More than 300 members of New York City's philanthropic, business, civic and theater communities gathered tonight to honor Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker and Broadway Producer Eric Krebs at the Fortune Society's Annual Awards and Benefit Gala held at the Laura Pels Theater. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee and New York State Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright served as the evening's honorary Co-Chairs. The Fortune Society is one of the nation's most respected nonprofit organizations offering services to formerly incarcerated men and women.
Proceeds from the gala will support Fortune's wide range of services that help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully re-enter their communities. Programs include supportive housing, employment services, career development, job retention, substance abuse treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, education, family services, and drop-in services as well as ongoing access to aftercare.
In presenting Mayor Booker with Fortune's David Rothenberg Achievement Award and Mr. Krebs with the Corporate Leaders for Change Award, JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society said, "Mayor Booker's supportive programs for formerly incarcerated men and women serve as a critical component of his vision of urban transformation for Newark. As the producer of The Castle, Mr. Krebs continues to spread the word about Fortune's long history of advocacy and reentry services to community members, students, parole and probation officials, clergy, legislators, and other critical stakeholders. We need more leaders like these two men both of whom work proactively to help formerly incarcerated men and women re-enter their communities as positive, contributing, hard-working citizens. I thank them for their hard work and I am honored to present them with these awards."
Mayor Booker has served the City of Newark since July 2006, and was reelected in May 2010 to a second term. Under his leadership, the City of Newark (in collaboration with numerous other agencies throughout the city) created The Newark Comprehensive Center for Fathers. This program provides fathers-including those who are formerly incarcerated-with assistance in gaining employment, developing parenting skills, and addressing other critical areas of need to support active and responsible fatherhood. Mayor Booker and his administration have also created many other programs that empower formerly incarcerated individuals, including: ReLeSe, New Jersey's first legal service program; Opportunity Reconnect, a comprehensive employment and empowerment program; and additional services.
In 2007, Krebs and producer Chase Mishkin attended a viewing of The Castle, a play conceived and directed by Fortune founder David Rothenberg highlighting true-life stories of incarceration and life beyond prison walls. The four cast members-Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Kenneth Harrigan, Angel Ramos, Casimiro Torres-shared their transformative and inspiring stories of imprisonment, release, and reentry into society. Shortly after attending the performance, Krebs, Mishkin and Rothenberg decided to take the show Off-Broadway. The production met with critical acclaim at Manhattan's New World Stages, where it played for 13 months, and it still tours across the Tri-State Area in prisons, juvenile detention centers, on college campuses, in churches and in Albany for New York State legislators.
At the gala, guests enjoyed a cocktail hour, awards presentation and screening of Bring Your 'A' Game, a 22-minute documentary that focuses on the relationship between high school drop-out rates, low educational expectations and the growing prison population.
Photo credit: John Dalton/Fortune Society