Salute Swag

Usually the swag snap is reserved for celebrities who stop through STL. But the more than 1300 local stars who made their way to the St. Louis American Foundation’s 31st Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship and Awards Gala and partied all night long are more than worthy of this week’s distinction.

Can we please take a second, okay, a minute – okay, maybe a few minutes, to talk about the abundant life that was gifted to all those who attended the St. Louis American Foundation’s 31st Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship and Awards Gala Saturday night at the soon-to-be-made over America’s Center? At this point, we are batting 1,000. Isn’t that the perfect score for baseball? Anyway, let’s get into the $1 million dollars in scholarships that were awarded to worthy students. Yes, y’all, seven figures! Shout out to all the students who worked hard to have those GPAs looking like the gas prices a few years back that nearly forced me on somebody’s MetroBus! And I also want to serve up a slow clap to all eight of the wonderful educators who were recognized by the foundation for making an educational environment that breeds student scholars. Was it me, or did SEMO Counselor of the Year Kurly Taylor and PNC Early Educator Award recipient Andrea Scott look like scholarship recipients instead of educators? Anyway, shout out to all the awardees, especially Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Johnetta Randolph Haley and Stellar Performer Michael P. McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.

The Salute get-down. After the formal gala concluded, folks were on the dancefloor living their best lives all night long thanks to DJ Kut, who was absolutely murdering the tables and helped make the afterparty for 2018 absolutely legendary. I feel like this was the best one we’ve had in years! There wasn’t enough room on the dancefloor to hold all the folks, and because Kut was killing it with his mix of songs the people were dancing in the lounge part of the after party space. Meanwhile on the other side of America’s Center, Denise Thimes tore up her Jazz Cabaret. Seriously, it was the best I’ve seen her. Girl, thanks for taking my suggestion and working the late, great Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin classic “Dr. Feelgood” into your set. You probably already had it in there, but you know I’m quick to take the credit! Hey, at least I’m honest. And regardless of whose idea it was, you put your ankle into that song!

Salute slayage. Dr. Haley had the AKAs dressed in all black, like the Omen while she was giving solid-gold realness and ageless glamour at 95 years of age. Based on how they got creative with blending pink and green with their black attire, I’m giving the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha a collective best-dressed award. It wasn’t an easy win, because Darlynn Bosley gave me my whole entire life with her Wakanda-esque off-the-shoulder print gown. And Jami Ballentine Dolby’s glorious magenta gown deserves a nod. Aside from usual fly male suspects, like Darius Chapman and The American’s own Melvin Moore, the guys didn’t bring the thunder for me this year, which was rare. Michael Whitley’s red velvet cake jacket would have been extra on anyone else, but it worked for him. Now I’ve kept it cute and positive, but I do have a note for the few men who were old enough to know better and wealthy enough to do better  than to come to our black tie event wearing a banquet suit. You got a pass for 2018. But if you are a repeat offender for year 32, you will be called out by name in my annual Salute Partyline rewind. So be sure to come through with Black James Bond realness so I can shout you out in the positive bunch instead for being so fresh and so clean.

Sophisticated cigar social. You know it’s a poppin’ party if I am willing to brave a quietly severe allergy to come kick it. But I had to be in the place for the Midwest Cigar Social fall finale at the Budweiser Brew House in Ballpark Village. If there was still a hint of Weezy Jefferson in my voice at Salute, Larry Blue and his crew are to blame, because of that cigar smoke! I must say that it was worth the hacking and brief case of follow-up hives that may have just been in my head. It was one of the best grown folks chill sessions I’ve hit up in a minute! Since it was a cigar set, I just knew my boy Mr. Boss Livin’ was going to be in the building – and I was absolutely right. There he was with his display set up as soon as I stepped off the elevator. He wasn’t alone. I didn’t know there were so many cigar vendors – and smokers. I hadn’t been to  cigar party since the Pi in Central West End was known as Posh. Remember that? Anyway, Blue and his crew of fellow Nupes pulled off a chill vibe with top-shelf guests. I will get in trouble for leaving folks out if I start to name them all, so I won’t bother. Just know that if you had the thought “I wonder if so-and-so stopped through,” the answer was more than likely a “Girl, yeah!”

Return of the Architect House Party. I danced out of Salute just in time to catch the triumphant return of Anthony Robinson’s storied house party. Listen, his house is so bomb – even for an architect. It’s even more fly than I remember. So, you just gonna have a whole convertible house, huh Anthony? … And for some reason, people feel instantly comfortable up in there – so much so that they dance like nobody is watching and drink like they all have designated drivers. It was so much fun to be in the mix. Shadzilla and DJ Reminisce where on-task as far as hyping the crowd. And no pressure Anthony, but you might have to buy the house next door and expand based on the welcome back crowd that had the house busting at the seams with the old regulars and some fresh faces in high places. One in particular didn’t want to be mentioned because of his line of work, but I have to at least shout him out as my broadcast journalist bae.

R&B at BB’s. Believe it or not, I still had time after I turned up with Anthony Robinson to hit up BB’s for the 13th Annual Funkfest. By the time I got there, most of the crowd had hit it – which is to be expected when the clock strikes 2 a.m. I had already turned into a pumpkin. But I jammed in my pajamas to that glorious band that was a hybrid of The Usual Suspects and The Love Jones Band. And I got a double-dose of funky soul by way of Justin Hoskin and The Movie. Their Earth, Wind and Fire tribute show was funky sho’ nuff! Excuse the tired slang, I was trying to be nostalgic like the music. Unlike my lingo, Justin and the crew, which included Katrina Reese, Kiwanee and Tish Haynes-Keys on background vocals – they tore the roof off the sucka with the sounds. And had the nerve to be extra cute in their matching dashikis.

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