The Omni-American Future Project’s Second Annual Awards Ceremony, “Straight Ahead: An Omni-American Future, Fighting Bigotry Together”

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Aryeh Tepper, Pamela Paresky, Roya Hakakian, and Greg Thomas at The Omni-American Future Project's second annual awards ceremony.

The Omni-American Future Project — an initiative committed to fighting racism and antisemitism and strengthening unity between the Black American and Jewish communities through music and the power of culture — hosted its second annual awards ceremony Straight Ahead: An Omni-American Future, Fighting Bigotry Together. Convening a host of notables, artists, influencers, executives, and tastemakers, the event was held in-person for the first time at the historic Minton’s Playhouse/The Cecil in Harlem.

Co-hosted by the Omni-American Future Project’s Co-Executive Directors Greg Thomas and Aryeh Tepper, the night kicked off with a festive reception held at Minton’s followed by dinner and the Awards Ceremony taking place in the dining room of its sister restaurant, The Cecil. During the program, both Thomas and Tepper spoke to the impetus behind starting the Omni-American Future Project with Thomas stating: “There’s a history of substantive Black-Jewish collaboration in the fight against bigotry.” He continued: “Tonight, we’re also celebrating and reimagining that history, and in so doing, designing a path forward.”

Aryeh Tepper and Greg Thomas.

In his remarks, Tepper detailed the historic importance of not only the Civil Rights Movement but also jazz music in the alliance between the Black American and Jewish American communities and how the Omni-American Future Project is working to build on that legacy:

Albert Murray, who coined the term Omni-American and whose thought animates much of this evening, reminded us that we must learn to embrace the dragon because the dragon calls forth the hero. If there’s no dragon, then there’s no hero, and no stomping the Blues. Well, the bigoted dragons have returned…Their return means that it’s our turn to stomp these Blues once again – the Blues of racism and antisemitism. The difference [this time] is that…we have a shared history of collaboration to draw upon.” He went on to call the Omni-American Future Project an opportunity to be “the cultural complement to the Civil Rights Movement.”

Greg Thomas remarks about Albert Murray.
Greg Thomas paying tribute to Reverend Calvin Butts.
Aryeh Tepper, Pamela Paresky, Roya Hakakian, and Greg Thomas.

Using jazz music as a cultural unifier and connector throughout the event, the evening also included several dazzling performances by the award-winning Israeli-Sephardi trumpeter and band leader Itamar Borochov, pianist Miki Yamanaka, bassist Rick Rosato and drummer Charles Goold.

The Itamar Borochov Quartet.
Rick Rosato.
Itamar Borochov on trumpet, with Charles Goold on the drums.

Additionally, the program featured readings, presentations and remarks by journalist, poet, and commentator Roya Hakakian; psychologist and writer Pamela Paresky, social entrepreneur and author Ian Rowe; and founder of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values David Bernstein.

Pamela Paresky presenting award for Danielle Allen.
David Bernstein.

For the Awards presentations, the Omni-American Future Project recognized two individuals who — through their work — embody the initiative’s ideals of intellectual and cultural excellence and vitality. Renowned political theorist, public intellectual, and Harvard professor and Director of the Edmond & Lily Safra Center for Ethics Danielle Allen received the Albert Murray Award for Omni-American Excellence for her crucial contributions toward strengthening the democratic character of American political and social life.

Writer, podcast host of the popular Conversations with Coleman, and jazz and hip-hop artist Coleman Hughes was presented with the Omni-American Young Leaders Award for his role as a staunch champion of free speech, free thought, and open debate.

Ian Rowe presenting award to Coleman Hughes.
Ian Rowe and Coleman Hughes.

In his acceptance speech, Hughes underscored how integral The Omni-American Future Project is in the current landscape and cited Murray as inspiration for heretics and those who champion open dialogue. “In a cultural moment in which Black and Jewish Americans are being pitted against one another, it’s nice to see an organization that partners across ethnic lines and reminds us that we have more in common than that which divides us,” he said. “…So be kinder to the heretics of our age, consider being a heretic yourself, and in doing so, we can all keep the legacy of Albert Murray alive.”

Coleman Hughes.

Other notable guests for the evening included: Khalil Ayed, Muslim American Leadership Alliance; Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, Sephardi Educational Center; David Hubbard, Deputy General Counsel, Verizon; Tracy Hyter-Suffern, Executive Director, National Jazz Museum; Ephraim Isaac, distinguished professor and renowned peace-maker; Princess Jenkins, Owner, The Brownstone; Matt Ludmer, Founder of The Aligned Center in Westchester; Jacob Mackey of Free Black Thought; author Melanie Notkin; Niki Quarmyne, Executive Director, Fintech Business Development and Partnerships, Morgan Stanley, and author and artist Clifford Thompson.

Aryeh Tepper (at podium), Ephraim Isaac, and Greg Thomas.
Rabbi Daniel Bouskila.
Clifford Thompson.

The Omni-American Future Project is a collaboration of the American Sephardi Federation (ASF), the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), and the Jazz Leadership Project (JLP). Greg Thomas of JLP and Aryeh Tepper of ASF serve as co-directors of the initiative, which emphasizes character and culture, not color. The Project’s variation on the nation’s motto, E Pluribus Unum is, “Out of many, one pursuit of civic and cultural excellence.”

For more information about The Omni-American Project, visit

Duane Hughes, Sabina Dankwa, Angel Eduardo, Desh Amila, Rashida Amila, Amiel Handelsman, and Mark Warner.
David Hubbard, Tamiko Hubbard, Neelima Veluvolu, and Srikanth Veluvolu.
Desh Amila and Rashida Amila.
Clifford Thompson, Lauren Walsh, and Mark Warner.
Jewel Kinch-Thomas, Princess Jenkins, and friend.
Katherine Vickery D’Urso, Melissa Eisenstat, and Stellario D’Urso.
Gloria Nixon-Crouch and Stephen Belber.
Niki Quarmyne and Sabina Dankwa.
Navid Khazanei and Roya Hakakian.
Jamison Reaves, Zan Reaves, Hiram Matthews, and Myron Alexander.

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