Bowen Center

Humanitarian Awards

Bowen Center Humanitarian Awards medal

The Emma L. Bowen Humanitarian Award is presented to individuals and organizations who provide exceptional leadership and unfailing dedication to community-based initiatives and to those in need.

Their efforts on the behalf of others epitomize the legacy of the late Emma L. Bowen. Previous honorees include New York City Mayor David Dinkins, Congressman Charles Rangel, best-selling author Terrie Williams, former Manhattan Borough president C. Virginia Fields, and the late Percy E. Sutton. The Humanitarian Awards Reception is an important fundraiser that enables the Bowen Center to continue our life-sustaining services, such as the Therapeutic Preschool, food pantry, mental health services for children and adults alike, and so much more.

Click here for 2020 Humanitarian Awards Information.

2018 Humanitarian Awards: In Photos


Bill T. Jones
Bill T. Jones

Bill T. Jones (Artistic Director / Co-Founder / Choreographer), a multi-talented artist, choreographer, dancer, theater director and writer, has received major honors ranging from the Human Rights Campaign’s 2016 Visibility Award, 2013 National Medal of Arts to a 1994 MacArthur “Genius” Award and Kennedy Center Honors in 2010. Mr. Jones was honored with the 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, recognized as Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2010, inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2009 and named “An Irreplaceable Dance Treasure” by the Dance Heritage Coalition in 2000. His ventures into Broadway theater resulted in a 2010 Tony Award for Best Choreography in the critically acclaimed FELA!, the new musical co-conceived, co-written, directed and choreographed by Mr. Jones. He also earned a 2007 Tony Award for Best Choreography in Spring Awakening as well as an Obie Award for the show’s 2006 off-Broadway run. His choreography for the off-Broadway production of The Seven earned him a 2006 Lucille Lortel Award.

Mr. Jones began his dance training at the State University of New York at Binghamton (SUNY), where he studied classical ballet and modern dance. After living in Amsterdam, Mr. Jones returned to SUNY, where he became co-founder of the American Dance Asylum in 1973. In 1982 he formed the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company (then called Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane & Company) with his late partner, Arnie Zane. Mr. Jones is currently Artistic Director of New York Lives Arts, an organization that strives to create a robust framework in support of the nation’s dance and movement-based artists through new approaches to producing, presenting and educating. For more information visit

His work in dance has been recognized with the 2010 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award; the 2005 Wexner Prize; the 2005 Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement; the 2003 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize; and the 1993 Dance Magazine Award. His additional awards include the Harlem Renaissance Award in 2005; the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award in 1991; multiple New York Dance and Performance Bessie Awards for his works The Table Project (2001), The Breathing Show (2001), D-Man in the Waters (1989) and the Company’s groundbreaking season at the Joyce Theater (1986). In 1980, 1981 and 1982, Mr. Jones was the recipient of Choreographic Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1979 he was granted the Creative Artists Public Service Award in Choreography.

Mr. Jones was profiled on NBC Nightly News and The Today Show in 2010 and was a guest on the Colbert Report in 2009. Also in 2010, he was featured in HBO’s documentary series MASTERCLASS, which follows notable artists as they mentor aspiring young artists. In 2009, Mr. Jones appeared on one of the final episodes of Bill Moyers Journal, discussing his Lincoln suite of works. He was also one of 22 prominent black Americans featured in the HBO documentary The Black List in 2008. In 2004, ARTE France and Bel Air Media produced Bill T. Jones–Solos, highlighting three of his iconic solos from a cinematic point of view. The making of Still/Here was the subject of a documentary by Bill Moyers and David Grubin entitled Bill T. Jones: Still/Here with Bill Moyers in 1997. Additional television credits include telecasts of his works Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1992) and Fever Swamp (1985) on PBS’s “Great Performances” Series. In 2001, D-Man in the Waters was broadcast on the Emmy-winning documentary Free to Dance.

Mr. Jones’s memoir, Last Night on Earth, was published by Pantheon Books in 1995. An in-depth look at the work of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane can be found in Body Against Body: The Dance and Other Collaborations of Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane, published by Station Hill Press in 1989. Hyperion Books published Dance, a children’s book written by Bill T. Jones and photographer Susan Kuklin in 1998. Mr. Jones contributed to Continuous Replay: The Photography of Arnie Zane, published by MIT Press in 1999. Jones’s most recent book, Story/Time: The Life of an Idea, was published in 2014 by Princeton University Press.

In addition to his Company and Broadway work, Mr. Jones also choreographed Sir Michael Tippet’s New Year (1990) for Houston Grand Opera and Glyndebourne Festival Opera. His Mother of Three Sons was performed at the Munich Biennale, New York City Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. Mr. Jones also directed Lost in the Stars for the Boston Lyric Opera. Additional theater projects include co-directing Perfect Courage with Rhodessa Jones for Festival 2000 in 1990. In 1994, he directed Derek Walcott’s Dream on Monkey Mountain for The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN.

2018 Bowen Humanitarian Award recipient Dr. Melissa Freeman
Dr. Melissa Freeman

Melissa M. Freeman, MD is a native New Yorker, and the granddaughter of a slave. She was born and raised in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx. Her father, a Pullman Porter, was a great influence in her life. He introduced her to music. At an early age she began the study of piano. In later years, she severed as organist for her church. Dr. Freeman also developed an interest in classical music, which has continued throughout her life. Her father also instilled, in her, the significance of an education. He often talked to family and friends about the importance of his children obtaining an education. During her father’s travels, on the rails, he learned about the prestigious Music and Art High School, and recommended Dr. Freeman take the test for admission. At the age of 13, her last conversation with her father, before his death, was to tell him she had been accepted to the high school of Music and Art. While attending high school, Dr. Freeman excelled on the bass violin.

