Harlem's iconic Apollo Theater in New York has recently announced the appointment of its new CEO and president. Michelle Ebanks, the President and CEO of Essence Corporation, has been chosen to lead the largest African-American performing arts organization in the country. Previously, she had successfully led the largest media company focused on African-American women.
The Apollo's long-serving leader, Jonelle Procope, will be stepping down from her position after a tenure of 20 years. Procope is credited with revitalizing the theater when it was in a state of disrepair. Reflecting on her accomplishments, Procope expressed pride in what has been achieved so far and acknowledged the unexpected opportunities that arose during her career.
Procope expressed confidence in her successor, Michelle Ebanks, and believes that the shared sense of purpose between them will ensure a smooth transition. She is excited to see what Ebanks will accomplish in her new role. Ebanks, in her statement, expressed enthusiasm about joining the Apollo at a crucial point in its trajectory. She recognized the profound influence the theater has on Black culture, American culture, and its expanding impact worldwide.
Procope, looking back on her tenure, expressed satisfaction and emphasized the excellent foundation that has been established at the Apollo. She mentioned securing $80 million for renovations and expansion to the neighboring Victoria Theater on 125th Street. While the construction takes place over the next few years, the Apollo will temporarily close, and programming will be hosted at the Victoria Theater. Procope assured that the unique character of the Apollo will be preserved throughout the upgrades.
Procope reminisced about her cherished memories at the theater, including the privilege of listening to rehearsals by renowned artists like Ray Charles and Sting. With the offices relocating to the Victoria, the Apollo's lobby space will double, accommodating a café and providing a gathering place for visitors, whether or not they are attending a show.
The strategic plan for the Apollo will mark the beginning of a new era for this prominent stage in Harlem. The theater's upcoming Spring Benefit, scheduled for June 12, will pay tribute to Tina Turner while honoring notable figures such as Sean Diddy Combs, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Warby Parker.