Harlem’s National Black Theatre Begins 55th Season Of Programming With A Unique Event And Partnership

August 2, 2022

The National Black Theatre (NBT) proudly announces the start of its new 55th season of programming with a free public event in Harlem.

Learn to Love Yourself Saturdays: Silent Disco & Portrait Series, in partnership with Turnout NYC and Uptown Grand Central (UGC).

  Forged from a quote by the founder, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, who would often remind us to “Learn to love yourself,” the institution is animating her legacy around that call to action in wake of all that we have faced as a community and a society. 

On four consecutive Saturdays, beginning on August 13 – September 3 from 3:00 pm-6:00 pm at The Park Avenue Underpass (between 124th & 125th Street), in Harlem.

NBT will present the Silent Disco/Portrait Series featuring the originally commissioned sonic compositions of five uniquely gifted musical artists:

·     JOJO ABOT – is a nomadic interdisciplinary artist exploring evolving themes of spirituality, identity, and community with self as the starting point to collective evolution. 

·       Holland Andrews – is a vocalist, composer, and performance artist whose work focuses on the abstraction of operatic and extended-technique voice to build soundscapes encompassing both catharsis and dissonance. 

·       Aaron Marcellus – is a singer, vocal coach, writer, musician, dancer, and actor, got his start singing Gospel music.  Aaron is the Founder and CEO of “Surrender To Love” LLC; a foundation that financially supports music & arts programs, and feeds hungry bellies.

·       Justin Hicks – is a multidisciplinary artist and performer who uses music and sound to investigate themes of presence, identity, and value. Hicks was a member of Kara Walker’s 6-8 Months Space and holds a culinary diploma from ICE in New York City.

·       Mikaal Sulaiman – is a writer, director, sound designer, and composer. As a writer, he is currently in a writer’s room working on a new episodic show for A24/Amazon. He is a professor at The Yale School of Drama as Head of the Sound Design Concentration. 

These artists-inspired 10–15-minute sonic soundscapes, will be incorporated by East Londoner and Harlem resident DJ Stormin’ Norman, into a live three-hour mix session that participants will be able to jam to each Saturday, with headphones provided on site.

This summer experience will also feature a free portrait station that invites the community to have their portraits professionally taken, by a different notable commissioned master portrait photographer.  

They are – Braylen Dion (8/13), originally from Georgia, now based in New York has done work for countless top brands including Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and BET; Lelund Durond Thompson (8/20), a Los Angeles-based actor, photographer, and writer; Eric Hart, Jr. (8/27), a Georgia native and NYU graduate, his work has been published in New York Times, Rolling Stone and many others;  Gioncarlo Valentine (9/03), an award-winning photographer/writer, originally from Baltimore City whose work has appeared in countless publications for brands that include The Gap, Saks Fifth Avenue, and PUMA. 

All portrait photographers will use the set designed by acclaimed visual artist, Alixa Garcia.

“In 1973 Dr. Teer declared that the path to liberation was entwined in learning to love ourselves. With that she gave us the blueprint to move forward. This is the perfect way to gather during the summer! In sound we can speak life into the parts of ourselves that need it. It is through our image that we reflect that life as well,” said NBT CEO Sade Lythcott.  “This program is meant to be a celebration, a way of speaking LIFE into our community and our individual selves. To allow us to be captured, moved, and seen as the regal vessels we were crafted to be. Join us in polishing our crown and let the vibrations of love heal our community and reflect the power within.” 

NBT and UGC welcomes all participants – residents, visitors, tourists, and anyone looking for something transformational to do in New York City, to this free, community-oriented initiative that will provide infrastructure support for locally based arts and culture organizations, while expanding access to the arts across the city.

Learn to Love Yourself Saturdays: Silent Disco & Portrait Series is driven by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s commitment to being “…bold and unconventional about her love of Black people,” and in keeping with her radical belief that loving “our Black selves” is the first step toward reclaiming the collective power needed to eliminate oppression. 

The Turnout NYC outdoor event series has been in the planning for the past two years, with a focus of transforming five underutilized outdoor spaces across the five boroughs, into performance venues for artistic expression.  

