A call to arms to sustain theaters of color
Linda Armstrong | 6/18/2020, midnight
Please join me in this call to arms to sustain theaters of color, which are possibly facing a lack of funding in 2021! A recent town hall meeting, held through a collaboration between CTC (Coalition of Theatres of Color, an initiative started in 2004 by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis) and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer’s office, convened politicians, heads of several minority theater groups that are part of the CTC, and Tony Award winning actors, directors, and producers to address the issue.
Explaining the imperative reason for this meeting, Jackie Jeffries, president of AUDELCO, shared, “CTC was originally started as a Coalition of Theatres of Color for theaters 25 years and older. It was comprised of Black, Hispanic and Asian theater companies. The Coalition became a line item in the City’s Budget under New York State Assemblywomen Inez E. Dickens and City Council members Charles Barron, Leroy Comrie and Domenic Recchia. Sometime in the last few years CTC was taken out of the budget as a line item and made an Initiative. Initiatives do not have the security in budgets like line items. So now the City and State are saying they are bankrupt and they may not be funding the CTC Initiative for 2021. We’re advocating to make sure the Initiative is funded. The ultimate fight to me is to secure the money and have CTC restored as a line item in the budget so that this does not happen again.”
The town hall had dozens of participants, including Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer; Sade Lythcott, National Black Theater and CTC chair; Diane Fraher, AMERINDA (American Indian Artists Inc.); Madaha Kinsey-Lamb, Mind-Builders Creative Arts Center; Carl Clay, founder of Black Spectrum Theatre; Tisa Chang, Pan Asian Rep; and Libertad O. Guerra, The Clemente. There was also David Martine, chairperson of AMERINDA and a member of Chiricuhau Apache/Shinnecock Nations of New York, and politicians Daneek I. Miller, co-chair of B.L.A.C.; Councilwoman Adrienne E. Adams; Laurie Cumbo, Majority Leader New York City Council; and New York State Assemblywoman Inez E. Dickens. Tony Award winner actor and choreographer Andre De Shields, actor and activist Danny Glover, and actor, playwright and director Ruben Santiago-Hudson were also on hand. The Town Hall was also attended by Woodie King Jr. and Pat White of New Federal Theatre; Vy Higginsen, founder of the Mama Foundation; Athena Moore from Borough President Brewer’s office; Jeanine Tesori, Robin Snowden, Joyce Adewumi, Joyous Pierce, Tracy Hyter, Joanna Castro, Sandie Luna, Deborah Nitzber, Jonathan Silver, Hana Tahrovic, Brian Berne, Richarda Abrams and Cheryl Lane. It was quite an impressive group of people that came together for this vital cause.
One by one, participants discussed the roles played by theaters of color in our communities in the five boroughs. They talked about the times we are living in, facing the pandemic, racism, police brutality and the brutal killings of George Floyd and others, but they also looked at the purpose of theater and the healing process that it will help to facilitate, and the need for it to be sustained with the financial support of the city.