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OP-ED: Black Theatre Day (September 17) is An Annual Day of Solidarity and Service

THE BURTON WIRE — Black theatres provide a public service as an educational resource. After two decades of teaching in higher education, including the past five years at Dartmouth College, I found that most students entering my theatre and cultural studies classes as well as many K-12, undergraduate and graduate theatre educators I encounter through CRAFT, have little to no knowledge of Black theatre. Regardless of background, those connected to Black theatres in their communities, like the Douglass Theatre, founded in Macon, GA in 1921, and collaborative educational programs, are better informed about Black life and culture and a broader range of Black theatre. Black Theatre Day is an opportunity for everyone to learn more about Black theatre and how to collaborate and support Black-led theatre institutions, the beneficiaries of the illustrious legacies of the African diaspora.
The post OP-ED: Black Theatre Day (September 17) is An Annual Day of Solidarity and Service first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Historical funding patterns suggests that without intentional intervention like committing to collaborative action, significant foundational support for Black theatres will likely recede after 5 to 6 years.

By Monica White Ndounou | The Burton Wire

Black Theatre Day (September 17) is an annual day of solidarity and service, to celebrate and support 21st century Black theatres in their ongoing efforts to build sustainable, institutional wealth.

Last fall, The International Black Theatre Summit, biennially convened by The CRAFT Institute, commemorated the 200th anniversary of the African Grove Theatre’s opening night on September 17, 1821 by launching the inaugural Black Theatre Day with a day of virtual events in collaboration with The Billie Holiday Theatre.  As the first known professional Black theatre company in the United States—composed of Black Americans and African-Caribbeans—the company launched the career of Ira Aldridge, who claimed to be an African prince as he toured Europe. In case you have not heard of Aldridge, he is arguably the greatest Shakespearean tragedian of all times. Currently staging a production of Carlyle Brown’s The African Company Presents Richard III, which recounts the story of their immense talent and experiences with racial bias, St. Louis Black Rep is one of many participating organizations hosting a series of such events to celebrate Black Theatre Day.

Black theatres provide a public service as an educational resource. After two decades of teaching in higher education, including the past five years at Dartmouth College, I found that most students entering my theatre and cultural studies classes as well as many K-12, undergraduate and graduate theatre educators I encounter through CRAFT, have little to no knowledge of Black theatre. Regardless of background, those connected to Black theatres in their communities, like the Douglass Theatre, founded in Macon, GA in 1921, and collaborative educational programs, are better informed about Black life and culture and a broader range of Black theatre. Black Theatre Day is an opportunity for everyone to learn more about Black theatre and how to collaborate and support Black-led theatre institutions, the beneficiaries of the illustrious legacies of the African diaspora.

Black-led theatre institutions are incubators for Black talent on stage and screen who mutually recognize their intrinsic value through various forms. Playwright, screenwriter and actress, Alice Childress, author of last season’s Broadway production of Trouble in Mind, studied at the historic American Negro Theatre which launched the careers of Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Ruby Dee. Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago Hudson, an alum of the Negro Ensemble Company and protégé of the esteemed Broadway director and Lloyd Richards, former Dean of the Yale Drama School, also wrote, directed, and starred in his 2021 Broadway production of Lackawana Blues. This Broadway season, Samuel L. Jackson will star in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson directed by LaTanya Richardson Jackson. Both are NEC and HBCU alums of Morehouse College and Spelman College, respectively. Playwright Lynn Nottage, who wrote the book for MJ: The Musical established her roots at The Billie Holiday Theatre, where stage and screen actor, Wendell Pierce, currently starring in the Broadway production of Death of a Salesman, serves on the board. Pierce is a native of New Orleans, the home of Black-led theatre institutions like No Dream Deferred and Ashé Cultural Arts Center. Intentional Black theatre connections and collaborations are the future.

