BWW Exclusive: The National Black Theatre Team Makes Statement With A SEAT AT OUR TABLE
The team at the National Black Theatre has penned an article exclusively for BroadwayWorld, discussing their thoughts on this current moment in time, their plans moving forward and more.
Read their article below.
What's past is prologue. The United States has never not been on fire for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Never. Not one day. There has always been a foot, a knee, a noose on our necks for every single generation before ours. Without rest, without remorse. The fire has been full blaze.
We use this heat to teach our babies how to make meals of the crumbs that fall from the table of this American experiment. In the face of the endless injustices and indignities we endure on a daily basis, we cover our young with prayer, instruct them how to make our grandmothers' salves and offer them ancestral tools to survive this fire. Creating hashtags of remembrance to be sure that we never forget that each of their stolen bodies and lives mattered.
This current moment is not an awakening. It is a reckoning.
We know it is painful and confusing to watch the fires and witness the incredible, debilitating loss, and still, America must burn. Its systems and constructs must all be burned to the ground; burn until there is nothing left but ash and bone. It must burn until the concrete paved over indigenous land no longer covers the rites and rituals of its people; until it uncovers every nameless grave; until we reclaim every story, suppressed rhythm, and joy-filled dance. In these vast spaces of smoldering embers, let us plant seeds in soil filled with our wildest ambitions and manifest liberation, justice, peace, love and economic equity for all people.
Right now, in streets across the country, and the world, there is a turbulent unrest. We can't breathe. Our lives are not valued. Our worth is disregarded. When will our humanity no longer be in question? How do we all get the privilege to breathe? We are being invited to face the unfettered and stark reality of the work we have yet to do.
In 1968, America was on fire much like we find our nation today. A global pandemic wiped out more than a million people. The Vietnam War and assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy led people from diverse backgrounds to flood the streets in what became violent protests between young anti-war demonstrators and police. Racial tensions were at an all-time high and sparked riots across every major city in America.
1968 was also the year that so many of our venerated Black institutions steeped in liberation were forged, including Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Leaders within our community were searching for a HOME within America, outside of the known western eurocentric spaces that questioned and robbed Black culture of its indigenous vibration.
At that moment, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer set a flame to her career by making the conscious decision to stop focusing on appeasing downtown New York City theatre patrons and western notions of theatrical practice. She uprooted her family and moved to Harlem to create a courageous experiment that stands nearly 52 years later, as an antidote to America's original sin of white supremacy.
That year, she, with a dedicated and revolutionary ensemble of liberators, created the National Black Theatre, a cultural destination steeped in the commitment of creating a safe and sacred space for our healing. In 1983, after a devastating fire eviscerated its space, she purchased the whole damn block because that is what it means to be free. Our mission is clear: NBT uses the theatrical form to harness the passion from the fires' embers to heal, and center radical Black love and joy to help us rise like a phoenix from the ashes of past transgressions. Our legacy is clear: Dr. Teer helped birth a movement to save the soul of our culture.
Just as our founder did in 1968, we must use this catalytic moment to reclaim our strength, reclaim our power, right now in this hour. Using the precious time we have on this earth, we must amplify Black voices, Black artists and Black spaces, and invest in the rejuvenation and reclamation of who we were truly born to be for the health and wealth of our entire country.
This month, we will be doing just that. Inspired by Dr. Teer's birthday on June 18, and an unpublished letter she wrote to the future in 1991, NBT will launch this year's Founder's series to help ground ourselves in the wisdom that came before in order to blaze pathways into the future.
The NBT@HOME: A Letter To The Future series will launch on June 18, with the release of Dr. Teer's letter on NBT's Instagram, @natblacktheatre, and run through July 18. NBT will host a series of four conversations each Thursday starting June 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET on Facebook Live, moderated by co-curator ChelseaDee:
Thursday, June 25: "Liberation of a People: The Ritual of Resilience | 125th & FREEdom"
Thursday, July 2: "Black To The Future: Building a Tomorrow"
Thursday, July 9: "The Revival is Coming"
Thursday, July 16: "The Download"
An integral component of this Founder's Month is the creation of NBT's VISION Forward Fund, dedicated to the continued cultivation of radically free Black creativity, the archival preservation of NBT's rich history and the institution's capacity-building and technological infrastructure.
We invite you to pull up a seat at the table we have collectively built, forged out of Dr. Teer's relentless Love. We invite you to dream with us as we co-create a vision of self-determination, abundance, and Black liberation through your own letters to the future. There will also be specific ways to support NBT's VISION Forward Fund, which will help imagine, fortify, ground and realize NBT's mission into the next century.
This year's Founder's celebration is sure to be lit as we exalt our highest selves, our humanity and our ability to be the best citizens for one another. Through our collective actions, we can leverage the work of Dr. Teer, her ensemble of liberators, and the warriors who continue to move through the fire, so that we might all become fireproof.
Sade Lythcott, CEO, Jonathan McCrory, Artistic Director,
The Staff and Board of Directors of The National Black Theatre, Inc.
If you are a Black artist or an artist of color and would like to share your stories, your work, and your experiences, or to recommend someone else that we should get in touch with for one of our initiatives, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.