continual support through donations from live performances, Diddys recent jaunt through the five boroughs in support of New York Citys Public Schools, and Hilfigers long-standing commitment to give back to the Hip-Hop community that helped fuel the success of his clothing line.
Perhaps the causes largest contributor and honoree was Hudson, who became fast associates with Simmons when he threatened a mass consumer boycott of Pepsi. The episode came after the soft drink giant announced that it had dropped Ludacris as a spokesperson after conservative TV host Bill OReilly publicly crusaded against the rapper. Pepsi subsequently announced that it would make a multimillion dollar donation to the Ludacris Foundation, which supports arts and music programs for underprivileged youth.