This year’s Oscars secured plenty of odes to stories fueled by unique perspectives. From The Shape Of Water (by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro) being the first sci-fi-esque film to win best picture and Get Out mastermind Jordan Peele taking home the golden trophy for best original screenplay, the ceremony showed just how important narratives outside our own can impact the culture.
The same goes for the fourth annual City Gala, which also took place on the evening of the Oscars (Mar. 4). The annual event, which made its debut in 2015, is dedicated to building community through activities and events focusing on humanitarianism and philanthropy. Founded by Ryan Long, an African-American Social Entrepreneur, the City Gala is more than an award-charity hybrid.
Long’s vision of celebrity and charity wasn’t always in the stars. For Medium, Cheryl Snapp Conner shared the social entrepreneur’s journey, as well as his personal hardships. After escaping childhood abuse, he went on find refuge and inspiration in his grandfather, who helped built his work ethic. What soon followed was a career in managing nightclubs and music showcases which helped him understand financial wins and lows.
While his career found a steady groove, his personal life came crashing down once his grandfather was diagnosed with dementia. Long would move in his grandmother’s house after his grandfather ended his own life. In that time, self-care and in-depth research encouraged him to find a new passion– ”the concept of contributing and giving.”
What came out of it was the City Gala, which combines influencers with talented startup, non-profits to help garner awareness and sponsorship. It’s early ceremonies (2015-2016) honored legends like Quincy Jones and Buzz Aldrin with keynote speakers like Halle Berry, Anthony Mackie and Sean Combs.
It later extended into a three-day experience with the City Summit, fashion show and more. The day-long summit program highlights non-profit organizations and the work that they do to improve the social welfare of others.
This year’s City Summit special guest speaker was Ashton Kutcher. Aside from his acting reel, Kutcher has built a solid platform for his advocacy against and dedication towards building technology that ends child sexual abuse through his non-profit organization, THORN.
While the event inspires the heart and mind, it also playfully boosts the ego with the popular Celebrity Poker Tournament.
Attendees included John Salley, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Lewis, Amina Buddafly and Black Lighting star Skye P. Marshall.
Matthew McConaughey received the Inspiration Honoree award for his philanthropic contributions with “just keep livin”, a non-profit organization founded with wife Camila Alvez. The organization works with high school students, providing resources for healthier and more active lives.
In his speech to attendees, the Oscar-winner touched on greatness and potential of youth no matter what origin. “You get them while they still have the incentive to change,” he said. “There’s a chance to redirect their lives in a positive way.” As he continued to breathe inspiration to listeners, he spoke about the reciprocal cycle of gratitude.
“Gratitude is the icing on the cake in my mind,” McConaughey added. “The more you’re thankful for, the more you’re going to create in your life to be thankful for.”
Seems like Long’s vision to inspire is working out after all. The gala successfully backs nine non-profit organizations including Bright Futures Foundation, Fulfilled Families, Firelife Foundation, Project NOW, Already Always Amazing, Conscious Capitalism, Child Liberation Foundation, Feed A Billion and My Life My Power.
Find out more about City Gala here.