Our 2023 Virginia Black History Month Gala keynote speaker is veteran actor, singer, and producer, professionally known as "Leon".
His Distinguished Bio
Leon is a veteran actor, singer, and producer, who is best known for his roles as David Ruffin in the TV film "The Temptations" (1998), J.T. Matthews in the 1991 Robert Townsend film "The Five Heartbeats", Derice Bannock in the 1993 film "Cool Runnings", Shep in the 1994 basketball drama film "Above the Rim", and Little Richard in the 2000 film "Little Richard".
Leon Robinson's 2022 is shaping up to be another breakout year for Leon! Leon is starring in the action movie “A Day to Die” opposite Bruce Willis and Frank Grillo releasing in theaters in 2022. Leon can currently be seen in the Showtime Drama “City on A Hill”.
In 2020, Leon starred in Hallmark’s #1 movie of the year, “Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas” which received rave reviews! In 2019 Leon starred in the movie “Her Only Choice”, an International Press Academy nominee for Best Movie Made for TV currently streaming on Netflix. Leon also co-starred and executive produced the award-winning, international TV series “40 & Single”. Leon is one of the stars of the provocative series “A Luv Tale” which premiered in 2021 as well as a re-occurring role on CBS’ “Blue Bloods.”
Leon has played a wide variety of memorable roles from his debut in Madonna’s most famous video “Like a Prayer,” to the lead role in Disney’s blockbuster hit “Cool Runnings”. He was the hero in New Line's urban sports drama “Above the Rim,” appeared in Tri-Star's action hit “Cliffhanger,” and is his most love-hate role, Russell in 20th Fox hit “Waiting to Exhale”.
He starred in the NAACP's Best Picture Award-winning “Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored,” and HBO’s first original series “OZ”. Leon continued to shine in musical roles such as Robert Townsend’s “The Five Heartbeats” (voted the #1 African American film by AOL), the Emmy Winning mini-series “The Temptations,” as lead singer, David Ruffin, and the NBC authorized biography of “Little Richard” both earning him NAACP's Best Actor nominations. AOL named Leon one of the sexiest black actors of all time.
Other credits include Bafta Winner Leila Djansi’s films, “And Then There Was You”, “Where Children Play," and “Cover” directed by Bill Duke.
Leon’s band, “Leon & The Peoples” released the band’s second album, “Love Is A Beautiful Thing” on the Spectra Music label with two top 20 Billboard singles which received raves reviews. The group's music can be heard on all music streaming platforms, and make sure to catch them live as they perform their reggae soul sound around the country!
Leon works behind the scenes as well, producing music videos as well as films with his New York based production company Motion Mob Films. He is extremely proud of his PSA “We Will Thrive” which is an example of Leon’s activism thru art.
"GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER"
As a 13-year-old in rural Warren County, Virginia, in the 1950s, a young Betty Kilby was a plaintiff in the case of Betty Ann Kilby vs. Warren County Board of Education, one of many desegregation cases that followed the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case. Despite the Brown ruling, many states protested the controversial ruling and kept their schools segregated in the 1950s.
One of those schools was Warren County High School, which barred Betty Kilby from attending, even though it was very close to her home. Instead, black students were sent to Front Royal Virginia which required her to travel more than an hour just to attend a separate black high school.
Betty describes the ordeal in her first autobiography book, Wit, Wills and Walls, how her father, appalled by the distance his children had to travel every morning decided to take action. Her father had heard about the Brown decision and chose to fight to desegregate the local Warren County High School. With the help of the same lawyers who won the Brown v. Board of Education, they sued and won their case, thus sparking the final desegregation of other schools in Virginia.
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER!
What happens when a White woman, Phoebe Kilby, contacts a Black woman, now Dr. Betty Kilby, saying she suspects they are connected through slavery? First surprise? Betty responds to their first meeting with,
After some research, they discover that Phoebe's family had enslaved Betty's family in Virginia!
Without giving it any thought, Betty Kilby invites Phoebe Kilby to a family dinner and to the premiere of the documentary of Betty Kilby’s life.
Second surprise? Betty forgot to tell her entire family who was coming to dinner. In time, Betty finds an activist partner and close friend in Phoebe Kilby.
In Betty and Phoebe’s book "Cousins" they both commit to a path of reconciliation. In alternating chapters, each tells their dramatic story—from Betty’s experience as one of the first black children to attend a desegregated school, to Phoebe's eventual question to Betty: “How do I begin to repair the harms?”
Their work together includes a working reparations project which the two women conceived together. Betty and Phoebe have been interviewed on the BBC and were recently featured in a special on Netflix.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous speech “I Have A Dream”;
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
Please join me in welcoming these two amazing women at next year's gala.
TICKETS ARE NOW ON SALE! Click below to secure your seating or table for the 2023 Black History Month Gala! Consider purchasing our VIP ticket which includes a picture with the keynote speaker, access to our VIP Social, a dual entree meal (Chicken and Beef), and VIP Seating.