If you had a party at your house, how much money do you think you could raise? Maybe a few hundred dollars? Well, if you’re Pauletta and Denzel Washington, you can do better than that. The couple held an event at their Los Angeles home and raised over $17 million for the Smithsonian African-American Museum, scheduled to open in Washington, D.C. this fall.
The Saturday night event raised more than $17 million and included the announcement of a hefty pledge of $10 million dollars from television titan Shonda Rhimes, who could not attend the fundraiser.
“There is such a historical significance to this project,’’ said Denzel Washington, who is currently directing Viola Davis in the film adaption of August Wilson’s play ‘Fences.’ “It means so much for our community, our country and to future generations.’’
The lavish evening welcomed big names like Quincy Jones, Magic Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson and featured a performance by R&B singer Goapele Mohlabane who serenaded guests throughout the night. Dinner for the evening included braised short ribs, sea bass and cauliflower steaks.
Pauletta Washington, a noted Broadway performer and accomplished pianist opened the evening with a vocal invocation of the Lord’s Prayer near the home’s Olympian sized pool.
“In this climate where so much money is being raised for the Presidency and The White House, it is incredible to have the support we received,’’ said Pauletta Washington. “It’s good knowing that even with so much going on, people are committed to making sure that this museum is successful.’’
Washington recounted a family trip to Israel with Denzel and their four children a few years ago where they visited a Holocaust museum; she noted the chilling impact the experience had on the entire Washington family.
“There was one room in the Holocaust museum that featured the clothes, shoes and other items of the children murdered there and it was very disturbing,’’ she recalled. “I asked my kids about it after we left and I could tell it haunted them too. But it also made them think about their own history and they asked me where was there a place that told our (African-American) story. That hit me because I didn’t know at the time this museum was in the making.’’
Washington added that she learned of plans for the National African-American Museum months later and knew that she and Denzel would need to be involved.
Notable names who have contributed over a $1 million dollars to the project include George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson and Oprah Winfrey, who as the largest individual donor to date has donated more than $21 million dollars to the site that will feature Harriett Tubman’s hymnal, Nat Turner’s bible, Emmett Till’s original coffin as well as Louis Armstrong’s trumpet. The museum will feature a 355 seat theatre named after Winfrey, their largest contributor to date. Shonda Rhimes will also have a gallery in her name.
(Photo: PR Photos)