Ongoing advocacy for greater economic equity is a necessity in order to secure Black theatre’s future. MacArthur Genius, Dominique Morisseau’s recent calls to dismantle and rebuild Broadway, a commercial enterprise, for the benefit of the field are reminiscent of legendary playwright August Wilson’s 1996 speech, “The Ground on Which I Stand,” in which he proclaimed that “Black theatre is alive, it is vibrant, it is vital…it just isn’t funded.”  The Helicon Collaborative study documented these persisting disparities nearly twenty years later. Their study found out of $4 billion in philanthropic support from foundations to arts organizations “just 2 percent of all cultural institutions [all white] receive nearly 60 percent of all contributed revenue” primarily producing Eurocentric programming.  The other 98 percent of arts organizations (including only 4 percent of arts organizations of color with Black theatres as a fraction of that percentage) split the remaining 40 percent.

To be sure, arts foundations and nonprofit leaders are increasingly aware of the inequities as reflected in support from the Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and other sources for special initiatives in recent years. Still, historical funding patterns suggests that without intentional intervention like committing to collaborative action, significant foundational support for Black theatres will likely recede after 5 to 6 years.

The International Black Theatre Summit and its Black Theatre Day partners (WACO Theater Center, Project1Voice, Black Theatre Network, Black Theatre Association, The National Association of Black Theatre Building Owners, National Black Theatre Festival, the National Association of Dramatic Speech and Arts, Support Black Theatre) are encouraging everyone to donate $5, 5 hours or more and invite 5 people to #SupportBlackTheatre through Black-led theatre institutions year-round. Black Theatre Day inspires us to reimagine new possibilities!

To learn more and to obtain additional resources for Black Theatre Day visit thecraftinstitute.org

Monica White Ndounou is an Associate Professor of Theater and affiliate faculty in African and African American Studies and Film and Media Studies at Dartmouth College.  She is the Founder and Executive Director of The CRAFT Institute, Convener of The International Black Theatre Summit, the author of the award-winning book, Shaping the Future of African American Film: Color-Coded Economics and the Story Behind the Numbers (Rutgers UP 2014) and co-founder of CreateEnsemble.com.  She is a Public Voices Fellow

This article originally appeared in The Burton Wire.

The post OP-ED: Black Theatre Day (September 17) is An Annual Day of Solidarity and Service first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Nsenga K. Burton Ph.D.

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Mexico Celebrates Election of First Woman President

THE AFRO — This is indeed a proud and momentous moment for gender equality and female empowerment not only for the region but the entire world. Mexico is known for its strong patriarchal structures. Sheinbaum’s election to the presidency speaks volumes regarding the advancement women have made in Mexico since Universal Adult Suffrage. 
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By Wayne Campbell and Francine Mclean | The AFRO

“For the first time in 200 years of the republic, I will become the first female president of Mexico. I do not arrive alone. We all arrived, with our heroines who gave us our homeland, with our ancestors, our mothers, our daughters and our granddaughters.”
– Claudia Sheinbaum

Women have played a fundamental role in Mexico’s independence, reform and revolution.

Unfortunately, they did not have a right to political participation. Finally, women in Mexico got this fundamental right to vote on October 17, 1953. Their struggle began during the Mexican Revolution, with the starting point being the First Feminist Congress of the Yucatan in 1916. At that historic meeting, the women gathered there demanded equality, education and citizenship in order to build together with the men in a responsible manner.

Historically, Yucatan was the first state to recognize women’s right to vote in 1923. Claudia Sheinbaum has been elected as Mexico’s first woman president in an historic landslide win. Mexico’s official electoral authority said preliminary results showed the 61-year-old former head of government of Mexico City winning between 58 percent and 60 percent of the vote in the June 2 election. It was a landmark vote that saw not one, but two women vying to lead one of the hemisphere’s biggest nations.

Sheinbaum’s election will see a Jewish leader at the helm of one of the world’s largest predominantly Catholic countries. Mexico has a population of over 129 million people. In a country with one of the highest rates of murder against women in the world, Sheinbaum’s victory underscores the advances women have made in the political sphere.

