Below is a copy of the email I received:

ADVOCACY ALERT New York City support of Black Theatres threatened. 

The Black and Hispanic Caucus of the New York City Council has recommended elimination of annual support to four members of the Coalition of Theatres of Color for the 2010/2011 fiscal year. The theatre companies targeted for elimination are listed below. New Heritage Theatre Group, co-founded by Voza Rivers, Jamal Joseph serves as the companies Executive Artistic Director. New Heritage Theatre Group is the oldest Black not-for -profit theatre in New York (46 years). The H.A.D.L.E.Y Players, founded by 95 year old Gertrude Jeanette, a playwright and director and an original member of the historic American Negro Theatre whose membership included such luminaries as Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee to name few. The Paul Robeson Theatre in Brooklyn, founded by Dr. Josephine English, has been serving its community for 25 years. The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) co-founded by Robert Hooks and Douglas Turner Ward. NEC has been the home for many actors of color who have graced stages both on and off Broadway and who have risen to prominence in film and television. This severe and sudden reduction in support will mean an equally severe reduction in services and programs that these organizations provide our community.
Please join our chairman, Voza Rivers and the HARLEM Arts Alliance in support of our member organizations at a hearing with the Black and Hispanic Caucus tomorrow, Wednesday September 29th, at 3:30 pm at 250 Broadway in the 16th Floor lunch room.
RSVP to RSVP@harlemaa.org and come out, make your voices heard and defend our cultural community.

 

This email was sent with a day’s notice and the Coalition of Theatres of Color and many others who support them, marched up to the City Council in numbers to express their outrage on the city council proposing the elimination of annual support to its members. These theatres have served as a vital pulse in the Black Arts community and cutting their funding, will most likely result in these theatres not being able to survive in these difficult economic times.

Now of course when I received this email and was asked if I could attend, I was not going to miss out on going to show support. Castillo Theatre, which I have called my second home for many years has been a place which has and continues supported Black Theatre and provides a home and voice for multi-cultural work/collaboration. It was very important for us to be there. Artistic Director of Castillo Theatre, Dan Friedman stated,

” The theatres facing the chopping block go back generations in the Black community and were among those who provided the African American community with a theatrical voice when it had virtually none. To toss them off now that a budget must be balanced is to shrug off the ancestors and elders who pioneered the African American Theatre. It is an insult to them as artists and pioneers and a serious misunderstanding of the priorities needed by our communities. Theatre is no an add-on; it is essential to the soul of a community. Theatre is how a community reflects on its conflicts, experiences, characters and ways of seeing and one of the important ways it projects itself to the broader society.”

 

The Black and Latino Caucus addressed the mass crowd and told them that “we” were not on the agenda for today’s meeting, but since we were there they would not turn us away and would listen to what we had to say. After waiting almost an hour it was our turn to raise our voices. When the issue was raised, members of the caucus denied any such discussions on elimination of funds taking place. They said we had been communicated incorrect information.(there was a stir in the room) Than another member of the caucus stood up and “aired” out that this was not the case.  The member expressed undercutting happening inside the caucus.  Now there was confusion and a clear picture that not all the members of the caucus were on the same page! Some expressed not even knowing about this issue in the first place before today. You can only imagine what a site this was to see! Politics in ACTION!
There was tremendous amount of passion, emotion and support in the city council hearing meeting room. Woodie King Jr.,founder of the New Federal Theatre and Charles Weldon, Daniel Beaty (National Black Theatre and Billy Holiday Theatre to name a few. We heard statements from Voza Rivers, (Executive Producer,New Heritage Theatre Group) Jamal Joseph,(Artistic Director of New Heritage & acting chair of Columbia University’s School of the Arts film division), Ruby Dee, (infamous actress & activist) and Carl Clay (Black Spectrum Theatre).

