Below is a copy of the email I received:
|ADVOCACY ALERT New York City support of Black Theatres threatened.
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.
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.