#BWAY4BLWM: The Best Moments From The Broadway For Black Lives Matter Special Event
On August 1, the Broadway for Black Lives Matter special event took place at Columbia University’s Lerner Hall in New York City. Co-sponsored by the Columbia School of Law, the special event featured musical performances, poetry readings and an open dialogue between activists, public officials, actors, community leaders and other engaged, concerned civilians. #BWAY4BLM addressed the racial and social justice issues currently plaguing our country, and ways to affect positive change through the healing power of the arts. Some of the stars in attendance included Audra McDonald, Indie Arie, Cynthia Erivo, Billy Porter, Ledisi, and many more – all of whom reminded us that we can individually and collectively be agents of change. If you missed the inspirational event, don’t worry – you can stream it here via BroadwayBlack.com. Check out some of the magical highlights from #BWAY4BLM.
Shuffle Along stars Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell spoke on the importance of amplifying the voice of the Black Lives Matter movement. Mitchell also touched on why the arts play a specific role in it. “As artists, we have the ability to change people forever,” he said. “To empower people to be the change they want to receive.”
Young cast members of the musical Runaways performed a piece that harked on the harsh realities kids living on the streets face. But the sentiment expressed in the lyrics reminded us of the many Black children who have died at the hands of police brutality, and that kids should be kids. “Let me be young,” they sang. “That’s what I am.”
Introduced by Cynthia Erivo, organizer, teacher and co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition, Frank Roberts, talked about the four ways to think about Black Lives Matter: BLM is a human rights movement that cuts to a deeper existential question of who gets to be counted as human. BLM is intersectional. BLM is an abolitionist movement that imagines new ways of being in this world, and BLM is an artistic movement.
Always electric singer Ledisi performed a touching rendition of Sam Cooke’s seminal song, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
Several poems were read at #BWAY4BLM, including one titled Future Ancestors, by actor and singer Daniel Beauty who reminded us that “though the pain feels fresh, the wound is not new.”
Richard Gray, director of Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform, moderated a panel titled “Policing in our Country and the Possibilities of Policy Reform.” The panel featured Anurima Bhargava, who served as Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at the DOJ, Black law enforcement activist and author Damon K. Jones, Shalisa Cumberbatch, law Fellow at Brooklyn Defender Services, and Tony-nominated actor Norm Lewis. The panelists discussed violence in our communities, their personal experiences with racism and the need to invest in Black-owned banks.
Tony Award-winning actor and singer Billy Porter brought the house down with “Take the Moment.”
NY City Center Artistic Director Jeanine Tesori and Columbia Law School Professor Kendall Thomas posed the question, “How do we use our craft as a sword in the fight of social change?” in the night’s second panel discussion. Thomas also broke out into a rendition of “Singing For Our Lives.”
Music is indeed queen warrior India’s weapon. Wearing a simple T-shirt with the word “worthy” written on it, Arie reminded us to “continue to breathe.”
Broadway Inspirational Voices took the crowd to church and closed the evening by singing Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise.”
Be the Change You Want to See
The overwhelming message throughout the #BWAY4BLM event was that we can be the positive change we want to see – through song, dance, spoken word…and activism.