Being in the midst of such great people who have fought hard to ensure there was and is a place for people of color to work was breath taking. Seeing Ruby Dee, at the tender age of 86 make a spunky fiery statement where she expressed her frustration on the matter and how she has seen the world change. This experience of seeing civil rights activists in action for our rights as artists and still in the fight in the 21st century can even be put into words how impactful it was on me.

 

 

Ruby Dee addressing the crowd

 

I felt as an emerging artist in this new generation, that it is important to understand what the generation before us fought so hard for to provide us with the opportunities we have and we must continue on the legacy to provide even bigger and better opportunities for those who will come up after us.

“Together we STAND..Divided we FALL”

Let us not allow them to divide and conquer… We shall fight to keep these historic and community inspiring cultural insitituitions open.

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12 responses »

  1. Lizmarys D says:

    Wow, this was interesting to read. Its important to stand up for yourself. In every industry this occurs and enough is enough….great article!

    • DJ D-Money says:

      It is truly inspiring to see such a young and passion driven individual show so much support in times of adversity. I believe that it is essential to not only research but embrace the movement that was started and fought for by the leaders of Minority Theaters. It makes one think how our society is slowing transforming into a an oasis of unfavorable situations for aspiring actors and actresses.

      However, reaching out the to community and educating people on the adversities faced by the theaters will strengthen the movement. There is power in numbers! The only way we can conquer is to not fall flat at the face of adversity but continue to push forward. We must show the world how much of powerful tool that the theater provides for the communities across the world.

      Great Post! Continue to spread your wings. KUDOS!!!!

  2. Crystal says:

    I love your passion and drive to enlighten others on whats going on in the Theatre World! Others fail to remember the fight our ancestors fought for us and how were still fighting!Thanks for the inspiration to continue the fight! LOVE YA!

  3. Great Post! It’s so important we fight for what we believe in! We need to keep black theatre in our black communities! Lets keep fighting to make this a reality!

  4. Miles Maker says:

    Is there a reason for this decision?
    After all, it was decided by The Black and Hispanic Caucus of the New York City Council–is there a lack of funding available, or has funding simply been reallocated to other orgs?
    What are the repercussions if funding is to remain with these vital theatrical performance organizations?
    Will these orgs be forced to close their doors if funding discontinues from The Black and Hispanic Caucus of the New York City Council, or are they sustaining their operations with funding from various sources both public and private?

    Not to diminish the sense of urgency here, but I feel there are missing pieces to this puzzle. I hope a solution can be discovered to resolve this disparaging situation ASAP.

    • @Miles It hasn’t been decided yet.. It is in discussion to pull the funding from these theatres and we were there to try to make sure that doesn’t happen! For some of these theatres losing their funding would result in them not being able to sustain, and most likely have to close down. There is a 63 Million dollar budget for the arts, but they only release $80,000 to the COalition of Black theatres which is CUMP CHANGE! Its disgusting actually to see them try to have a “dog eat dog” scenario happen. Trying to divide us and make folks fight over this small piece of the pie, when other organizations (ie:white) get much more funding! These theatres do receive private funding but the public funding is very important to them as well.

  5. @Crystal, @Lizmarys & @Tinaleejones- THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE LOVE LADIES>> 🙂

    @djdmoney- you are such an articulate brother.. I LOVE IT! Your response was so enlightening and refreshing! 🙂

  6. Tyrell Perry says:

    They only allocate $80,000 out of 63 million and they still want to scale back. SMH!

  7. Dah'le says:

    Ok so I have to be the jerk that tells you that you spelled “divided” wrong at the bottom I guess…

    xoxo

  8. my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it
    with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

    • Baby Kleidung,
      I like to keep my blog informative. Keeping folks aware on the things that are going on. I do not like to make opinions or make statements on what I would do, unless I have extensive information. There are still several facts I need to continue to find out before I can make my claim.

      Thanks so much for your comment 🙂 Keep them coming…

  9. I learned your weblog internet site on google and examine a few of your early posts. Continue to maintain up the quite beneficial run. I just additional up your Rss feed to my Msn Information Reader. Looking for ahead to reading extra from you later on!?

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