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As the Apollo Theater prepares for its 90th Anniversary Spring Benefit, CEO Michelle Ebanks looks toward the next 90 years

Apollo Theater President Michelle Ebanks shares vision for the future
Apollo Theater President Michelle Ebanks shares vision for the future 02:12

NEW YORK - As Harlem's historic Apollo Theater prepares for its 90th Anniversary Spring Benefit, CEO and President Michelle Ebanks is sharing her vision for the future.

It was one year ago this week that the former Essence Magazine leader was appointed to her position.

Celebrating the Apollo's Victoria Theater expansion

Ebanks' first major milestone marked the expansion into two new stages at the historic Victoria Theater a few doors down.

"You celebrate the past nine decades, but you're swept away in what is a vision for bold, bright next 90 years," Ebanks said.

The Jonelle Procope Theater inside the Victoria is named for Ebanks' predecessor, who led the Apollo for 20 years before passing the baton to Ebanks last June.

"The impact that she had here was extraordinary," Ebanks said of Procope, "so I stepped in with gratitude and an open mind and it just took me away."

"You know that you are in a space that greatness has been on these stages," Ebanks continued. "You feel it and the audiences respond to it, they come alive... It's quite, quite magical."

In the first few months, the Victoria stages have hosted dancers, DJs and poets, movie screenings and more, offering a unique platform for the development of creatives through funding, outreach and tech support.

"It's a huge source of pride and a promise," said Ebanks, "that we all keep up here, to keep Harlem alive."

What lies ahead for the Apollo Theater

The main stage will come alive Tuesday at the annual Spring Benefit, the nonprofit's largest fundraiser of the year, honoring Usher, as well as Babyface, who will also be inducted into the Apollo Walk of Fame on Monday.

"It really does bring attention and definition to the mission," said Ebanks.

Next on Ebanks's agenda is the Apollo's complete renovation, further advancing a Renaissance in revival.

The celebration has already begun. This week, Babyface joined Ebanks to light the Empire State Building red, in honor of the Apollo.

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