Russell Simmons Rush Philanthopic Arts Foundation Gala Rocks the Hamptons

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Starr Jones, an honoree, arrives at the gala. All photos: Getty Images/Nick Hunt

We were thrilled to hear that the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation (RPAF) raised $1.25 million at its annual Art for Life Benefit in Bridgehampton last weekend. If you don’t know about RPAF you should—it was as founded in 1995 by three brothers: Danny Simmons, visual artist and community builder; media mogul Russell Simmons; and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons of the legendary hip-hop group Run-DMC. The group is dedicated to providing inner city children with exposure to the arts, as well as to supporting emerging artists with exhibition opportunities.

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Russell Simmons gets ready for a selfie on the Step and Repeat.

Proceeds from Art for Life benefit will go to the Foundation’s arts education and gallery programs, which have served tens of thousands of city youngsters over the past 20 years. 

The private gala, themed “Back to the Future,” honored Soledad O’Brien, the award-winning journalist; Star Jones, TV personality, lawyer and philanthropist; Frank Cooper III, CMO/CCO of BuzzFeed; James Cruz, president Bad Boy Management and Strategic Alliances; Suzanne de Passe, co-chair de Passe Jones Entertainment; Debra L. Lee, chairman and CEO, BET Networks; Alex Waislitz, founder and chairman of the Thorney Investment Group Australia and Waislitz Family Foundation; and artist Nari Ward for their support of the arts and commitment to area communities. 

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Soledad O’Brien was also honored at the gala

After dinner, six-time Grammy-nominated recording artist, producer and author Tyrese Gibson got the crowd on its feet with his chart-topping hits “Stay,” “Sweet Lady,” “How You Gonna Act Like That,” “Shame” and an impromptu song about the event. He then passed the mic to Doug E. Fresh for a medley of 1980s hip hop hits, followed by Whodini performing “Big Mouth,” “Friends,” Freaks Come Out at Night” and “One Love.” DJ M.O.S. kept the dance floor alive all night long.

Gayle King
Gayle King

Angela Simmons and JoJo Simmons joined their uncles for the evening, which meant the gala was a family celebration, too. Additional guests included Busta Rhymes, Gayle King, Katie Couric, Miri Ben-Ari, DJ Cassidy, James Lipton, Jeffrey Wright, Hill Harper, Bozoma Saint John, Michelle Collins, Bobbi MacKenzie and Jessica White.

For more information about the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation go to: