Dionne Warwick to Deliver Keynote at King Celebration
-- Will Sing With Granddaughter, Hommocks 6th Grader, Cheyenne Elliott
by Judy Silberstein
(December 15, 2005) When the Larchmont-Mamaroneck Human Rights Commission hands out its annual Martin Luther King Jr. honors this year on Wednesday, January 11, the keynote speaker will be a singer, specifically Dionne Warwick, whose award-filled career spans more than forty years. Famous for “Do You Know The Way to San Jose?” (Grammy Award #1 in 1968) and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” (Grammy Award #2 in 1970), she is also known for raising millions of dollars to battle AIDS through sales of “That’s What Friends Are For,” another Grammy-winner. Through the years she’s broken the color and gender barrier in the entertainment industry and also served as an ambassador for the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.
Hommocks 6th grader Cheyenne Elliott sings with her grandmother, Dionne Warwick at a NYC concert in 2005. Photo by Lisa Gressett, Cheyenne's mother.
The local honoree has yet to be selected, according to Robin Nichinsky, head of the Human Rights Commission, who is organizing the event this year. But the nominating process has ended, and the commission is likely to announce its choice(s) by next week. Recent honorees, selected because the exemplify the principles and dedication associated with Dr. King, have included Gerhard Spies in 2005, and the Understanding Handicaps Program, Monica Trujillo and Joan Bailey in 2004.
So what brings Ms. Warwick, an international celebrity, to a local celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.? “I feel it’s an honor,” commented Ms. Warwick in an email response to the question. “Dr. King was very dear to me.” An event continuing to uplift “this great man is motivation enough for me,” she wrote. And then she admitted to an even more personal connection – that of her granddaughter, Cheyenne Elliott, a sixth grader at the Hommocks, who will also attend the event to honor Dr. King and to sing with her famous grandmother. “Singing with Cheyenne is an absolute joy,” wrote Ms. Warwick.
Ms. Warwick will deliver the keynote address in a program entitled “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: Are We Keeping his Message Alive?" She will also sing at least one song with Cheyenne, accompanied by the Hommocks Faculty Quartet. The program will also include the Mamaroneck High School Multicultural Club and a group from Rye Neck High School.
“I think it’s a great honor to be able to sing at this show,” said Cheyenne Elliott, contacted by phone. “I’m bi-racial – half black and half white – so it’s a big part of my life,” she added. Singing with her grandma is also a big honor, but it’s one she’s experienced before. The eleven-year-old has lived in Larchmont her whole life, attending first Central School and now the Hommocks, but for the past two years she’s spent summers touring the world with her grandmother and other singing stars such as her cousin, Whitney Houston.
“Cheyenne is very, very talented,” said Ms. Nichinsky. “It’s definitely a ‘genetic thing’ – she’s got the voice.”
Cheyenne gives a lot of credit to her dad (David Elliott, a song writer, song producer and police officer who lives in Los Angeles) and her mom (Lisa Gressett, an actress and nurse) for “teaching me a lot of stuff, but it mostly just comes in the family – it’s genes.”
“She’s definitely following in her grandmother’s footsteps, but “first and foremost her focus is school,” said Ms. Gressett, who also reported that Cheyenne has been chosen to attend the April 2006 People to People forum in Washington, DC. School, travel, music – those are priorities her grandmother would certainly endorse.
The celebration in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. will be held at the Emelin Theatre on Wednesday, January 11 starting at 7:30 pm. The entire Larchmont and Mamaroneck community is invited to attend; refreshments will be served after the program.