Her father had also expressed his desire for Dr. Freeman to attend Hunter College. As her father had hoped she went on to Hunter College where she made the decision to study medicine. Dr. Freeman received a B.A. degree from Hunter College, and continued her studies at Howard University College of Medicine, where she received her M.D. degree. After graduation, Dr. Freeman did her internship at Kings County Hospital, and ultimately completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Meadowbrook Hospital, and the Manhattan Veterans Administration Hospital.

In 1964 Dr. Melissa M. Freeman joined the staff of Mount Sinai-Beth Israel Clinic, in New York, for treatment of narcotic addicted individuals. She is one of the first doctors, and a pioneer in the treatment of Opioid addicted women. In addition, for over 30 years, Dr. Freeman has served the Harlem Community, in New York City, with a successful private practice in Internal Medicine. She was, and continues to be concerned about the disparities in treatment that exists among people of color.

Dr. Melissa M. Freeman has received much deserved recognition for her work in medicine over the years. In 2005 she was inducted into the Hunter College Hall of Fame. In early 2017, Dr. Melissa M. Freeman was honored, by one of the Founders at Mount Sinai-Beth Israel, for her modality of treatment of Opioid addicted individuals. She was also honored for 53 years of uninterrupted service at Mount Sinai-Beth Israel Hospital. Over the years, she has received many awards and honors for her diligence and dedication in the medical care of community residents.

At the age of 92, Dr. Freeman continues to work in her Harlem, New York private practice and part-time at Mount Sinai-Beth Israel as Medical Director of the Methadone Clinic, treating over 400 patients for opioid addiction. Dr. Freeman’s love of classical music and medicine are what keep her pushing forward. When asked, “How long will you continue to practice?” Her response is, “As long as I have my facilities, and breathe in my body I will continue to care for and treat patients.”

Bowen Humanitarian Award recipient Richard Salgado
Richard Salgado

Philanthropist Richard Salgado is a well know sports personality. Known as “Big Daddy,” Rich is the owner of Coastal Advisors, which provides insurance policies as well as financial planning services to influential professional athletes. His clients include first round draft picks from the NFL as well as athletes, managers and coaches from the MLB, NHL. Mr. Salgado is a Super Bowl Correspondent for Fox News and Fox Business Network and has appeared on Bloomberg as well as News 12 Long Island. Mr. Salgado spends a great deal of time helping children, having established The Big Daddy Youth Football Camp in his hometown of New Hyde Park, NY along with his brother, Jimmy. Together, the two have created a non-contact football camp that teaches young players football fundamentals. The camp is visited by current and former NFL players including several members of the NFL Hall of Fame.

Mr. Salgado has also hosted several celebrity golf outings in support of the St. Jude Children’s Hospital, raising more than $1 million for the pioneering children’s hospital that specializes in research and treatments for kids with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. His outings have rallied support from a “who’s who” in the world of sports including former New York Giants defensive lineman and “Good Morning America” host Michael Strahan, former MLB players Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield, former New York Knicks player and Brooklyn Nets Coach Jason Kidd, and former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.

New York City Council member Mark Levine
Hon. Mark Levine, New York City Council

New York City Council Member Mark Levine represents the 7th District in Upper Manhattan. Serving as the Chair of Council Committee on Health and as a member of the Progressive Caucus, he is a leader on many issues including housing, transportation, education, economic justice, and the environment.

Council Member Levine has been a lifelong advocate for addressing inequality in New York City, and just last year declared victory in his fight to get legal representation for low-income tenants facing eviction in housing court by passing landmark “Right to Counsel” legislation, the first of its kind in the nation.

Mark speaks three languages, including Spanish and Hebrew, and began his career as a bilingual math and science teacher in the South Bronx. He also went on to found the Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union which has provided over $25 million in loans to low-income New Yorkers in Upper Manhattan.

Mark is a long time Washington Heights resident with his wife, Ivelisse and their two sons, Alejandro and Daniel.

2016 Humanitarian Awards: In Photos

Emma L. Bowen

About Emma

Emma L. Bowen was a community activist, fighter for justice, founder and president of Black Citizens for a Fair Media (BCFM), and co-founder of the Foundation for Minority Interest in Media, and now known as the Emma L. Bowen Foundation, an outgrowth of BCFM. As a mental health professional and community activist in Upper Manhattan, Mrs. Bowen co-established the Upper Manhattan Mental Health Center, Inc. with William F. Hatcher in 1986. During her lifetime, Mrs. Bowen testified at the Federal Communications Commission on minorities and the media, she played the important role of spokesperson for numerous causes, and she was honored with awards for her significant contributions to community health and serving the needs of the mentally challenged. As a grandmother, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University and continued her work as an advocate for equality in the media and for mental health services, until her death in 1996. Ms. Bowen’s legacy endures. Because of her pioneering leadership, men and women of color occupy influential roles in American media, including writing, producing, directing, reporting, performing, and management. Today, thousands of families, adults, children, and senior citizens have access to the resources they need to live healthy lives.