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6ix9ine’s RICO Rap: How Tekashi’s Federal Case Compares To Others, Past And Present

6ix9ine follows a lineage of ballsy rappers toeing the line with their federal crimes.

By now, you’re already aware of 6ix9ine’s arrest and so is just about everyone else. Few stories in rap this year have garnered the kind of wall-to-wall coverage that this one has in a matter of days. As revealed on Monday, the New York rapper born Daniel Hernandez faces federal charges related to racketeering and weapons for his alleged role in the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods, as do a number of other apparent members and associates, including some recently fired members of his music management team. If found guilty of even some of the six counts against him, he stands to spend a significant number of years behind bars.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, just two of the firearms charges amount to 32 total years worth of mandatory minimums, with maximum penalties of life imprisonment on the table for either. The remaining four run between three to 20 years apiece max. Apart from some key tabloids and even less scrupulous rap blogs, most of 6ix9ine’s prior antics and legal woes have rarely warranted much attention in reputable publications. Save for the exceptionally fine reporting done at Jezebel, several music and non-music outlets have seemingly shied away from positive or even neutral coverage since his 2017 come up with the viral single “Gummo.” Some of that reluctance has to do with the revelations surrounding a 2015 conviction and plea agreement in which he, a legal adult, admitted to three felony counts related to the sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old girl. During a long-delayed sentencing last month— which against the prosecution’s wishes ended with probation for 6ix9ine rather than imprisonment and sex offender registration—even more unsettling facts came to light about his participation in these crimes, which he’d shared video of the statutory rape of this minor to social media.

Conversely, new details about 6ix9ine’s emerging RICO case appear to come every few hours, with major national news outlets that previously wouldn’t deign to cover him now sharing every morsel of information to a wider audience. From official actions like U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman denying him bail on Tuesday to juicier speculation about his current general population status in a Brooklyn jail, the stories keep coming. Some of this, assuredly, comes from 6ix9ine’s lawyer Lance Lazzaro advocating on behalf of his client, no doubt well aware of the attention his arrest continues to generate, while further particulars stem from law enforcement. No matter the source, the reportage at least marks a step up from a rap music industry that regularly treats DJ Akademiks and other such news-adjacent personalities’ glorified gossip as gospel.

For those who kept up with his often social media-centered beefs, 6ix9ine insisted repeatedly that he was about that life. Despite his lawyer’s assertions at last month’s sentencing that the rapper was putting on an act for entertainment’s sake, real-life violence has been an incontrovertible constant in the stories surrounding him this year, with gunfire ringing out at video shoots and outside restaurants. We still lack clarity as to what really happened this past July, when he claimed he was assaulted, kidnapped, and robbed in Brooklyn, though the feds could very well know. As such, no one ought to express anything remotely resembling shock that he caught a case like this.

From convicted tax dodgers DMX and Fat Joe to currently pending organized crime drug charges against Atlanta’s Ralo and Philadelphia’s AR-Ab, rappers running afoul of federal law enforcement is the stuff of hip-hop legend and lore. Distinct from criminal cases on the state level, of which scores of artists in this genre have intimate experience with, the ones stemming from branches of the U.S. Attorney’s Office carry relatively more heft. While rappers such as Beanie Sigel have successfully fought in court for their freedom, over the years the feds have secured sentences against some notable names in hip-hop history, including B.G., Gucci Mane, Lil Kim, and, well, Beanie Sigel.

In 2007, while enjoying a high point in his career, T.I. found himself arrested on federal weapons charges, mere hours before a scheduled BET Awards performance. Roughly a year and a half later, much of that time spent on house arrest while facing down some serious prison time, he was sentenced to one year and one day based on a plea agreement that also included a six-figure fine. A big factor in the leniency shown had to do with community service performed prior to the sentencing, no small amount of which involved the rapper speaking and mentoring at schools, boys and girls clubs, and hospitals, among other such locations.

Tip’s demonstrated desire to be a positive force undeniably aided the outcome of his case. Though the following years had some rocky moments like his 2010 probation violating drug arrest, he’s since found success both inside and outside of music. That said, 6ix9ine likely won’t have the same opportunity. His social media presence in the lead-up to his New York sentencing last month in the child sex case was peppered with apparent good deeds, a rather unsubtle attempt to soften his image ahead of that court appearance. Yet if his legal representation continues to fail to secure his bail ahead of trial, that simply won’t be repeatable. And given the severity of the charges against him compared to those levied against T.I. over a decade ago, it stands to reason that he’ll remain locked up until his proverbial day in court.

