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Steven Newsom Celebrated for His Life's Work

James Wright | 12/5/2012, 10:07 a.m.

Rachelle Brown, an attorney who works with the Smithsonian, talked about the time Newsome used his value system to keep the museum out of legal trouble.

"There was a copyright infringement issue," said Brown, 60. "We used an artist's work without their approval. We hoped that the matter would be ignored and that the artist would never find out."

Brown said that Newsome took a direct approach. He contacted the artist and paid for him to come to the museum, Brown said.

"The artist decided to give the museum the art work," she said.

Newsome's lifetime embrace of the arts was reflected in parts of the program. Psalmayene 24, an actor, performed Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "We Wear the Mask."

Tenor Duawne Starling sang "The Man Behind the Mask." Singer Nolan Williams Jr. and the Voices of Inspiration performed musical tributes "Done Made My Vow" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" with soprano Francese Brooks.

The crowd was delighted by tap dancer Leo Manzari, a 17-year-old student who attends The Field School in Northwest, and his rendition of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Ladies."

Former D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz and Ralph Everett, the president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Northwest, counted among the many friends of Newsome who attended the event.

Newsome's daughter, Sanya Newsome, 39, was touched by the tribute.

"For me, he was just pop," she said. "He was super supportive, never judgmental and always just a phone call away. He always encouraged me to be my best self and never be afraid to show that."

Hicks said that Newsome often talked about building an arts retirement community with him and members of the Anacostia Museum.

"Unfortunately, we could not share his dream of that in this life but we will in the next life," he said.