The Black List Invitation

Black was bountiful at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. for the opening reception of “The Black List: Photographs by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.”  When I received my chic, square, oversized  black invitation with its custom stamp, I knew a hot event was on the horizon.    AT&T, sponsor of the special exhibition, spared nothing enlisting the creative talents of event designer André Wells and The Caraway Group, one of D.C.’s hot PR firms, to execute a stellar evening.   Here’s the rundown.

5:45 p.m…..doors opened…friendly greeters dressed in black met arriving guests, who heeded the invitation call to “wear something black,” and checked them in at black draped tables decorated with exotic flowered centerpieces…yes, the color of the night was black to amplify The Black List exhibit featuring large-format fine-art photographic portraits by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders of 50 present-day extraordinary African-Americans from the arts, politics and beyond.

The Black List: Toni Morrison

The Black List: Melvin Van Peebles

The Black List: (l to r) Producer Tommy Walker, photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, fashion designer Patrick Robinson

6:00 p.m….evening started upstairs with the special guests and media given an hour of private time to view the exhibit, meet and interview the photographer as well as many of the people celebrated in the portraits..The Caraway Group worked out a few extra perks for the press including the Smithsonian’s approval to use flash to take pictures, always a major no-no in the gallery…I’m wasn’t sure who was more excited about taking photos of the real people next to their iconic images—the press or the people…Oscar-winner Lou Gossett, Jr. posed next to his bigger than life portrait…across the room was actor Hill Harper taking pictures with friends with his portrait as the backdrop…hot author Zane took dozens of snapshots surrounded by her excited children next to her image…at every turn I saw the poser and the portrait side-by-side perhaps thinking “is that really me.”

The Black List: Lou Gossett Jr.

The Black List: Author Zane with children

The Black List: Actor/author Hill Harper and friends

7:00 p.m…all guests allowed in…black-dressed power brokers, entertainers, fashionistas, elected officials and socialites from across the country filled the gallery…they were overwhelmed, proud and thrilled about what and who they saw.

The Black List: Debra Lee, BET, Chair and CEO

The Black List: National Urban League President/former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial

The Black List: Environmental activist, Majora Carter

8:00 p.m…everyone directed downstairs to the reception….wow, wow, wow amazed me…the National Gallery’s atrium was transformed from ho-hum to hip with creative lighting and AT&T’s logo stamped on the walls…I entered the atrium greeted by a line of black-suited waiters holding black trays with “The Noir” signs and offering glasses of champaign, sparkling water, and wine…a long bar lined one side of the space where “The Noir,” a vodka mixed drink, was served…eating stations filled with various foods and desserts were sprinkled throughout…high tables and chairs intermixed with cozy cushioned ottomans supplied comfort and extended intimate conversations…no detail was overlooked…even the hand towels in the bathroom were inscribed….naturally, entertainment was by the electric violin sounds of a duo called the Black Violinists.

Greeter Waiter

The Noir Ingredients

White-cushioned seating


Hand Towel

8:30 p.m…against a backdrop of the 50 portraits, a brief program included the mayor of D.C. presenting a proclamation declaring it “The Black List Exhibition Day”…a few remarks from AT&T, Congressman James Clyburn, a tribute to Black List participants by actor Forest Whitaker, and thanks from photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders…all nice and short.

Actor Forest Whitaker

D.C. Mayor's Proclamation

9:00 p.m….back to eating and drinking…and when guests left, each received a black shopping bag with a gift—The Black List 110-page book.

AT&T combined art, awareness and an awesome evening to deliver an amazing A-list event!

Soup Station

Southern Food Menu

Desserts at Black List Reception

The Black List: Chris Rock