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Artist, Mariona Lloreta, was commissioned to create the NBT 2015 Awards

The National Black Theatre celebrated its 47th anniversary and the birthday of its founder, Barbara Ann Teer, with the  Teer Spirit Awards Gala - an elegant and star-studded evening highlighting the the institution’s proud legacy and the accomplishments of several trailblazers in the performing arts.
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After a lovely cocktail reception, the organization’s CFO, Abisola Faison, welcomed guests with a traditional Yoruba blessing. NBT’s Jonathan McCrory reflected on the theater’s history as a “Journey of Love” – a phrase that would also aptly describe the long and glorious ceremony ahead. And, Sade Lythcott, CEO and daughter of the founder, recounted precious and culturally rich moments with her mother. Rain Pryor followed with an opening skit, evocative of her one woman show  (currently playing at NBT through June 28th).
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The love continued with distinguished performers, hosts, and honorees, who were receiving recognition for their extraordinary and pioneering feats in the arts. Among the evening’s hosts were Russell G. Jones, Michelle Wilson and Thelma Golden, with additional performances by Nsangou Njikam and Bert Price. Honorees included Kwame Kwei-Armah, Kamilah Forbes, Carmen de Lavallade, Sydne Mahone, Rosalba Rolo, Roberta Uno, Mary Schmidt Campbell, Dominique Morisseau, and Chief Nike Monica Okundaye. Each of them, awardees and artists alike, could trace symbolic moments with the National Black Theatre throughout their careers and over its near half-century year reign.

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NBT’s 47th was an evening that powerfully celebrated the arts and its champions, this historic institution and, most of all, the lives, visions and legacies of its inextinguishable founding parents: Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, Frederica L. Teer, and Tunde Samuel.
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National Black Theatre, 2031 Fifth Avenue, NYC, 10035
| www.nationalblacktheatre.org

Photos: NBT's Sade Lythcott & Jonathan McCrory; Honorees, Carmen de Lavallade & Kamilah Forbes; Guests. Lisa Branch, Alia Jones-Harvey & Stephen Byrd. (Photos: Salif Cisse)

Photos: NBT’s Sade Lythcott & Jonathan McCrory; Honorees, Carmen de Lavallade & Dominique Morisseau; Guests. Lisa Branch, Alia Jones-Harvey & Stephen Byrd. (Photos: Salif Cisse)

Morningsider was pleased to share this exceptional evening with Salif Cisse, our Summer Assistant, visiting from Paris France. As a performing artist, experiencing his first Harlem Arts & Culture event, Salif shares these personal remarks:
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I usually don’t like awards ceremonies…To be honest, I don’t really know any of the people who received awards that night, or even if they are the best at what they do. But, what I am sure of is that this night was not about individuals as much as it was about celebrating  art: Art, as a means, as a tool to achieve something.

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This night was the night of allegories. A lot of award speeches talked about “spirit,” and the sacred part of art. “Theater is our sacred ground,” said Kamilah Forbes. “The legacy that we received and the legacy that we will left behind us.” This, all night, was a pretext to talk about how a noble art such as theater is a wonderful way to serve a community.
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This evening was mainly about the Black Theater. As a French actor, the Black Theater is a strange thing to me because the French don’t believe in communalism. They are afraid of it. They believe in complete integration. But this is hypocrisy because foreign people are not accepted as they should be. So why can’t they organize with each other as they want?
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There are clearly not enough black people, or even worse, foreign people in French Theater, because French Theater doesn’t represent reality as it should be. I am not talking about foreigners that just arrived, I am talking about French with foreign origins, born and raised in the country. The particularity of France is that its population is one of the most diverse in the world, in terms of origins. But the social origin is also at stake here. For what kind of audience is a play is written?
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“A noble art practiced by noble protagonists, for a noble audience.” Certain people think like that. That is why the people don’t go to the theater.
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Communalism can be a part of the solution. The fact that black people in the U.S. organize each other to be able to use this form of art – a form that I love so much – to express their own problems, their own need for change, their own feelings about the world, is something that moved me very deeply. It confirmed to me that art belongs to the people as a whole; that art is not black, white, poor, or rich. But, it is the result of a need for humans to express themselves and to expose their own reality, who ever they are.
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“Theater is our sacred ground.” I could not agree more.