NEW YORK — Harlem’s historic National Black Theatre (NBT) is hosting an annual salute to its founder and CEO emerita, the late Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, with NBT’s Founder’s Month, a month-long celebration of Teer, Black theater and community.
Running through July 18, the celebration will feature the launch of NBT@Home: A Letter to the Future, a new series of online conversations on theater, current events and Black history with guests including Toshi Reagon, Ebony Noelle Golden, adrienne maree brown, Jonathan McCrory, Sade Lythcott, members of the theater’s original company of “Liberators,” and more, and the launch of NBT’s VISION Forward Fund Campaign, a fundraising drive to support and advance the theater well into the future.
Founder’s Month honors Dr. Teer, who was born on June 18 and who founded the institution in 1968 during the Black Arts Movement. This year, NBT has released Teer’s “Letter to the Future” on NBT’s Instagram page (@natblacktheatre).
Never before published in its entirety, the message was written by Teer in 1991 for a time capsule commissioned by Crossroads Theatre Company that was found when its building was demolished in 2017. Teer’s missive is eerily prescient as she conveyed her hope that her fellows would have moved the discourse about Black people as “underprivileged” and “culturally deprived” to one in which their beauty, grace and humanity is recognized.
In a modern world now reckoning with the racial imbalances and injustices highlighted by the COVID-19 emergency and renewed civil rights protests, Teer’s words from nearly 30 years ago could not be more timely. The “Letter to the Future” along with a newly commissioned audiovisual sound collage with original score by Ricardo iamuuri Robinson (aka La’Vender Freddy) featuring the theater legend can be seen on Instagram or at www.nationalblacktheatre.org.
Founder’s Month will continue with the premiere of NBT@Home: A Letter to the Future. Composed of four curated conversations — each moderated by NBT’s guest curator and creative producer ChelseaDee — the series will feature Black artists in conversation across four consecutive Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. ET on Facebook Live.
The series begins on Thursday with “Liberation of a People: The Ritual of Resilience,” featuring some of Dr. Teer’s contemporaries and original NBT liberators, Ayodele Moore and Adé Faison, in conversation with Ebony Noelle Golden, dancer, choreographer, and creator of 125th & FREEdom dance program together with members of the company. During this reunion they will discuss the institution’s principle pedagogy, TEER Technology of Soul, and the creation and impact of 125th & FREEdom. On July 2, the series focuses on “Black to the Future: Building a Tomorrow,” featuring guests who were all members of NBT’s SOUL Series LAB (Liberating Artistic Bravery) residency programs. Guests including playwrights Ngozi Anyanwu, Angelica Cheri, Lee Edward Colston II, Mfoniso Udofia, and director Dominique Rider will discuss the need for “radically free” Black spaces to create Black art.
“Dr. Teer was a trailblazer and revolutionary thinker who believed that building spaces steeped in the healing and liberation of our people was just as important as the dismantling of oppressive systems limiting Black people’s ability to thrive, said NBT CEO Sade Lythcott. “She created the National Black Theatre as a testament to what is possible when we invest in our own futures, communities and selves. I hope you will all join us as we celebrate her life and legacy.”
July 9 brings “The Revival is Coming,” with guests author adrienne maree brown, Pastor Kyndra Frazier and composer-musician Toshi Reagon, a conversation featuring queer Black artists exploring ways to find and use joy as a way to promote healing for communities of color and LGBT communities. The series closes out on July 16 with “The Download,” a discussion featuring the creative leadership team of NBT — Sade Lythcott, CEO and daughter of Dr. Teer; Jonathan McCrory, artistic director; and Nia Farrell, interactive social media manager — in conversation on the future of NBT, its impending move, its role in the Harlem arts community and more. “The Download” will continue later in the summer as a new ongoing series featuring the creatives discussing news affecting the arts, Black communities and more.
As a part of Founder’s Month, NBT is also launching its VISION Forward Fund, dedicated to the continued cultivation of Black creativity, the archival preservation of NBT’s rich history and the institution’s capacity-building and technological infrastructure. NBT invites funders, the theater community, fans and Black Arts enthusiasts to join them in supporting its vision by visiting www.nationalblacktheatre.org/donate.