After the past couple of years of COVID lockdowns, it felt good to have a reason to get dressed up and celebrate again. And at The Root, there’s nothing we love more than celebrating Black excellence. Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater was the place to be last night as the stars came out in force for The Root 100 Gala, a celebration of the year’s most influential Black Americans.
Loni Love kept the crowd laughing, holding it down as the evening’s MC as The Root Editor-in-Chief, Vanessa K. De Luca, highlighted the inspiring stories of the evening’s honorees. This year’s event was the first that was open to the public, something De Luca says made the night even more special. “Opening up the event to the public this year really elevated the experience. The audience was so happy to be able to cheer on their faves, be exposed to new music, and mingle with one another. We love to see it!” she said.
Vice President Kamala Harris recorded a message thanking The Root for the honor and emphasizing the importance of recognizing all of those who continue to do great things for the culture. “During this season of celebration, we come together to celebrate Black excellence in all its forms, to share our pride in one another, to share our determination to build a future in which justice, opportunity, and equity are a reality for all.”
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson was on hand to receive his honor for contributions to Black music and culture, including directing the Oscar-winning documentary Summer of Soul. And rising star Chloe Bailey accepted the One to Watch Award as her solo career soars with two viral hits, “Treat Me” and “Surprise” and a 2022 MTV EMA Award.
Between the awards, guests were treated to show-stopping musical performances from gospel artist Naomi Raine, rapper (and Brown University professor) Sammus, and jazz vocalist Candice Hoyes.
Activist Waikinya Clanton was honored for her tenacious fight for social justice as Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi state office.
And in one of the evening’s most touching moments, Toyota presented a grant to The Root 100 honoree Depelsha McGruder as part of their “Need a Nudge” campaign. The grant will help McGruder continue the important work of her nonprofit Moms of Black Boys United (MOBB), which is dedicated to ensuring that Black boys and men are respected and protected.
The Root 100 event was a labor of love for the staff, who felt honored to be among some of our culture’s biggest influencers. “It was incredible to have so many people come together to talk about some of the most pressing issues facing the Black community and to revel in our communal triumphs,” said Senior Reporter, Jessica Washington.
“I have to be honest, being in the Apollo, like in the basement, and hanging out, and running around, was surreal. I took a million photos. And then me and Vanessa just sat there in her dressing room for a moment and I looked around; my eyes locked on the door which in typed letters read: Apollo: Vanessa De Luca. And we just shook our heads. Vanessa said, ‘Never in my life would I have believed it,’” said Deputy Editor Tatsha Robertson.
“Whenever Black people come together at the Apollo, it feels like you’re with family. The Root 100 brought together so many brilliant Black minds, and I truly felt like we were home,” said Candace McDuffie, Senior Writer. “From the hilarious hosting courtesy of Loni Love to powerful speeches from Chloe Bailey and Questlove, everyone in attendance felt inspired, uplifted and seen. I cannot wait until next year.”