Almost 100 Black theaters nationwide have been awarded $10,000 to $150,000 grants by The Black Seed, an organization established in 2020 to create “impact and thrivability” for Black theaters.

The organization is run by Black-led theater companies, with Bed-Stuy’s Billie Holiday Theater sitting at the helm and working in collaboration with The Craft Institute in Massachusetts, Plowshares Theatre in Detroit and WACO Theatre in Los Angeles.

The organization has a multi-pronged national strategy, including The Black Seed Fund, The Black Seed National Leadership Circle and a national marketing campaign.

Through the grant program, The Black Seed National Initiative, The Black Seed is distributing both one- and two-year grants in what it says is a major first step forward in its mission.

The aim of the grant program is to encourage systemic change in the arts and culture world towards greater equity.

Dr. Indira Etwaroo, The Black Seed National Advisory Committee chair and Billie Holiday Theater executive director, said as the gatekeepers of the African-American story and the complete American story, Black theaters were standing together to ensure they were a mighty force for change in this country. “We are greater as a sector than the sum of our parts,” Etwaroo said.

“As a confederate flag made its way into the hollowed 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.”

The Black Seed Review Panel was comprised of a diverse group of artists, strategists and leaders of African descent, including: 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 Fund was made possible by philanthropic donations, including a lead gift of $5 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Stephen McKinley Henderson, award-winning artist and Black Seed panel reviewer, said the next twenty years held the potential for renewed trust and a willingness to believe in a more perfect union through identifying triumphs over an imperfect past. He added he expected the mission of The Black Seed to take root amongst philanthropic organizatons.

“When it does, I envision the Black Theatre field blossoming with artists and audiences fully prepared to welcome the world. Welcome all arts lovers and friends of culture to witness the human spirit revealed through Black Lives.”

To find the full list of grant recipients, click here.

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