Photo: Gregg Richards

Fundraising Gala Held Under the Stars of Newly Renovated Central Library in Grand Army Plaza
Hosted by Baratunde Thurston With Special Guest Wynton Marsali

Supporters of Brooklyn Public Library gathered this week in the newly-renovated Central Library to recognize leaders improving the lives of everyday New Yorkers. More than $1M was raised to support the library’s programs and collections.

The Library offers tens of thousands of free programs a year for people from all walks of life—immigrants learning a new language, students preparing for college, older adults seeking companionship, aspiring entrepreneurs launching their dreams, children discovering the world, and people of all ages exploring arts and culture. At BPL, one can enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions—the discovery of a good book—without ever having to pay a fine.

“We were thrilled to be back in person to celebrate Brooklyn Public Library’s 125th anniversary and the individuals and organizations in the borough whose talent, perseverance and commitment to justice inspire us. Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women initiative is on track to close opportunity gaps long suffered by Black women and girls in Brooklyn and across the country. And through their music and writing, Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad provide clarity, joy and hope in equal abundance. We are delighted to honor their accomplishments and to welcome our supporters back to Central Library,” said Linda Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library

Suleika Jaouad, and her husband, Jon Batiste, were honored for their contributions to the world of art, music, writing and journalism. The couple lives in Brooklyn.

Jon Batiste is a five-time Grammy winner who has played on some of the biggest stages around the world, including the Grammys and Kennedy Center Honors, and nightly with his band Stay Human, appearing on CBS’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He has also spent much of his career bringing music back to where it started —including on the steps of the Central Library in celebration of Juneteenth with Sing for Hope, and in the opening season of BPL’s Dweck Center in 2008.

Suleika Jaouad is the author of the instant New York Times bestselling memoir, Between Two Kingdoms. She wrote the Emmy Award-winning New York Times column Life, Interrupted and her reporting and essays have been featured in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Vogue and NPR, among others. A highly sought-after speaker, her mainstage TED Talk was one of the ten most popular of 2019 and has nearly five million views. She is also the creator of The Isolation Journals, a com­munity creativity project founded during the Covid-19 pandemic to help others convert isolation into artistic solitude; over 100,000 people from around the world have joined. Jaoud serves on the Library’s Arts and Letters Committee and discussed her memoir in the Library’s Dweck Center for Culture.

Batiste accepted the award on behalf of himself and Jaouad, noting that of the many recognitions they have received throughout their careers, this was one of the greatest. He added, “Libraries are an oasis in our culture and one such as the Brooklyn Public Library is leading the way.”

Internationally acclaimed musician, composer and educator Wynton Marsalis presented the honor, noting that “through the synergy of their union, they have enriched and advanced our social, cultural and civic life– here in Brooklyn, and beyond– even to some of the furthest reaches of our planet.” The long-time friends are passionate about the role arts and free expression play in a healthy democracy.

The Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women initiative was also honored. In partnership with Black-women-led organizations, financial institutions and others, Goldman Sachs has committed $10B in direct invest­ment capital and $100 million in philanthropic capital over the next decade to address the dual disproportionate gender and racial biases that Black women have faced for generations, which have only been exacerbated by the pandem­ic. The initiative, One Million Black Women, is named for and guided by the goal of impacting the lives of at least one million Black women by 2030. Launched in March 2021, the initiative has invested nearly $1 billion across the core pillars of healthcare, job creation and workforce development, education, affordable housing, digital connectivity, financial health, and access to capital. Brooklyn Public Library, in partnership with Goldman Sachs, will work to develop new programs, partnerships, and pathways to provide opportunities for Black women and girls.

“We are proud to be honored by the Brooklyn Public Library,” said Asahi Pompey, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation. “Institutions like the Brooklyn Public Library serve as critical anchors of our communities. Working together, we can realize our shared goal of ensuring opportunity is available to all.” 

Lindsay Greene, President and CEO of the Navy Yard, presented the honor to Goldman Sachs’ One Million Black Women. She previously served as Chief Strategy Officer of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and as Chief Strategy Officer for Economic Development and Housing in the New York City Mayor’s Office. She also spent six years working at Goldman Sachs, most recently in the firm’s Urban Investment Group.

Gizelle George-Joseph, Chief Operating Officer of the Goldman Sachs’ Global Investment Research division accepted the honor.

Baratunde Thurston served as host for the evening. A trustee of Brooklyn Public Library, Thurston is an Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House, and wrote The New York Times bestseller How To Be Black. He’s the creator and host of How To Citizen with Baratunde, which Apple named one of its favorite podcasts of 2020, a founding partner of the new media startup Puck, and host of the forthcoming America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston airing on PBS starting on July 5. Baratunde also serves on the board of BUILD.org 

Mayor Adams delivered additional remarks and guests were entertained by the Brooklyn Youth ChorusBrass Queens and DJ FRITZo.

About Brooklyn Public Library
Brooklyn Public Library is one of the nation’s largest library systems and among New York City’s most democratic institutions. As a leader in developing modern 21st century libraries, we provide resources to support personal advancement, foster civic literacy, and strengthen the fabric of community among the more than 2.6 million individuals who call Brooklyn home. We provide nearly 65,000 free programs a year with writers, thinkers, artists, and educators—from around the corner and around the world. And we give patrons millions of opportunities to enjoy one of life’s greatest satisfactions: the joy of a good book.