Both of her parents were scientists. Sheinbaum studied physics before going on to receive a doctorate in energy engineering. Sheinbaum is accustomed to breaking the proverbial glass ceiling. In 2018 she became the first female head of government of Mexico City, a post she held until 2023, when she stepped down to run for president.

Nearly 100 million people were registered to vote in the election, but turnout appeared to be slightly lower than in past elections. Voters were also electing governors in nine of the country’s 32 states, and choosing candidates for both houses of Congress, thousands of head of government positions and other local posts, in the biggest elections the nation has seen.

Jewish ancestry

Sheinbaum, whose Jewish maternal grandparents immigrated to Mexico from Bulgaria fleeing the Nazis, had an illustrious career as a scientist before delving into politics. Her paternal grandparents hailed from Lithuania. An estimated 50,000 Jewish people live in Mexico. The majority are settled in Mexico City and its surroundings, with small communities in the cities of Monterrey, Guadalajara, Tijuana, Cancún, San Miguel de Allende and Los Cabos.

The first Jews arrived in Mexico in 1519 along with the Spanish colonization. The community began to grow substantially by the early 20th century, as thousands of Jews fled from the Ottoman Empire to escape instability and antisemitism.

International conflict

Sheinbaum’s win also comes at a significant time as the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has displaced more than one million Palestinians and left more than 35,000 people dead, according to officials in Gaza. Since the beginning of the war last year, Sheinbaum has condemned attacks on civilians. She even called for a cease-fire and said she supports a two-state solution.

Without a doubt Sheinbaum is Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s political protégé. She started her political career as his environmental minister after he was elected head of government of Mexico City in 2000. She has been unwaveringly loyal ever since, even supporting his pro-oil energy agenda despite her environmental background.

It is often said that while Sheinbaum lacks López Obrador’s charisma and popular appeal, she has a reputation for being analytical, disciplined and exacting. Most importantly, she has promised to support López Obrador’s policies and popular social programs, including a universal pension benefit for seniors as well as providing cash payments to low-income residents. Under Mexico’s constitution, presidents can only serve one six-year term.

This is indeed a proud and momentous moment for gender equality and female empowerment not only for the region but the entire world. Mexico is known for its strong patriarchal structures. Sheinbaum’s election to the presidency speaks volumes regarding the advancement women have made in Mexico since Universal Adult Suffrage.

The election of Sheinbaum will undoubtedly provide hope to thousands of Mexican girls in particular and girls in general that their biological sex is not an indicator of what they can achieve.

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PRESS ROOM: Denny’s Invests $3.3 Million in Holistic Approach to Feeding People: Body, Mind and Soul with Launch of Nationwide Community Alliance

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The official launch of Denny’s Community Alliance took place at a press conference at the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law. Denny’s CEO and President Kelli Valade signed the Community Alliance agreement and presented a $500,000 scholarship gift from Denny’s to the College of Law in support of its commitment to social justice, with further programs and activities unfolding nationwide with the Denny’s Community partner organizations.
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Kickoff Includes Signing of Alliance with 14 Partners including NAACP, HACR and the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law, and Scholarship Presentation

SPARTANBURG, S.C., June 2024 Denny’s (NASDAQ: DENN), America’s diner, announced today that it is elevating its decades-long commitment to communities nationwide by forming an alliance with 14 influential civic and educational organizations. The alliance is central to the brand’s Community initiative.

Denny’s groundwork for the Community initiative began over three decades ago when the company partnered with the NAACP, HACR, and 24 diverse civil rights organizations and nonprofit groups to drive positive change in the communities it serves. These efforts include over $2 billion in investments in diverse-owned businesses and donations exceeding $2.5 million in scholarships. Denny’s unwavering commitment to nurturing its workforce and addressing societal concerns takes a monumental leap forward with the launch of Community.

