Some 200 people left the Charles Wright Museum Saturday with warm hearts and a feeling they had all just met their new best friend. Actress Jenifer Lewis performed a one-woman show, sharing love and laughs with an intimate glimpse into her life as a Hollywood actress. With more than 300 appearances in film and television (many of them as somebody’s sassy mother), she elaborated on stories from her new book, “The Mother of Black Hollywood.”
WXYZ-TV anchor Carolyn Clifford was emcee and welcomed the crowd on behalf of Community Health Awareness Group, which hosted the event. Lewis referred to the Charles Wright auditorium as “the perfect theatrical venue” that allowed her to give a meaningful performance for the audience. She went into the crowd and interacted with everyone in a personal way. During her storytelling, she hilariously would have audience members remember key points so she could tell side stories with the expectation that they would help get her back on track.
She touched everyone’s heart. Her performance was 1 1/2 hours longer than originally planned. She shared intimate details of her youth in St. Louis, her work on Broadway, and the importance of not shaming people suffering with bi-polar disorder. She talked about her adopted daughter, Charmaine Lewis, who was in the audience. She closed the show with a special impromptu piano performance of a song she wrote in tribute to her grandmother.
The entire show was emotional and extremely funny. After the show, each guest received a copy of the book and an individual photo with Lewis. There was a cocktail reception in the rotunda and a smaller private VIP reception in her dressing room. Tickets were $60, benefiting Community Health Awareness Group. CHAG presented Lewis with a special award in appreciation for her advocacy on behalf of HIV/AIDS, mental health and the LGBTQ community.
Community Health Awareness Group is in its 31st year of service and is Michigan’s largest minority AIDS service organization. Funds will help the agency to continue its HIV prevention, care, mental health and substance abuse services targeting some of the city’s most challenged citizens.
Chuck Bennett is the creator of TheSocialMetro.com and hosts “Chuck’s World” from 4-5 p.m. Saturdays on 910AM Superstation.