A new coalition of artists, Black Theatre United, has been announced to influence widespread reform and combat systemic racism within the theatre industry and throughout the nation.
Through harnessing the power of its collective voice to bring about change, the efforts of the new organization will center on the shared experience, heritage and culture of the Black diaspora, The coalition is inclusive and welcomes allies.
The founding group of actors, directors, musicians, writers, technicians, producers and stage management includes: Lisa Dawn Cave, Darius de Haas, Brandon Victor Dixon, Carin Ford, Capathia Jenkins, LaChanze, Adriane Lenox, Kenny Leon, Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, Michael McElroy, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Wendell Pierce, Billy Porter, Phylicia Rashad, Allyson Tucker, Tamara Tunie, Lillias White, NaTasha Yvette Williams, Schele Williams and Vanessa Williams.
As well as addressing injustice on a national scale, Black Theatre United will represent a vital resource, offering critical assistance, empowerment and shared fellowship to Black members of the theatre community. BTU’s first initiative will be to constitute an inquiry committee to accurately assess past practices and policies within the theatre, to help rebuild a theatrical community and environment that is more equitable, anti-racist and inclusive for all.
Black Theatre United is also developing mentorship, scholarship and internship opportunities to support Black youth aspiring to careers in the theatre. BTU will partner with theatre and educational organizations to advance diversity efforts and inclusionary practices.
To launch the coalition, BTU has joined forces with more than 150 additional members of the Black theatre community, including Michael Boatman, Danielle Brooks, Tituss Burgess, Merle Dandridge, Keith David, Viola Davis, Daveed Diggs, Cynthia Erivo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, David Alan Grier, Todrick Hall, William Harper, Samuel and LaTanya Jackson, Sanaa Lathan, Delroy Lindo, Joe Morton, Tracie Thoms, Leslie Uggams, Blair Underwood, Adrienne Warren and Alfre Woodard, to deliver its message in a special public service announcement. Galvanized by the brutal deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others, BTU has united to say:
“As members of the Black theatre community, we stand together to help protect Black people, Black talent and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theatre and communities across the country. Our voices are united to empower our community through activism in the pursuit of justice and equality for the betterment of all humanity. We will not be silent. We will be seen. We will be heard. We are here. Join us.”
Organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit social advocacy organization, Black Theatre United is mobilizing to raise awareness, ensure accountability, undertake advocacy and inspire action. Its first initiatives will lay the groundwork for implementing substantive changes in politics, communities and the theatre itself.
Black Theatre United has roots in all 50 of the United States, giving the coalition invaluable political scope and influence. To elevate a cause or to overturn policies that target Black people in any one state or community, the group will draw on members with local connections to use their visibility and influence for good.
BTU will work with Fair Count, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded by former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Fair Count partners with hard-to-count (HTC) communities to achieve a fair and accurate count of all people in the nation in the 2020 Census and strengthen the pathways to greater civic participation.
On Wednesday, June 17, BTU founding members Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad will join Fair Count for “Sisters Sip,” a virtual Zoom holistic happy hour where they’ll discuss what it means as Black women to show up for their community while still prioritizing their overall health.
BTU is also partnering with Harness, a nonprofit started by America Ferrera, Wilmer Valderrama and Ryan Piers Williams to engage artists in social change. Together they will launch the #BeCounted campaign, which features Stacey Abrams, Kerry Washington and other activists, community leaders and celebrities to boost the participation of hard-to-count communities in the 2020 Census and to help ensure that the $1.5 trillion federal dollars allocated through the Census will reach minority communities. BTU member Kenny Leon will take part in upcoming Harness awareness efforts relating to the Census.
To join the movement, members of the Black theatre community and their allies can sign up and express their solidarity here.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
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