The Butler Director Lee Daniels Headlines Fisk Gala April 12



In addition to being a Nashville institution (in both senses of the word), Fisk University has several grand traditions that, like all HBCUs, enrich the city in ways many may not even consciously understand. Its President's Scholarship Gala provides an exceptional opportunity to delve deeply into issues surrounding the community on a local and international level, while at the same time helping support the ongoing education of the next generation of seekers.

It's a win-win situation under any circumstances. But considering that this year's keynote guest is producer-director Lee Daniels, the Gala April 12 at the Omni Hotel downtown is an event not to be missed.

We'll say it: Daniels is one of the great filmmakers of our time — a distinctive and uncompromising voice in an era when rough edges get sanded off for maximum marketability. His playful tweaking of genre and tone often confounds his critics, but even at its most earthy and unbound — 2012's The Paperboy, 2005's Shadowboxer — his vision remains rooted in the majesty and madness of what it means to be alive. He's the closest that cinema has come to a fearless sensual-stylist crowdpleaser since Paul Verhoeven, and his awards attention (for 2009's Precious and 2013's Lee Daniels' The Butler) represents a triumphant achievement.

Daniels will be interviewed by NBC/MSNBC host Willie Geist, with Nashville's Al-Jazeera America bureau chief Jonathan Martin and actress/director Kym Whitley acting as emcees for the evening. It also features performances from global treasures the Fisk Jubilee Singers and jazz stylist Dee Dee Bridgewater. Since some of the strongest sections of The Butler concern the Civil Rights years in Nashville (and Fisk's role in them), it's the kind of event that promises to be educational, entertaining, perhaps a tad explosive, and edifying — while supporting the next wave of minds who will help shape the world as we know it.

Press release, ticket information and more details below.

Academy Award-nominated director and producer Lee Daniels will headline the President’s Scholarship Gala on April 12. Daniels directed the 2013 film “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. He also produced “Monster’s Ball” and directed the Academy Award-winning film “Precious.”

The event will start with a “Conversation with Lee Daniels,” during which Willie Geist, co-host of NBC’s “Today” 9 a.m. hour and the co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” will interview Daniels.” Geist is a Vanderbilt University alumnus. The “Conversation” will be followed by a reception and dinner at which Daniels will be the keynote speaker.

Fisk alumna, Kym Whitley, an actress, producer, director and stand-up comedienne, will emcee the Gala along with Jonathan Martin, national correspondent who oversees the Nashville bureau of Al-Jazeera America.

Entertainment will be provided by the internationally renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers® and the celebrated jazz singer, Dee Dee Bridgewater. Bridgewater is a three-time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, as well as a Tony Award-winning stage actress and host of National Public Radio's syndicated radio show JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater. She is a United Nations Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The “Conversation with Lee Daniels” begins at 6 p.m., the reception at 7 p.m., and dinner at 8 p.m. at The Omni Hotel, 250 Fifth Ave. S. Tickets are $150 for the conversation only or for the reception and dinner only, $300 for the entire evening. Proceeds benefit the University’s General Scholarship Fund.

Tickets may be purchased online at or by phoning (615) 329-8712, (615) 329-8856, or (615) 329-8530.

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