Reception to celebrate “Decades” of Service

To mark their longevity, the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania is holding a Gala this Thursday, November 20. They're pulling out all the stops for this fundraiser. Guests will include Academy Award-winning director, Jonathan Demme, as well as author/screenwriter/composer/performer, James McBride. Appropriately enough, the event will take place at City Hall, where the courtroom scenes in Demme's “Philadelphia” were shot.

Demme's résumé includes 27 feature films. His 1993, film, “The Silence of the Lambs,” won five Oscars, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay Adaptation. Demme has demonstrated a particular skill at elicited strong performances from his leads. Jodi Foster won Best Actress Award and Anthony Hopkins garnering Best Actor, both for performances in “The Silence of the Lambs.” In addition, Tom Hanks won Best Actor for his role as an AIDS afflicted attorney, who sues his law firm for wrongful termination in “Philadelphia.” Demme's body of work is distinguished by his ability to segue from making Hollywood narrative films to doing small budget documentaries. Subsumed in this latter category is “One Foot on a Banana Peel, the Other Foot in the Grave,” about the perils of living with AIDS. 
McBride is a veritable modern day renaissance man. An erstwhile staff writer for the Washington Post, People magazine and the Boston Globe, McBride also penned the memoir, the “Color of Water,” and the historical novel, “Miracle at St. Anna.” The former has become required reading in secondary schools and universities across the country and was adapted by McBride into his first screenplay, which formed the basis of Spike Lee's film of the same name. As if that weren't enough, McBride is an accomplished composer and performer. He has written tunes, which were recorded by such luminaries as Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr. and Gary Burton. McBride played tenor saxophone with jazz legend, Little Jimmy Scott. In addition, he has garnered myriad awards for his work as a composer in musical theater, including the Stephen Sondheim Award and the Richard Rodgers Foundation Horizon Award.

The fundraiser has a somewhat unusual twist, in that it consists of both festive and didactic components. After a cocktail reception in City Hall's Conversation Hall, the event will adjourn down the corridor to the Mayor's Reception Room. There, a formal presentation will ensue. It will consist of a panel discussion, focused on what the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania has done for people living with HIV/AIDS and what they need to do in the future. The panel will be moderated by McBride. Joining Demme on the panel will be Sharon Pinkenson, the Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office; Ronda B. Goldfein, Esq., the Executive Director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania;  Angel Olmeda, a community activist and client of the AIDS Law Project; and Suellen Kehler, the only survivor of 53 extras with HIV who appeared in “Philadelphia.”

Decades, the fundraiser for AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, will be held at City Hall on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008. The reception will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., followed by a panel discussion from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information on The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, call (215) 587-9377 or visit

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