To amplify its dedication to feeding people: body, mind, and soul, Denny’s launched Community, a collaborative initiative dedicated to social change and forging strong alliances with trailblazing advocates, globally recognized civil rights leaders, and influential community and civic organizations representing historically marginalized communities. Denny’s will center its efforts around five key pillars: human and civil rights, business diversity, education, community involvement, and the cultivation of an inclusive leadership pipeline, in collaboration with its national and community partners.

The Denny’s Community initiative is a five-year partnership with organizations including: the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR), League of Latin American Citizens, NAACP, National Urban League, National Action Network, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, and more.

Under the Community banner, Denny’s will allocate a total of $3.3 million for a multi-year commitment to its partners and support organizations to deploy local initiatives in cities and towns across the nation. These efforts include serving hot meals to underserved neighborhoods and groups via the Denny’s Mobile Relief Diner (MRD), which operates as a fully functional kitchen on wheels and travels across the nation, enhancing charitable giving programs, natural disasters, and emergency relief efforts.

Another key pillar in the Community initiative is promoting business diversity. Denny’s is partnering with the National Minority Supplier Development Council, US Pan Asian Chamber of Commerce, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, National Veteran Business Development Council, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Disability:IN.

As part of Denny’s launch of its nationwide Community Alliance, a scholarship gift of $500,000 was given to the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law. Crump accepted the donation from Denny’s in support of the College of Law’s commitment to social justice.Pictured (l-r): Dean Tarlika Nunez-Navarro, Benjamin L. Crump College of Law; Randy Brown, Denny’s Senior Manager, Business Diversity; Brenda J. Lauderback, Chair, Board of Directors, Denny’s Inc.; Michael Whitacre, Denny’s Director of Franchise Operations; Benjamin L. Crump; Gail Sharps Myers, Denny’s Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer; Kelli Valade, Denny’s CEO and President; Fasika Melaku-Peterson, Denny’s Senior Vice President, Chief Learning and Development Officer; President David A. Armstrong, St. Thomas University; Nader Talebzadeh, Denny’s Director of International Operations; April Kelly-Drummond, Denny’s Vice President, Chief Inclusion and Community Engagement Officer

As part of Denny’s launch of its nationwide Community Alliance, a scholarship gift of $500,000 was given to the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law. Crump accepted the donation from Denny’s in support of the College of Law’s commitment to social justice.
Pictured (l-r): Dean Tarlika Nunez-Navarro, Benjamin L. Crump College of Law; Randy Brown, Denny’s Senior Manager, Business Diversity; Brenda J. Lauderback, Chair, Board of Directors, Denny’s Inc.; Michael Whitacre, Denny’s Director of Franchise Operations; Benjamin L. Crump; Gail Sharps Myers, Denny’s Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer; Kelli Valade, Denny’s CEO and President; Fasika Melaku-Peterson, Denny’s Senior Vice President, Chief Learning and Development Officer; President David A. Armstrong, St. Thomas University; Nader Talebzadeh, Denny’s Director of International Operations; April Kelly-Drummond, Denny’s Vice President, Chief Inclusion and Community Engagement Officer

The official launch of Denny’s Community Alliance took place at a press conference at the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law. Denny’s CEO and President Kelli Valade signed the Community Alliance agreement and presented a $500,000 scholarship gift from Denny’s to the College of Law in support of its commitment to social justice, with further programs and activities unfolding nationwide with the Denny’s Community partner organizations.

Leaders of the coalition who attended the announcement include Benjamin L. Crump, St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law; Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP; and Sylvia Pérez Cash, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility (HACR).

“With the establishment of Denny’s Community initiative, we are continuing our work to connect with our guests and others in our communities,” said Valade. “Our partners are the embodiment of service and how to prioritize equity. We are honored to create this alliance that will impact and address challenges facing our society while breaking barriers to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world for all.”

“We are grateful for corporations like Denny’s that recognize the vital importance of unity,” said Benjamin L. Crump. “We are honored to collaborate with leaders in this new alliance and are grateful to Denny’s for the scholarship support, which will help educate the social justice leaders of tomorrow, keeping the mission of equity and justice alive for decades to come.”

