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BWW Interview: Brandon Michael Nase Lays Out How Broadway for Racial Justice Is Taking Action

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Earlier this month, Broadway for Racial Justice (BFRJ) was born. The organization seeks to aid in the fight for racial justice and equity within the theatre community at large. By providing resources to BIPOCs, BFRJ aims to create safe spaces throughout the theatre community for creativity and artistry to thrive.

Founder/Executive Director of Broadway for Racial Justice (BFRJ), Brandon Michael Nase, checked in with BroadwayWorld ahead of its full launch today, June 19.

BWW Interview: Brandon Michael Nase Lays Out How Broadway for Racial Justice Is Taking Action


Why did you decide to create BFRJ?

My desire and action towards creating Broadway for Racial Justice stems from two things... I think we need immediate action right now. I think like there are so many things that need to be talked about and so many things that need to be changed, and I do believe that It's gonna take time and it's gonna take unlearning, but for me it's about what can I do right now? What are the actual steps I can take to bring about change?

And the other part of it kind of goes along with this virtual campaign we're launching [today] called #wearenotatrend. This can't be a trending topic. We can't allow for this to be something that's going to be a moment and fade away. That's kind of what has happened as it pertains to racism and white supremacy and white privilege in our business. It's like, "Oh we'll talk about it at some point when someone brings it up publicly..." and then it's kind of slid under the carpet. So those two things led me.

Also, I had conversations with two younger, non-union actors, and one of them was just in an incredibly difficult financial situation. He's non-union, so he wasn't eligible for The Actors Fund. And the other was a young actor who was currently doing a summer stock job and was the only black person. He's there in this time when we are as a nation, dealing with micro-agressions, dealing with racism and not knowing how to maneuver through that. And he's feeling scared that if he brings that up then he will be retaliated against or looked at in a different way. So having conversations with both of them kind of led me to think something has to happen right now. I need to organize. I need to figure it out, and I need to come up an actual plan for immediate changes as quickly as possible.

So those conversations inspired the idea of the emergency fund?

Yes, I thought: I'm gonna start this organization and right now, in the beginning we're going to start this emergency assistance fund for BIPOC, regardless of your union affiliation. So it will function much like The Actors Fund where there will be an application online. And you know, with the Actors Fund you have to provide five years of W2s... While I understand all of the needs for these check points, I also am very familiar with the systemic racism within not just the Broadway and theatre community at large, but within the nation that leads people of color to not be able to meet those stipulations because they are systemically at a disadvantage.

The other part was establishing this hotline in which people of color can call in to speak to another person of color, which is paramount. It is one of the biggest points of what we're doing. I, as a person of color, as a black man who has experienced racism in a theatrical setting numerous times and has gone to Equity about it, know that when you're in a traumatic experience, you then have to go and have another traumatic experience in trying to explain to a white person how it is racism. As opposed to speaking to a person of color- you tell them the story and they're like "Got it." There's not explanation needed.

So this hotline allows for people to call and speak to another person of color who would then advocate on their behalf, regardless of their union affiliation. One of the great things about my organization is that it's overarching and trying to bridge the gap between union, non-union, elite people within our business, non-elite people within our business... It's trying to break down those stereotypes and just say at the end of the day: we are people of color, we are all fighting for the same thing.

How exactly does the hotline work? Is it already up and running?

It will be. It will launch on September 1st. As you can imagine, something like that is not something that can happen overnight, but it's an advantageous goal for us even to do it by September 1st.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the #wearenotatrend campaign?

It's really just about giving visibility in two ways. Visibility to stories within our theatre community- stories about racism. I think it's important for stories to be told. I think it's incredible that so many black people are coming forward and visibly, showing their face and telling these stories. I think that not everybody is in the place to be able to do that. I think especially younger artists who are just starting their career and maybe don't have the credits or feel like they don't have the backing to be able to come out publicly, who are still scared naturally so because you know there is no guarantee that this is all going to change tomorrow or next week or next year or in three years. There is definitely still a fear within artists sharing these stories, but there are so many people who want stories to be shared.

I think the other part of it is there are a lot of actors within our community who don't quite understand the grasp and gravity and what it's like to endure these experiences. So that is one piece of this campaign that we're launching [today] and the other piece is just visibility to these people. Allowing their faces to be seen, and allowing their voices to be heard, and allowing them to say who they are and they're here and not going anywhere. They're not a trend. This is not something that is going to fade away.

BWW Interview: Brandon Michael Nase Lays Out How Broadway for Racial Justice Is Taking Action

Looking to the future, what are your biggest hopes in watching this grow and develop?

I would hope that it would be able to stand alongside BC/EFA and be that for people of color. I researched BC/EFA and looked at its inception. The AIDS epidemic was this incredibly horrific thing that was plaguing the community and I think that it's important that we also look at racism within our community as this incredibly horrific thing that has plagued us as well. So if we look at the way Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has grown and the amount of people it has been able to help, in my mind that's exactly what I want for this organization to help in so many different ares.

We're also launching this allied program that we're calling 'Allied with BFRJ', which theaters and educational institutions will come alongside us and ally themselves with us, almost divesting themselves to a relationship of accountability and humility and saying: 'We have gotten it wrong in the past. We see that. We want to unlearn what we have done. We want to take on the responsibility to take on new protocols and procedures as to how we are going to handle these things, but we also want to submit to the ear and the voice of Broadway for Racial Justice- an organization run by BIPOC." It is a collaborative relationship.

We're building this bridge and asking theatres, producers, educational institutions- that is one of the biggest things to me because we have all of these musical theatre programs who are pouring into this setup and this construct of white supremacy. If you just think about typing... I've held Zoom forums in the past week with students of color who have said: "You know, I went out into the business and I just thought. "I will just audition for The Lion King, or Dreamgirls,' because that's the rep I was given when I was in school." We have to look at these institutions of learning and we have to hold them to a higher standard as well, because they are perpetuating this construct of white supremacy and white privilege within our business just as much as producers and Broadway and regional theatres are.

What kind of response have you gotten from people in the industry since you started this?

It's been a good response. Everybody's scared, that's the thing. I think, especially white people are scared and timid. They don't want to do the wrong thing, but I think for the most part, especially when I talk about the Allied program, people are very excited. I think because it's an actual tangible plan. I don't see how people could not be excited about that and want to divest themselves to that. Especially when it is a group of BIPOC who are doing this work when quite frankly it isn't our job to do this work but it needs to be done so we're gonna do it. We want to see change.


For more information about Broadway for Racial Justice, visit: https://www.bfrj.org/


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