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Kevin Mambo and Wendell Pierce in the Billie Holiday Theatre’s 2015 production of "Brothers From the Bottom." (Photo by Helen L. Collen)

The Black Seed Unveils Generous Grant Program for Black Theatres

Nearly 100 Black theatres will receive 1- or 2-year grants, ranging in size from $10,000 to $150,000.

BROOKLYN: The Black Seed, a national strategic initiative focused on creating impact and “thrivability” for Black theatre institutions, has announced that close to 100 Black theatres across the country will receive one- or two-year grants ranging from $10,000 to $150,000. This is the first iteration in a long-term strategy for the company.

“As a Confederate flag made its way into the hallowed chambers of Congress this past week for the first time in our nation’s history, the abject racism in that symbol has made the stories of Black Americans perhaps more important now than ever before,” said Dr. Indira Etwaroo, national advisory committee chair of the Black Seed, in a statement. “As the gatekeepers of the African American story and the complete American story, Black theatres are standing together to ensure that we are a mighty force for change in this country. We are greater—as a sector—than the sum of our parts.”

Launched in October 2020, the Black Seed is helmed by the Billie Holiday Theatre in collaboration with three additional Black-led theatre institutions: the CRAFT Institute, Plowshares Theatre Company, and WACO Theater Center. The Black Seed Fund has been made possible by a philanthropic cohort, with a lead gift of $5 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and including Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, and the New York Community Trust. The Black Seed’s three-year initiative has a fundraising goal of $10 million, comprised of private and public funders, as well as individual donors.

“We’ve been working with Black theatre leaders and institutions for 36 years,” said Andre Harrington, former Black Theatre Network president, in a statement. “We’ve never been short on ideas, only resources. This moment of COVID-19 colliding into the longstanding racial injustices in this country has created a unique challenge for Black theatre institutions. We stand on mighty shoulders and have been needing to come together as a field, and now, with the Black Seed, that time is now.”

Comprising a diverse group of artists, strategists, and leaders of African descent, the Black Seed’s review panel includes Lisa Arrindell, Sandi Haynes, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Hollis King, Rama Orleans-Lindsay, Donja R. Love, Dafina McMillan, Wendell Pierce, Carl Hancock Rux, and Michele Shay.

“The Black Seed Project isn’t just an aspirational endeavor,” said Pierce in a statement. “It is tangible and forthright. It is the manifestation of expanding the Black Theatre of America to the level of cultural impact is has been deserving of for decades. The systemic racism that allows for so little resources to be granted and funding of our has denied Black theatre to be consumed in the global discussion of humanity. That voice cannot continue to be silenced. The Black Seed exercises our right of self-determination.”

The leaderless movement We See You, White American Theatre (WSYWAT) added in a joint statement, “We are humbled and inspired by this generous show of support for this first-ever national strategic initiative focused on Black theatres. From our first convening, WSYWAT knew that our work was not a moment, but part of a greater movement in pursuit of a more just theatre ecology and the Black Seed deeply aligns with that work. This work requires sustained effort over time, and this gift will help ensure its continuation.

Award grantees are as follows:

651 Arts
African American Museum of Perf Arts
African American Shakespeare Co.
Afrikan Poetry Theatre
Akiba Abaka Arts
American Slavery Project
Anthony Bean Comm Theater & Acting School
Art City Institute and Foundation
Art Forms and Theatre Concepts
ArtsCentric
Ashe Cultural Arts Center
Atlanta Black Theatre Festival
AUDELCO
August Wilson Society
Black Arts MKE
Black Experimental theatre dba Riant theatre
Black Liberation Art Center
Black Lives; Black Words
Black Rebirth Collective
Black Repertory Theater of Kansas City
Black Spatial Relics
Black Spectrum Theater Company
Black Theater Troupe
Black Theatre Network
Blackberry Projections
Blues City Cultural Center
Caribbean American Repertory Theater
City College Center for the Arts
Classical Theater of Harlem
CLASSIX
Crossroads Theatre Company
DC Theatre Arts Collaborative dba Anacostia Playhouse
Definition Theater Company
Driven Theatre Company
Dunbar Repertory
Dynamite Productions
Ebony Repertory Theater
Essential Theater
Fehinty African Theater Ensemble
Frank Silvera Writers Workshop
Freedom Workshop Theater
Friends of the Douglass Theater Complex
Front Porch Arts Collective
Girl Be Heard
Harlem 9 Inc
Harlem Stage
Hatiloo Theater
Honey Pot Performance
Illuminate Theater
JAG Productions
Jonathan Williams Center for the Performing Arts
Junebug Productions
Karamu House
KC Melting Pot
Legacy 166 Inc.
Liberation Theatre Company
Lower Depth Theatre
Maroon Arts and Culture
MOCADA
MOJOAA Performing Arts Company
Movement Theater Company
National Black Theatre
Negro Ensemble Company
New Black Fest
New Federal Theater
New Heritage Theater
New Professional Theater
North Carolina Black Rep Comp
Pirate Jenny Theater
Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company
Plowshares Theater Company
Quick Silver Theater Company
Restoration Stage
Robey Theatre Company
SEW Productions Lorraine Hansberry Theatre
Sidewalk Detroit
St. Louis Black Rep
Stage Aurora Theatrical Company
Star Center Theatre
Support Black Theater
Tabia/SJMAG
Techmoja Dance & Theater Company
The Black Academy of Arts & Letters
The Black Creators Collective
The Black Repertory Group
The Craft Institute
The Ensemble Theater
The Fire This Time Festival
The Floyd McCree Theater
The Heritage Ensemble Company
Theater Alliance of DC
Theater in the X
Towne Street Theater
TriArc CDC
Tuskegee Repertory Theater
Ujima Theater Company
ViBe Theater Experience
WACO Theater Center
Yendor Theatre Company

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