“The NAACP has been proud to partner with Denny’s for the last three decades, working collectively towards a more diverse corporate America,” said Derrick Johnson, President & CEO, NAACP. “The Community initiative is a crucial investment in those who have invested in the growth and success of the Denny’s brand. We are excited to continue this journey together, executing the vision of a more equitable and just society for all.”

“HACR is honored to enter a new phase of our decades-long partnership with Denny’s as part of Denny’s Community Alliance,” said HACR President and CEO, Cid Wilson. “Their multi-year investment is invaluable as we intensify our efforts to advance Hispanic inclusion. We recognize that real change requires sustained effort and are grateful to collaborate with a company, and peer advocacy organizations, that share our long-term commitment and unwavering focus. Our thanks to the leadership at Denny’s, for their steadfast commitment to Hispanic inclusion and overall DEI, including Kelli Valade, Board Chair Brenda Lauderback, board member and former CEO John Miller, and April Kelly-Drummond.”

Denny’s recently announced the launch of it’s Community Alliance with a gift to the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law. Representatives from Denny’s, NAACP, HACR, and the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law were on hand for event. Seated (l-r): Gail Sharps Myers, Denny’s Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer; Brenda J. Lauderback, Chair, Board of Directors, Denny’s Inc.; Kelli Valade, Denny’s CEO and President; Benjamin L. Crump; Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP; Sylvia Pérez Cash, Executive Vice President, Chief Operations Officer, HACR.
Second Row (l-r): Nader Talebzadeh, Denny’s Director of International Operations; Fasika Melaku-Peterson, Denny’s Senior Vice President, Chief Learning and Development Officer; Michael Whitacre, Denny’s Director of Franchise Operations; April Kelly-Drummond, Denny’s Vice President, Chief Inclusion and Community Engagement Officer; Dean Tarika Nunez-Navarro, St. Thomas University, Benjamin L. Crump College of Law; President David A. Armstrong, St. Thomas University; Randy Brown, Denny’s Senior Manager, Business Diversity.

Denny’s recently announced the launch of it’s Community Alliance with a gift to the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law. Representatives from Denny’s, NAACP, HACR, and the St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law were on hand for event.
Seated (l-r): Gail Sharps Myers, Denny’s Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer; Brenda J. Lauderback, Chair, Board of Directors, Denny’s Inc.; Kelli Valade, Denny’s CEO and President; Benjamin L. Crump; Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP; Sylvia Pérez Cash, Executive Vice President, Chief Operations Officer, HACR.
Second Row (l-r): Nader Talebzadeh, Denny’s Director of International Operations; Fasika Melaku-Peterson, Denny’s Senior Vice President, Chief Learning and Development Officer; Michael Whitacre, Denny’s Director of Franchise Operations; April Kelly-Drummond, Denny’s Vice President, Chief Inclusion and Community Engagement Officer; Dean Tarika Nunez-Navarro, St. Thomas University, Benjamin L. Crump College of Law; President David A. Armstrong, St. Thomas University; Randy Brown, Denny’s Senior Manager, Business Diversity.

Denny’s April Kelly-Drummond, vice president and Chief Inclusion and Community Engagement Officer: “Bottom line: we are committed to serving communities everywhere – and all are welcome. We are proud to embark on this ambitious Community journey with our esteemed colleagues and partners to address social injustice in the restaurant industry and beyond, as well as create equitable access and opportunities for all particularly in the areas of education and economic empowerment.”

“For nearly 65 years, St. Thomas University (STU) has educated a diversity of national, local, and international students, helping them become ethical leaders for our global community,” said STU President David A. Armstrong, J.D. “Today, the university recognizes Denny’s efforts to promote human and civil rights, education, and community involvement. We thank Denny’s for their generous contribution to fund scholarships at the Benjamin L. Crump College of Law and its Center for Social Justice, which are training the world’s future servant leaders.”

