An Evening With Russell Simmons PBS-TV Show

Friday 10/22/2004

Arthur Rubloff Auditorium The Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

This hour-long one-on-one interview program provides a rare and insightful look into the life of hip-hop’s pioneering businessman, Russell Simmons. Taped in Chicago as a part of The HistoryMakers’ fifth anniversary, Simmons was interviewed by media maven Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One and TV-One.


Simmons shared his life story before a sold-out crowd of 1,000, telling of his childhood in Queens, New York his becoming a co-founder of Def Jam records,  his enormous successes with the clothing line, Phat Farm, and Def Comedy Jam and Def Poetry Jam. Simmons also spoke at length about his philanthropic initiatives and about his political involvement in urging others to vote. Russell Simmons’ influence can be felt in virtually all aspects of business and media, be it music, fashion, financial services and even the beverage industry, and he truly is a HistoryMaker.


An Evening With Russell Simmons features seldom seen historic footage and interviews with friends and associates filmed over the course of Simmons’ career. Taped in front of a live audience at the Art Institute of Chicago, An Evening With Russell Simmons celebrated The HistoryMakers’ fifth anniversary. The program was held in memory of Launa Thompson, wife of Abe Thompson. In attendance was previously honored HistoryMaker, Dionne Warwick, as well as numerous other HistoryMakers. Will Griffin, president and COO of Simmons Lathan Media Group also premiered The HistoryMakers DVD Collection on Faith, Success and Courage. The HistoryMakers is committed to the development of a unique on-line archive of 5,000 first-person narratives of African American HistoryMakers, both well known and unsung. When completed, the archive will represent the single largest archive of its kind in the world.


The HistoryMakers staff has created a finding aid for this event. View/Download below: 

Finding Aid To An Evening With Russell Simmons.pdf


Russell Simmons
Born in 1957 in Hollis, Queens, New York, Russell Simmons became a member of a street gang. He went on to study sociology at the Harlem branch of the City College of New York where he became involved with the emerging hip-hop movement. Simmons became involved in promoting young rap acts, and in 1984, with partner Rick Rubin, founded Def Jam Records. Within three years acts such as L.L. Cool J, the Beatsie Boys and Run-DMC were at the top of the charts with such hits as I Can’t Live Without My Radio and (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party). Simmons’ success increased with the founding of his own clothing label, Phat Farm, a movie production house, Def Pictures, and an advertising agency, Rush Media Company. In 1985, Simmons teamed up with TV director Stan Lathan and created the award winning HBO Series Def Comedy Jam, featuring renowned comedians like Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock and Chris Tucker. He then went on to create Def Poetry Jam, which won a Tony Award for Special Theatrical Events in 2003. Simmons also produced a number of films, including The Nutty Professor. After selling his share of Def Jam in 1999, Simmons remained on as chairman, where he continues to work today.


Cathy Hughes
Radio pioneer Cathy Hughes began her career in 1969 when she began working at KOWH, a black radio station in Omaha. In 1973, she became sales director at WHUR-FM in Washington, D.C. She was promoted two years later to general manager, boosting station sales revenues. In 1979, she and her husband, Dewey Hughes, purchased a small Washington radio station, WOL, creating Radio One. When her marriage ended, she bought her husband's share in the station and over time, the station became profitable. Purchasing stations in other cities, Radio One grew to become the nation's largest black-owned radio chain. In January 2004, her company launched a new cable channel, TV One, aimed at African American viewers. Today, Hughes has the distinction of being the first African American woman to head a media company publicly traded on the U.S. Stock Exchange.



  Executive Director 

Julieanna L. Richardson



Tom Spencer



Honorary Co-Chairs

Clarence Avant

Will Griffin

The Honorable Emil Jones, Jr.

Stan Lathan

Michael Scott, Sr.


Event Co-Chairs

William Bonaparte, Jr.

Kathy Roberts

Mike Roberts

Abe Thompson


Benefit Committee

Patricia Andrews-Keenan

Kai J. Bunch Minor

Terry Bell

Johnita Mizelle

Kimberly Bolden

Sharon Morrow

Brady & Geraldine Brownlee

Tom Murphy

Frank Clark

Kevin Newell

Michelle Collins

Lisa Newman

Les Coney

Jamie Piette

Kevann Cooke

Floyd Pitts

David Day

Quintin Primo III

Amina Dickerson

Ruth L. Ratny

Denise Gardner

Rosemary Reeves

Frank Gihan

Al Reid

Craig Gilmore

Dee Robinson

Gloria Hemphill

Mr & Mrs John W. Rogers, Jr

Ralph Hughes

Anna Roosevelt

James Hunter

Carol Hillsman Sagers

Ed King

Belkis M. Santos

Aly Kurti

Langdon Neal & Jeanette Sublett

Mercedes Laing

Laurie Tansey

Thomas Loughlin

Chester Singleteary

Myron & Pamela Louik

Deborah Thomas

Sarah Malone

Jacqueline Williams

Leonard & Rochelle McGee

Ginger Wilson