Solange Knowles receiving first-ever Lena Horne

Solange Knowles for Surfacemag

If you don’t know who Lena Horne is, that’s a shame, but here’s some education: Lena Horne was an African American singer who broke boundaries and opened doors for black entertainers. Some of her most famous songs “Stormy Weather” and “Cabin In The Sky”; she had some movie roles, and was known for her work as a civil rights activist. She refused to perform for segregated troops during World War II when she noticed the Black soldiers were made to sit behind German prisoners of war.

Its fitting that an award recognizing social awareness has been named in her honor, the Lena Horne Prize for Artists Creating Social Impact, the first recipient of which will be Solange Knowles.

Solange, who viewed Horne as a role model, had some heartfelt words the prize she’d be awarded named in her honor, “I will never forget being a young girl and the impact of hearing the great Lena Horne so radiantly and powerfully singing the words ‘believe in yourself’ from that remarkable moment in The Wiz . I have carried it with me closely my entire life. At the age of 12, I played this very role at the Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Texas and it was then I learned about Lena’s dedicated activism and fearless integrity as a woman and groundbreaking artist.”

Knowles was chosen by esteemed board members, including Billy Porter and Harry Belefonte, because she chooses to use her voice and social platforms to speak out against social injustices. In addition to the honor, Knowles will also receive $100,000 in prize money, which will be donated to a nonprofit organization in Houston, Project Row Houses.

Knowles is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and been outspoken about the indiscriminate killing of black people over the last few years.

Horne passed away in 2010 at the age of 92.

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