Editorial: NBTF leader reminds us of our unity

Obba Babatundé

Editorial: NBTF leader  reminds us  of our unity
August 03
05:00 2017

Before the National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF) officially began this week, Winston-Salem State University held a reception. Of course, stars were invited.

Americans gravitate toward TV and movie stars because they can come right into their homes. However, the stars of theater should be recognized, too. The NBTF has shown us that over the years.

Obba Babatundé, a native New Yorker and one of the celebrity NBTF co-chairs, has worked in various venues, including movies and TV. Babatundé has appeared in more than 70 plays and musicals. He has been around a while. Although we think of stars as people who live in their own realities, Babatundé is still a black man in America and recognizes the times we live in.

He spoke at the reception Sunday evening.

“The reason for this festival is to celebrate the arts – our arts,” Babatundé said. “And that is important because we suggest through the work that we do, even those who might not have an opportunity to meet us, it might suggest who that person that we are. So we take our work very seriously. We thank you all who support the arts.”

Babatundé then went on to speak to reality.

“We must be mindful that we must never mistake our presence for the event, so when you see one another, identify that you are looking at your brother and your sister.

“We are living in interesting and challenging times, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t have to share that. We all know it. But through the arts, we can and will make a difference.”

The NBTF is presenting a free colloquium that explores that.

The theme of this year’s International Colloquium – a collaborative effort between the National Black Theatre Festival, Winston-Salem State University and the Black Theatre Network – is “The Black Theatre: Reflections of Citizenship, Access, Freedom and Criminal Justice.” The theme is being explored in myriad ways over the course of four days (through Friday, Aug. 4) from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each day at the Benton Convention Center.

In 2017, we can say we are living in times similar to past years, such as voter suppression back under Jim Crow. But the times are taking on a new twist: The present administration seems to be providing entertainment as it appears bent on crushing people’s rights.

At the NBTF, one production has already taken advantage of that: “ColorStruck: Surviving the Trumpocalypse,” is an insightful look at life for Black Americans under the reign of “45”: Donald Trump. Donald Lacy used the barrage of current headlines as material to write the play, according to The Chronicle’s guide to the NBTF. “On stage, he fuses comedy, drama, spoken word, music and visuals to examine race in America under the racially polarized President Donald Trump administration. The experience has been called ‘an unforgettable night of entertainment and enlightenment.’

As Obba Babatundé said, “through the arts, we can and will make a difference.”

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