St. Thomas University Benjamin L. Crump College of Law is one of America’s fastest growing and most diverse law schools, with a 71% enrollment increase since 2018 and over 300 incoming students expected in fall 2024. Black and Hispanic students make up roughly three-quarters of STU’s nearly 6,500 overall enrollment and that of the law school, which recently earned the second-highest bar passage rate in Florida.

For more information on Denny’s Community campaign and DE&I efforts, please visit http://www.dennys.com.

About Denny’s Corporation 

Denny’s is a Spartanburg, S.C.-based family dining restaurant brand that has been welcoming guests to our booths for more than 70 years. Our guiding principle is simple: We love to feed people. Denny’s provides craveable meals at a meaningful value across breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night. Whether it’s at our brick-and-mortar locations, via Denny’s on Demand (the first delivery platform in the family dining segment), or at The Meltdown, Banda Burrito, and The Burger Den, our three virtual restaurant concepts, Denny’s is ready to delight guests whenever and however they want to order. Our longstanding commitment to supporting our local communities in need is brought to life with our Mobile Relief Diner (that delivers hot meals to our neighbors during times of disaster), Denny’s Hungry for Education™ scholarship program, and our annual fundraiser with No Kid Hungry.

Denny’s is one of the largest franchised full-service restaurant brands in the world, based on the number of restaurants. As of March 27, 2024, the Company consisted of 1,553 restaurants, 1,489 of which were franchised and licensed restaurants and 64 of which were company-operated. This includes 168 restaurants in Canada, Costa Rica, Curacao, El Salvador, Guam, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. 

To learn more about Denny’s, please visit our brand website at http://www.dennys.com or the brand’s social channels via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn or YouTube.

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Hope Wade, Jamaican-American Fashion Designer, Honored by School District

NEW YORK CARIB NEWS — Among the honorees this year was Jamaican-born Hope Wade, founder of Hope Wade Designs and creator and executive producer of Rockland Fashion Week, who was selected for the 2024 video because of her strong support of her community, her belief in “giving back,” and her mentorship of high school students who have an interest in fashion.
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By Mell P | NY Carib News

In honor of Women’s History Month for the third consecutive year, East Ramapo Central School District rolled out an exclusive series of videos celebrating the vital role women in the community have had in our society: The East Ramapo Central School District Regent Judith Johnson Sheroes Series.

Among the honorees this year was Jamaican-born Hope Wade, founder of Hope Wade Designs and creator and executive producer of Rockland Fashion Week, who was selected for the 2024 video because of her strong support of her community, her belief in “giving back,” and her mentorship of high school students who have an interest in fashion.

She has crafted gowns for Miss Jamaica World, Miss Jamaica Universe, Miss Jamaica Nation, Miss Intercontinental pageants, and various other international competitions. Wade’s creations enjoy a significant celebrity following. Her designs have been donned by Academy and Grammy Award-winner Darlene Love during performances for former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.

Wade responded to this honor saying, “To be called a Sheroe in any capacity is humbling but to think that your name is esteemed in the same light as Regent Judith Johnson is daunting. And I think what really got to me was that the video would be shown to all the students in the E. Ramapo School District. Wow! (I had the honor of meeting her once when I was invited by President Michael Baston of Rockland Community College to a breakfast at the college.)”

In 2022, East Ramapo rolled out the sheroes series for the first time, and it was so well received by the administrators, principals, teachers, students and community members. Each year since, the committee of devoted community members has been working with the District to identify new sheroes, compile their impressive bios, and produce several sheroes videos for East Ramapo students to view and appreciate.

The members of the East Ramapo Central School District Regent Judith Johnson Sheroes Series include: Carole Anderson, Anita Cunningham, Jean Fields, Drusilla Kinzonzi, Teri Mersel, Charlotte Ramsey, and Robin Wren, along with District team of Ellen Andriello, Executive Director for Elementary Schools and Dr. Augustina West, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools.

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