Danny Simmons, Jr. to Be Honored with First Ever AWAACC Arts Advocacy Award for His Outstanding Work in Poetry Community

PITTSBURGH, PA, December 16, 2022 /24-7PressRelease/ — Poetry Unplugged returns to the main stage of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAAC), 980 Liberty Avenue in Pittsburgh, on Friday, January 20, 2023, 8:00 pm, with Shock Value!, a night featuring a daring and diverse group of critically-acclaimed spoken word artists including Danny Simmons, Jr. with bassist and Pittsburgh native Dwayne Dolphin, Malcolm Jamal Warner, poets Tira Yasmine and Taalam Acey and poet/DJ Rich Medina.

This installment of the AWAAC series, now in its 7th year, honors the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15). The event is hosted and curated by Orlando Watson, writer, spoken word poet, voiceover talent, recording artist and the AWAACC’s new Senior Director of Programming. Watson has worked with Terence Blanchard, Lalah Hathaway, Braxton Cook and released his latest CD, Corner Stories, in 2021.

Danny Simmons, Jr., the oldest brother of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons of Run-DMC, is a poet, author, advocate, philanthropist, visual artist and art curator. Simmons co-conceived and co-produced the influential HBO show, Def Poetry Jam, and received a Tony Award for the Broadway adaptation of the show. Simmons’ legacy will forever live alongside the landmark organization Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, co-founded with his brothers. Through Rush Arts, Simmons created a movement and platform that has supported thousands of disinvested inner-city youth via the arts as well as supported the careers of countless underrepresented artists of color over its 25+-year history. He has continued his impactful work at Rush Arts Philadelphia and RAP Gallery II, founded in 2016 and 2019, respectively. In 2019, Simmons released the album of poetry and music, The Brown Beatnik Tomes (Live at BRIC House) with bass legend Ron Carter. Pittsburgh native Dwayne Dolphin, who has worked and recorded with Geri Allen, Fred Wesley and Nancy Wilson, joins Simmons onstage at AWAACC. Danny Simmons, Jr. will be honored with the first ever AWAACC Arts Advocacy Award for his work as a staple in the poetry community, birthing the careers of so many orators from the 1990s to the present.

Known primarily for his role as Theo Huxtable in the iconic Cosby Show of the 1980s and 1990s, which garnered him a 1986 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series, Malcolm Jamal Warner has enjoyed a thriving, four-decade career as an award-winning actor, director, spoken word poet and musician. His acting credits consists of work in 15 films including Shot, Fool’s Gold and Drop Zone as well as over 50 TV shows including The Resident, The Tuskegee Airmen, American Crime Story and American Horror Story: Freak Show. A bassist, Warner’s latest recording, Hiding in Plain View, was just nominated for a Grammy award for Best Spoken Word Poetry Album, and he won a Grammy in 2015 for Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Jesus Children” with the Robert Glasper Experiment with Lalah Hathaway.

Cleveland-born, Las Vegas-based Tira Yasmine is an Emmy-nominated poet, author, entrepreneur, public orator and teaching artist. While small in stature, her voice and stories of transforming her pain into creative power are life changing. She’s performed for the Ambassador of Botswana and shared the stage with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC and Def Jams poets Abyss Graham, Jon Goode, Georgia Me, Tommy Bottoms and Sunny Patterson. She has taught and performed in prison systems, libraries and school districts and says her passion “is embedded deeply within her purpose to inspire others to connect with themselves deeply.”

Newark, New Jersey-born Taalam Acey is a proud inheritor of that city’s spirit of rebirth and revolution. He’s been featured on TV One, the Documentary Channel, and The 5ive. He’s performed at the Essence Festival in New Orleans and his poetry has appeared in Essence magazine. Acey was a curator of the 2012 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival (the largest poetry gathering in North America) and was the initial presenter for the inaugural Baltimore TEDx Talk. He also served as guest curator of the 2011 Sacred Circle Cafe at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Acey has recorded 17 CDs and authored several books including Excellent Exposure.

For the past three decades, Philadelphia DJ Rich Medina has been a poet and record producer, and has reigned supreme on the wheels of steel, spinning everything from hip-hop, house and Afrobeat, to funk and soul. He’s worked with Lauryn Hill, De La Soul, Erykah Badu, Seun Kuti, Tony Allen, Nathan Haines, Roy Ayers, Gil Scott-Heron, The Roots, Jill Scott, Antibalas, Zap Mama, and Femi Kuti. Medina has produced a number of mixtapes, and he’s released two CD’s: Connecting the Dots, and his new release, Philadelphia. Medina was awarded a $75,000 Pew Fellowship in 2021 to amplify Black culture and musical traditions.

The evening’s opening acts include: Just C.O.S. (Just a Collection of Seeds), a Chicago-born, Cleveland-based, poet, and author of the book Evolving When Love Has No Reality, and Bronx native Barbara Trawick (AKA Queen Bee), whose work confronts the trauma of abuse and the ability to heal from it. She’s currently working on her autobiography and a book of poetry.

Medina will host an after party from 10:30 pm to 1:00 am at AWAACC. Food for purchase and cash bar will be available. Note: This event includes adult language and themes. Audience discretion is advised.

Ticket Prices are $48.00 and are available at www.awaacc.org or (412) 456-6666.

About August Wilson African American Cultural Center
The August Wilson African American Cultural Center is a non-profit cultural organization located in Pittsburgh’s cultural district that generates artistic, educational, and community initiatives that advance the legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. One of the largest cultural centers in the country focused exclusively on the African American experience and the celebration of Black culture and the African diaspora, the non-profit organization welcomes more than 119,000 visitors locally and nationally. Through year-round programming across multiple genres, such as the annual Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, Black Bottom Film Festival, AWCommunity Days, TRUTHSayers speaker series, and rotating art exhibits in its galleries, the Center provides a platform for established and emerging artists of color whose work reflects the universal issues of identity that Wilson tackled, and which still resonate today.

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