Events
Photo by Farah Sosa.

Here's What Amplify Africa's Inaugural Afro Ball Looked Like

The awards event was a celebration of excellence and ambition in the African community.

On Saturday, May 19, the Los Angeles Theater Center in downtown LA became a mecca for idealists and dreamers from the African diaspora.

The casual passersby would've been greeted with an effusion of bold prints, intricate headwraps and color coordination—the likes of which had not been seen since their favorite 90s music video (or church, or a wedding for some of us). And though the festivities might have vaguely resembled a film set—as is all too common downtown—this moment wouldn't be rehashed months later in a movie or television show. Attendees were flocking to Amplify Africa's inaugural Afro Ball. With the support of BET International, Buzzfeed, OkayAfrica, the GEANCO Foundation and more, Afro Ball lived up to its name as a "for Africans, by Africans" awards event, celebrating excellence and ambition in our community.


The evening was hosted Seyi Brown, Justin Spio and Mame Adjei; featuring a special appearance from Congresswoman Karen Bass, who gave a thoughtful speech about the significant influence of African immigrants. Bass, who spoke from a low-lit podium at the center of the hall, detailed how African ingenuity and passion had enriched American culture and innovation throughout the years. The politician also touched on how African immigrants and first generation children are fighting dated and pervasive narratives that they come to America purely to exhaust its resources.

Arrivals began to trickle past the step and repeat into the venue around roughly 6:00 p.m. Guests included honorees such as Wondaland Records virtuoso Jidenna, stylist and philanthropist Ugo Mozie, entrepreneur Samuel Desalu, neurosurgeon Muri Raifu and tech guru Ori Ayonmike. Soon after, the audience settled into their assigned tables to watch Amplify Africa co-founder Damilare Kujembola deliver the evening's opening remarks. Kujembola's light-hearted speech was followed by the presentation of awards in the education and science categories. Guests were then treated to a special performance by Aizehi Nomo, who opened with renditions of "One Dance" and "Work" as waiters and waitresses replaced the salad course with hearty plates of jollof rice, chicken and plantain. Over dinner, attendees sipped wine and chatted before the evening again shifted tone to honor creatives like stylist Ade Samuel, director Daps, who is the man behind Migos' most popular videos, and OkayAfrica's own CEO and publisher, Abiola Oke.

The evening ended on a high note with a special performance from Wale Ojo, followed by an after-party where attendees could continue to dance the night away.

Take a closer look at Amplify Africa's inaugural Afro Ball in our slideshow below, with photography by Farah Sosa.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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