August 28, 2022—I am delighted to report to the readers of Arts & Culture Connections that the turnout for the 48th annual HARLEM WEEK was phenomenal! After two years of being a virtual event, HARLEM WEEK 2022 offered both in-person and online activities. The crowds seemed to revel in the opportunity to be outside together, enjoying the beautiful weather and cultural festivities.
I had the honor of coordinating the Arts & Culture/Broadway Virtual Summit, along with Lady Irene Gandy, bringing together actors, producers, and directors to discuss the “Impact of Building a Culture of Diversity on Broadway—Environmental Justice.” This was my third year as moderator of the virtual summit focused on Broadway.
So that everyone would have an opportunity to speak, we had two separate sessions. The first session featured Aaliytha Stevens, founding member of Black Theatre Coalition and Chief Operating Officer of SpotCo; Brian Moreland, Producer “Thoughts of A Colored Man” and “The Piano Lesson,” and Khady Kamara, Executive Director, Second Stage Theater. The second session featured Vy Higginsen, Producer, “Mama I Want to Sing;” Gennean Scott, Diversity Officer, The Broadway League, and Shanta Thake, Chief Artistic Officer, Lincoln Center.
The goal of the discussion with the six distinguished panelists was to reflect on Broadway’s past season, which included an unprecedented number of plays written by Black playwrights; a record number of producers of color who worked on these plays, as well as the impact on the community.
We also discussed the impact of the 2020 online publication of “We See You, White American Theater,” and it’s principles for developing an anti-racist theater system. And we talked about the barriers that still need to be tackled—from diversifying and creating opportunities for people of color in the Broadway industry trade unions to the importance of fostering the next generation of artists seeking to work on both sides of the curtain.
Charles Flateman, Chairman of NYC & Company and Executive Vice President of the Schubert Organization, opened the Broadway summit with an announcement that the recently renovated Cort Theatre will be renamed for the actor James Earl Jones. The Cort Theatre is where Mr. Jones made his featured Broadway debut in 1958.