Birthday wishes are in order for civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton. The political commentator and founder of the National Action Network celebrated 65 years this week, and he did it in grand style. On Thursday hundreds gathered at the New York Public Library in Manhattan to celebrate the man affectionately known as “The Rev.”
The star-studded gala was chaired by Michelle Ebanks, CEO of Essence Communications and Tanya L. Lombard, Head of Multicultural Engagement and Strategic Alliances at AT&T.
Among the attendees were Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Spike Lee, Joy Ann Reid, Angela Rye and Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC. Tributes rang out throughout the night from friends and associates who spoke to Rev. Al’s unwavering support of the Black community and his longtime fight to achieve equity and equality for our people.
“This man commanded our respect,” Jackson said in praise of the guest of honor. “And little did we know that we would get close enough to him to actually call him a friend. And I’m really, really proud to say that Rev. Al is one of our friends,” Jackson continued on behalf of himself and his wife of nearly 40 years, LaTanya Richardson.
“My wife loves you dearly. We’re so proud to be a part of this and to actually be able to take part in most of the events that Rev. Al puts together. And we’re proud to know that he’s still fighting the good fight the way we learned to do as children. We knew how to get out in the street and get things done, how to use our voices, raise ourselves. How to ask other people to join our cause and get them to understand what we’re talking about.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed Jackson’s sentiments with celebratory words of his own, describing the Reverend as a man who brings youthful energy to the purpose-driven work he does on behalf of the people.
“This is a man who believes in a movement for change but who has built the movement to include everyone who wants to create a fairer and just society,” de Blasio remarked. “And who always helps to elevate the next generation.”
He continued, “That is a special, special skill and a special heart that does that. So Rev. you have helped so many of us to make change in this city, in this nation. We have a lot to be thankful for. I’m thankful for you. God bless you.”
The jubilant evening, which was filled with its fair share of dancing and glass clinking, further exemplified the significance of the 65-year-old’s impact. Though he’s already cemented his name in the history books, judging by his moves on the dance floor Thursday night, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.