The theme of last night’s 15th WhyHunger Chapin Awards, presented by the WhyHunger charity co-founded by the late Harry Chapin and held at Times Square’s Hard Rock Cafe New York, was “Hope to End Hunger.”
Co-founder and executive director Bill Ayres tied in the theme with late Irish poet and Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney in quoting from his play The Cure At Troy: "Once in a lifetime/The longed-for tidal wave/Of justice can rise up/And hope and history rhyme./So hope for a great sea-change/On the far side of revenge./Believe that further shore/Is reachable from here."
Indeed, Ayres sensed the “beginning of a sea-change to fight against economic and racial injustice”—of which hunger is “at the center.”
He pointed out how groups like EcoStation:NY, a community food and sustainable urban agriculture organization that constructed an on-site farm at the front of the stage supplying herbs, vegetables and flowers found at its Bushwick Campus Farm, are springing up all over the country and “giving us hope--not just feeding our people but transforming our society.”
The WhyHunger Chapin Award was presented to Jeffrey Gural, chairman of New York real estate firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, while The Fab Faux received the ASCAP Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award. In presenting the ASCAP award, the performing rights organization’s vice chairman (and Songwriters Hall of Fame chairman) Jimmy Webb noted that the celebrated Beatles tribute group was more than that, as they’ve performed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band live in concert, which The Beatles themselves never did.
Prior to the presentation, the Faux’s Will Lee noted that that the award was a “great honor” for the band, and on a personal level, “allows me to think harder” about WhyHunger’s 39-year-old mission of ending hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions that inspire self-reliance and community empowerment.
Accepting the award, Lee said: “Long live Harry Chapin’s ideals for this wonderful cause.” He, Jack Petruzzelli and Frank Agnello then performed a representative cross-section of Beatles classics, their fellow Faux-mates Jimmy Vivino and Rich Pagano being absent.
Prior to the awards presentation, Native-American singer-songwriter and WhyHunger supporter Martha Redbone delivered a fine set of her Appalachian folk and Piedmont blues-inspired music. Also performing were Canadian rock band Blurred Vision and the Pan City Steel Drum Ensemble.
Keeping with tradition, the event ended with host Tom Chapin—Harry’s brother—leading his band and Harry’s daughter Jen Chapin in Tom’s “If Only,” which encourages food sharing, and his brother’s anthem “Circle.”
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