Charter Oak Cultural Center Celebrates At 13th Annual Gala

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chartero2The Charter Oak Cultural Center was honoring three people, Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose, State Sen. Beth Bye and Jewish Community Foundation president/CEO Michael Johnston at its 13th Annual Visions Awards Gala at the Hartford Marriott Downtown Monday night.

But winning some serious praise was Charter Oak executive director Rabbi Donna Berman, courtesy of U.S. Congressman John Larson.

“She is a woman men can’t say no to,” grinned Larson about making time to attend the gala honoring the three “luminaries” of the community. “I can’t say enough good things about her and what she has done for this organization,” said Larson. “She’s great.”

Larson is also apparently a guy no one can say “no” too. He’s bringing his own star power to hischartero1 nominating convention on Wednesday at Goodwin College.

“My old friend Sen. Chris Dodd is coming,” said Larson, referring to Connecticut’s longtime former senator who left politics to head up the Motion Picture Association of America. Dodd is being billed as the keynote speaker and the guy who will nominate Democratic incumbent Larson to a ninth term as U.S. representative from the First Congressional District.

And while politics are on a lot of minds this week as nominating conventions get underway, the gala was about the center and its efforts to provide arts and education to all youths and families, without regard to income.

“There was no performing arts program when I was there,” said Rose, a Bloomfield native whose resume includes her current role on Broadway in “Raisin in the Sun” with Denzel Washington, “Princess Tiana” in Disney’s “the Princess and the Frog” and her Tony Award winning role in “Caroline or Change.”

“Charter Oak offers a chance to perform and learn without the family having to sublet their apartment or something,” said Rose, whose new film, “Half of the Yellow Sun” with Thandie Newton, John Boyega and  Chiwetel Ejiofor, hits movie theaters on May 16. “I’m happy to be home,” said Rose as she mingled with guests. “And it’s wonderful to support this organization.”

For more pictures go here.

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