The first presidential debate loomed over last night’s 2016 Boys & Girls Harbor Salute to Achievement Gala held at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, giving a rushed feeling to the evening’s proceedings. “I’m going to make this brief,” Boys & Girls Harbor Board Chairman, Stephen Dannhauser, said at the start of his remarks. “I know most of you want to go watch the debate.” Lyor Cohen did the same in his introduction to the evening’s lead honoree, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, who was given the Tony Duke Award for establishing his own charter school, Capital Prep, which recently struck a shared facilities partnership with Boys & Girls Harbor.
Rather than follow suit, the legendary rapper chose to arrive just under an hour late to the evening’s dinner with a handful accompanying guests, including his mother Janice Combs, girlfriend Cassie, and a full camera crew, and treated the crowd to his own non-partisan political grandstanding. He accepted his award with a 25-minute speech focused primarily on the state of education in inner-city communities, including his native Harlem, New York. “As we wait for the government to call a state of emergency on the unfairness of the education system, and how it’s going to be fixed, we have to do it ourselves,” he said. “We can’t slow down. We have to lead by example. We have to show the success rate, and we have to instill the importance of education in our communities, and how hard you have to work to really be a leader.”
Since he launched the “Vote or Die” campaign in 2004, Combs has continued his staunch defense of voter registration, but urged us all to “hold our vote.” “Yeah, I said it,” he added before ceding the stage to a performance by Andra Day and later donating an additional $25,000 to the Boys & Girls Harbor programs. “We need to hold our vote. We need to make sure that we’re not standing here 8 years from now when nothing has drastically changed to deal with these issues. We give aid to other countries, but we need aid right here in Harlem, and we need it now.”