William Thompson, Sr. and former NAACP President Bruce Gordon were also honored. Grammy-award winning R&B singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele gave a special performance at the event emceed by CBS Anchorman Maurice DuBois at the event held at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle.
“As the nation’s first community development corporation, founded nearly 50 years ago by senators Robert Kennedy and Jacob Javits, Restoration has been working to ensure that residents of all incomes receive the economic opportunities they deserve and enjoy the benefits of healthy and prosperous communities,” said Colvin Grannum, president and CEO of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.
“We are extremely proud to honor Rosie Perez, Judge Thompson and Bruce Gordon tonight,” he added. “They are giants and pioneers in their respective fields.”
Perez said that while she appreciated the honor, she thought it was “weird” to be given an award for service.
“You’re not supposed to receive an award for giving back,” she said before receiving her award from Spike Lee. “That said, what I really love about Bed-Stuy [Restoration] is, when I wrote my book, they were the first to call. They give back to the community and service the community, and that’s why I am glad to be a part.”
Organizations like the Bed-Stuy Restoration hold a special place in Perez’s heart, as she benefited from community programming from a similar organization as a child.
“When I was a young girl, no one believed in me or gave me a chance to accomplish anything,” she said. “It was a local organization like the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation that changed everything for me and provided me with opportunities I never thought I would have.”
Discovered by Spike Lee in a dance club, Perez’s career was jumpstarted by her role in Do The Right Thing 25 years ago. Since then, she has starred in other major motion pictures including White Men Can’t Jump and Pineapple Express.
Bed-Stuy Restoration was founded in 1967. The organization’s first president, Franklin A. Thomas, later went on to become president of the Ford Foundation, one of the original funders of the venture.
In 1972, Restoration acquired an abandoned, 300,000-square-foot milk factory that it calls home to this day. The space is used to provide housing support, to promote economic development, and to celebrate local arts and culture.