Penn Center, Inc. to Host 1862 Circle Gala

Mar 25, 2010

Phylicia Rashad

Mary Mack

The historic Penn Center, Inc. will hold the 7th annual fundraiser 1862 Circle Gala and Awards Banquet on Saturday, May 1, 2010 at The Lyceum, Tripoli Street on Parris Island, South Carolina.  The reception and silent auction will begin at 6:00 p.m., with dinner and the awards program following at 7:00 p.m.   Last year’s gala was attended by over 400 guests. The celebration marks 148 years of the historic Penn Center’s service to the community in education, preservation and in the arts.  This year’s gala theme is “Pathways to Understanding History and Culture:  Literature, Theater and the Visual Arts.”

The 2010 Gala will honor two illuminating women in the field of the arts:  Phylicia Rashad, award-winning actress, singer, producer, activist, and preservationist.  She is the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award for Best Actress for her theatrical performance in the 2004 revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” In 2009, she was awarded the NAACP Image Award for Best Actress in a comedy series; and was also nominated for two Emmy awards  and received two People’s Choice Awards. Best known for her role as Claire Huxtable in the long-running television hit, The Cosby Show, Ms. Rashad has continued to re-invent herself, most recently in her directorial debut of August Wilson’s play, Gem of the Ocean, and as a spokesperson for a women’s health and weight loss program.  An active participant in charitable and nonprofit organizations, Ms. Rashad is dedicated to the importance of fine arts in education.

Mary Inabinett-Mack is a local icon in the world of art collecting–she is the proprietor of The Red Piano Too Art Gallery on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.  Her business has launched the careers of more than twenty emerging artists and her gallery has featured folk art of hundreds of artists.  Her career in the health care industry has spanned fifty years as a registered nurse in New York and later the Deputy Executive Director of the Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services, Inc. in South Carolina. Ms. Mack also served as the first African American female Chairperson of the Penn Center Board of Trustees and has been actively involved in numerous health and community organizations. 

The 1862 Circle recognizes local and national leaders who embody the spirit of Penn Center and who serve as advocates for the enduring history and culture of the Sea Islands.

Established in 2003, the 1862 Circle has inducted previous notables, such as Congressman James Clyburn, Congressman John Lewis, Courtney Siceloff, Emory Campbell, Honorable Ernest F. Hollings, James Denmark, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe,  Jonathan Green, Juan Williams, Phillip Simmons, The Penn Club, Inc., Thomas Barnwell, and Vernon Jordan

The 1862 Circle Gala will include fine dining, a silent auction, live entertainment, and a cash bar.  A newly commissioned painting, “Love for the Arts”, by James Denmark will be unveiled, with a giclée limited edition sale.  Formal attire is preferred. Reservations are $100 per person or $800 per table. Event sponsorships are available for $2,500 to $25,000.   For reservations and corporate sponsorship packets, contact the Penn Center at (843) 838-2432 or email  Advance reservations are required by April l6th.  Payment by check, money order or credit card may be mailed to P.O. Box 126, St. Helena Island, SC 29920. All proceeds will benefit Penn Center, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 

Penn Center, Inc. is one of the oldest and most important African American cultural and educational institutions in North America.  Founded in 1862 by Northern abolitionists and missionaries as a school for emancipated Africans, Penn operated as a “model” school until 1948 when its Trustees turned over the organization’s educational functions to Beaufort County and changed its name to Penn Community Services.    Later, the Penn Center served as a retreat where much of the strategy of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s was outlined by major leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young.

Since then, Penn has remained a major educational resource for African American Sea Islanders and a national resource for historical preservation, welcoming over 30,000 visitors annually.  It provides the only year-round community-based educational programs for pre-school to high school children in the county. Its resources also support economic, community and rural development for African Americans. Penn Center provides the only tangible link with Gullah culture and the first generation of slaves freed 148 years ago through its physical facilities, austere collections and public programs.


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