On March 23rd, Debbie Allen hosted an all-male panel, “Men Who Love Women” which brought out many celebrity guests. (Photo By Tiarra Mejia, @mejiaxsoul)

In honor of Women’s History Month, Debbie Allen hosted, “Men Who Love Women” on Saturday, March 23 , as part of “HERstory,” a month-long celebration of the power of women.  The event took place at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) at Rhimes Performing Arts Center.

Hundreds of guests of all ages filled the performing arts center to enjoy a panel moderated by Debbie with Glynn Turman, Boris Kodjoe, and Lee Daniels, followed by an intimate Q&A with singer/songwriter, Andra Day, and a listening party of her new album, Cassandra.

Walking into the venue, art by various artists was on display for purchase. There was a special live auction of artist Tiffani Anderson’s aka “The Pretty Artist” new work, “Barack and the Roses.” Guests were able to enjoy light refreshments as they waited for the event to start. As the fashionable attendees trickled in to greet those they knew, it was time to make their way to their seats for the panel.

The panel paid tribute to and spoke on the importance of supporting and loving all women. Debbie started with the question, “What do you love about women?” The men all gave very extensive answers to what they adore most about women as a whole and those in their lives.

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Debbie’s next question was, “How are women different from men?”  Boris responded saying how women are nurturers and creators of life. He went on to say that women are ferocious as women give and protect life.

“I think that as men in this culture we’ve done a terrible job in raising boys so the result is that we have to protect girls and I think if we didn’t abandon the boys, I think those boys would grow up to be real men rather than lost and abandoned,” Boris emphasized. “That’s why I take my job as a father so seriously.”

Boris is the father of two children, a boy and a girl, with wife and actress, Nicole Ari Parker. The couple met on set of “Soul Food: The Series,” and have been married since 2005.

Boris’ love for his children was transparent as he spoke highly of them, and emphasized the importance of proactive parenting of boys.  He ended his response to Debbie’s question with, “If we paid better attention to our boys, we’d do better at supporting women.”

Lee’s response was, “My mom instinctively knew to protect me. Women are way smarter and intuitive. Men think from their head and women think from their heart.”

The next question for the panel was, “Do women need protection today?

Glynn responded with, “We need protection. Men need protection. Where is that protection from? Our own diabolical nature.”

Norman Nixon, former basketball player of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, who is also Debbie’s husband of 40 years, joined the panel about halfway through and spoke on his mother being a huge inspiration in his life, and all that she’s done and sacrificed for him and his brothers. He also acknowledged his wife playing a key role of his life.

The panel lasted a little over an hour with audience engagement, plenty of claps and snaps of the fingers in agreement, aha moments, laughter, and thought provoking responses.

The event followed by a beautiful dance piece from students of DADA, choreographed by Karen McDonald, director of the academy. The dancers graced the stage eloquently leaving the audience captivated. Once the performance ended, everyone was on their feet to applaud the dancer and McDonald.

Andra Day joined the stage to discuss her previous aspirations to be a dancer. Before Debbie could give Andra her flowers, Andra spoke on how Debbie was a huge inspiration for her growing up as a young dancer.

The conversation continued as Andra discussed touring with Lenny Kravitz, Stevie Wonder being an influential part of her career, starring as Billie Holiday in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” and much more.

Before the event, the L.A. Sentinel spoke to Debbie about “HERstory.” She expressed that if she could say “thank you” to one woman in her life who inspired her, it would be her mother. She described her as a “renaissance woman” who was a writer, poet, and artist who could make any dress she saw on the cover of Vogue Magazine.

“She instilled and empowered us with self- confidence and the arts and made us know that we had no class ceilings or limitations,” she said proudly.

The L.A. Sentinel also got the chance to chat with Andra Day about her new album and who inspires her. She said her new album to a degree genuinely speaks authentically to women, because she is a woman having a woman’s experience and writing from that perspective.

“But I think it also in this particular season, I think on the last album I was really trying to confess some things and take the highroad,” she continued. “This album we get to the highroad, but we start pretty low.”

When discussing who she would say “thank you” to, she immediately said her mother. She stressed that her mom started writing again in what she called her “second life.” She now knows and is able to recognize the sacrifices and all her mother has went through growing up.

“When I became aware of what it is she had to survive through then I’m like, “oh, she actually thriving; she’s a hero,” she said. “She has always been a praying mother and a really supportive mother in the best ways she knew how.”

HERstory is a month-long event series to celebrate women. It is organized by Debbie and her academy which is a 501©3 non-profit organization that offers a wide-ranging dance curriculum to students ages four and up.

Previous events to celebrate Women’s History Month included an art gallery reception with an opera performance by Abiodun Koya, and music by Hailey Niswanger and Mia Garcia, and a dance performance by students of DADA. On Tuesday, March 26, HERstory concluded with a premier book reading, conversation and signing by author Rachel Cargle.

For more information on the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, visit: https://www.debbieallendanceacademy.com/