T. Mychael Rambo benefit to support at-risk youth

T. Mychael Rambo Photo by Kathleen Tauer

Stage, television and film veteran T. Mychael Rambo is turning personal misfortune into a call for community wellbeing.

After being carjacked in St. Paul, the Emmy Award-winning actor now wants us to “Party with a Purpose.” The event comes after Rambo was robbed and pistol-whipped one evening in late July by five teens who flagged him down on University Avenue, ostensibly hitching a ride to the next light rail train station.

They left him concussed and staggering on the side of the road with a head wound requiring six stitches. He finally found help at a nearby club, the name of which he doesn’t recall. “I’m glad they were there,” he said.

With Rambo being a Twin Cities entertainment staple, the assault, reported in local news, quickly spread through word of mouth. He’s a longstanding company member of Penumbra Theater and has taken on principal roles at such prestigious venues as the Guthrie, Ordway Theatre, Illusion Theatre, Mixed Blood, Park Square Theatre and Children’s Theatre Company, just to name a few. He also enjoys the distinction of having sung the national anthem for two former presidents, Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter.

So, when Lowell Pickett, co-owner of noted Minneapolis nightspot The Dakota, heard the news, he approached Rambo about producing a benefit for his recovery costs. Rambo took it as an opportunity to help others, as well.

It’s his intent to hopefully see some good come out of this by supporting young men like those who attacked him in efforts to turn their lives around. With the help of singers Ginger Commodore and Lana Harris, the party will raise funds for Save Our Sons and The Circle of Peace, two organizations that mentor and support at-risk African American youth.

“Ginger and Lana are primary players in seeing that all I would like to see happen does happen,” he said, “and benefit two organizations that do work in transforming, inspiring and motivating…young African American males to make better lives for themselves.”

He added, “The lion’s share [of proceeds] goes to these organizations. The reality is our young people need more help than me. I’ll make my way through this. It’s important to help young men who are perhaps homeless, are in transition. [It’s to help] young men who have lost their way, or have chosen to forfeit their way, to find a way out.”

The benefit brings together a Who’s Who of Twin Cities entertainment to perform on their friend and peer’s behalf: Debbie Duncan, Aimee K. Bryant, Robert Robinson, Keno Evol, Pavielle French, Ginger Commodore, Tonia Hughes, Julius Collins, Thomasine Petrus, Brittany Delany and Jamecia Bennett.

Rambo will also briefly step on-stage to sing and to acknowledge all the goodwill. He humorously says, “I’ll make a guest appearance.”

Singer J.D. Steele, who performed with Rambo in Penumbra’s Get Ready, looks on the gathering of celebrities as characteristic of the Twin Cities. “This community supports each other in ways [that are] unparalleled. It’s amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it. When one of us in trouble, we’re going to come to the rescue. That’s always the case. It’s how we do.”

He adds that the support couldn’t be more richly deserved. “I mean that from my heart. T. Mychael has a giving spirit. The brother is so loving.”

Which, one speculates, may have gone against him, as stopping to give a ride to a group of strangers late at night is hardly advisable. That is, as Steele points out, Rambo’s nature. In fact, he harbors no ill-will toward his assailants, reflecting, without going so far as to blame himself, that he might have been able to avoid the outcome.

“I think where I dropped the ball is by not taking charge of the situation. What I mean by that is this. We arrived at a main intersection where the train station was. It’s a major thoroughfare. Well lit. There were cameras. As soon as they asked me to turn and go further, I put the ball in their hands,” explained Rambo.

“Had I not dropped the ball and said, ‘Sure, I’ll take you where you want to go,’ they would never had tried what they did. Not right in the middle of [traffic]. So, on some level, I lost control of the situation.”

Would he do it again? “I don’t think I would turn my back on a young person who needed help. I don’t think that young people, on the whole, are bad people. I’ve worked with too many to believe that.”

He does allow, however, “I would think more prudently.”


“Party with a Purpose:” Benefiting Save Our Sons & The Circle of Peace takes place Sunday, Sep 30 at the Dakota, located at 1010 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. $40. For more information, visit www.dakotacooks.com.