In Harlem, Turnout NYC is centered on The Park Avenue Underpass (between 124th and 125th street), which was recently renovated by the NYC Department of Transportation, and is managed by Uptown Grand Central. 

Throughout the month of Turnout NYC in Harlem, NBT’s sonic compositions will be joined by a light installation by noted public transit lighting designer Leni Schwendinger of NightSeeing.

It presents a creative response to the sound and lighting challenges of a community space located under elevated train tracks, and offers solutions toward making such a space, more welcoming to performance artists and community initiatives alike. 

The Design Trust for Public Space in partnership with the architectural firm SITU have helped to launch this initiative which has been underwritten by a $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

The Learn to Love Yourself Saturdays: Silent Disco & Portrait Series will take place on:

August 13 – September 3, Saturday, 3pm – 6pm at The Park Avenue Underpass (between 124 & 125 Streets) 

National Black Theatre (NBT)

National Black Theatre (NBT)the nation’s first revenue-generating Black arts complex, was founded in 1968 by the late visionary artist Dr. Barbara Ann Teer.

NBT is the longest-running Black theatre in New York City, one of the oldest theaters founded and consistently operated by a woman of color in the nation and most recently included in the permanent collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

NBT uses a multidisciplinary theatrical approach as a means to center, humanize and heal Black communities through the power of unapologetic Black storytelling.

NBT’s unique approach to Black liberation, Art, and Placemaking act as a change agent to combat systemic oppression, which creates the space for human transformation.

Under the leadership of Sade Lythcott, CEO and Jonathan McCrory, Executive Artistic Director, NBT’s three core programs—the Theater Arts Program, Communications Arts Program and Entrepreneurial Arts Program—help reshape a more inclusive American theater field by providing an artistically rigorous and culturally sensitive space for artists of color to experiment, develop and present new work.

Working with trailblazing artists from Nona Hendrix to Jeremy O. Harris, and helping to launch the careers, most recently, of artists such as Dominique Morisseau, Radha Blank, Mfoniso Udofia, Saheem Ali, Lee Edward Colston II, and Ebony Noelle Golden, and incubating Obie Award-winning companies like The Movement Theatre Company and Harlem9’s 48Hours in Harlem, NBT’s cultural production remains unparalleled.

Located in the heart of Harlem, NBT welcomes more than 90,000 visitors annually; has produced 300+ original works; won 56 Audelco Awards; received a CEBA Award of Merit; and has been nominated for multiple Drama Desk awards.

NBT is supported by grants from the Ford Foundation, New York Community Trust, Shubert Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Andrew Mellon Foundation, City Council of New York, City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, Columbia Service Society, and private donations.

Visit www.nationalblacktheatre.org or follow NBT on Facebook (@NationalBlackTheatre) and Twitter/Instagram (@NatBlackTheatre). 

Turnout NYC 

Turnout NYC is being led byDesign Trust for Public Space, a nonprofit organization dedicated to activating and transforming shared public spaces to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable city, and SITU, an architectural practice centered on social and creative impact.

Guided by an Advisory Committee of NYC cultural leaders, the venture designs and prototypes flexible and semi-permanent outdoor venues—one in each borough— in collaboration with cultural partners from within each community. 

Uptown Grand Central 

Uptown Grand Central is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming East 125th Street into a thriving corridor by delivering programs that put advocacy into action through collaborations with businesses, residents, and neighborhood organizations across East Harlem.

Since 2013, we have brightened hopes for the community via programs that include organizing our small businesses; hiring formerly homeless individuals to clean our streets; beautifying the commercial corridor with seasonal plantings and holiday lights; sponsoring street festivals and promotions including Solstice Soul Train and Party On Park; and adopting the space underneath the Metro-North tracks at 125th & Park as a community plaza that features live music, exercise classes, and a year-round farmers market.

Uptown Grand Central’s previous public art projects have included the creation of the “Harlem Sunrise” mural underneath the Metro-North tracks at 125th Street & Park Avenue, the Uptown Grandscale Mural Project along 125th Street in East Harlem, as well as partnering with the 100 Gates Project to build relationships between local small businesses and area artists that resulted in more than 30 murals on East 125th Street storefronts.

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