Simply put, 6ix9ine’s case isn’t enough like T.I.’s but more akin to Bobby Shmurda’s, albeit while currently incarcerated under New York state law rather than federal bears more of a semblance to the circumstances facing his fellow Brooklynite. (Ironically, the two rappers also appear on a track together, “Stoopid,” which peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100.) In the wake of 2014’s breakout hit “Hot Ni**a,” he signed with Epic Records and appeared poised to represent his renowned city in a big way, bringing affiliates like Rowdy Rebel and his infectious street single “Computers” into the spotlight as well. By mid-December, both rappers were under arrest, as well as roughly a dozen others in their circle, with police accusing their GS9 Entertainment of being a front for an assortment of criminal activities. Among the charges faced by then-20-year-old Shmurda and his alleged G Stone Crips associates were murder, attempted murder, drug dealing, and firearms possession. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to two weapons charges and accepted a seven-year sentence.

While Shmurda may have been the highest profile member of GS9, the case wasn’t solely about him. It took down multiple men, much like the federal charges against 6ix9ine. Though legal wrangling and a certain amount of back-and-forth can be expected, there are too many people involved for the feds not to be cutting deals eventually, perhaps in exchange for further information or intel to use against Nine Trey members. 6ix9ine seems a likely target for both scenarios, given reports that some of his simultaneously indicted and now estranged co-conspirators sought to “super violate” him, an unseemly metaphor that leaves little to the imagination. Indeed, even if he remains mum, there’s no guarantee others won’t snitch on him both as revenge and to lessen their sentences.

The circumstances facing 6ix9ine and Nine Trey also mirrors other ongoing RICO cases related to rap. Unsealed a month ago, indictments against AR-Ab and another eight of his purported gang members show federal charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy. A joint investigation between the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department purports that since at least March of last year these men, led by the Meek Mill rival and erstwhile Cash Money Records signee, dealt considerable weight in cocaine, crack, heroin, and methamphetamine. Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, three members of the Jimmy Wopo associated 11 Hunnit gang were indicted in August by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh for conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, and drug trafficking over a three year period. Had it not been for his drive-by shooting death two months prior, the rising rapper would definitely have been charged alongside these men.

All three pending RICO cases share a common trait, alleged criminal enterprises with rappers in positions of prominence. By now, there’s little doubt that the FBI and law enforcement have closely monitored this overlap, exploiting weaknesses and errors revealed by often young participants, parsing interviews, music videos, and even lyrics for evidence. Building RICO cases like these is no small feat, but rappers like 6ix9ine seem to make it easier with every social media post.


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Pretty much any coverage of 6ix9ine regrettably fuels his notoriety, again a problematic consequence when considering his prior status as an admitted felon with regard to sexual activity involving a barely teenaged girl. Of course, morality within hip-hop has never been as cut and dry as outside of it. A reflection of the longstanding issues facing people of color in this country that are systematically exacerbated by law enforcement, criminality is something regularly celebrated and admired in rap lyrics and, in turn, in rapper lifestyles. Disproportionate policing and abuses of power both directly and indirectly impact black and Latinx communities across America in negative ways, which has led to the lionization of countless artists in the genre who dare to speak on the realities of urban life while hustling to thrive or even just survive.

Nonetheless, there’s scarcely been much leeway in hip-hop afforded to those who do harm to children, something assuredly verifiable by those who’ve served time alongside convicted sex offenders. While these federal charges bear no obvious relation to 6ix9ine’s aforementioned prior felonies in New York, his character remains forever defined by them, no matter how many times Kanye or Nicki hop on a track with him or otherwise attempt to normalize him. Even if he cops a plea that keeps him from life in prison, that doesn’t change much even if it makes him another hip-hop hashtag hero. This explains why, despite his unfortunate and frustrating popularity, so many people seem to be taking such joy this week in his potential downfall. And given the feds’ track record in taking down rappers, particularly via RICO indictments, 6ix9ine’s undoing seems likely.

READ MORE: Rise To Fame: A Timeline Of Tekashi 6ix9ine’s Controversial Moments

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The Genie In Broadway's 'Aladdin' Is A Nod To Jazz Great Cab Calloway

It's like night and day.

Inside The New Amsterdam Theater, Major Attaway's presence is inescapable. Embodying the role of the beloved Genie in Disney's Aladdin, the Texas native sets the tone for the audience by dismantling the fourth wall and bringing them into the fictitious world of Agrabah. His voice booms, he's light on his feet and his high kick can strike lightning.

But when Attaway is off stage, his robust voice lowers to almost a whisper. His presence, still warm and welcoming, has an added layer of gentleness that's divorced from his performance. Attaway is a three-part entertainer: singer, dancer, and actor, but when it's just one-on-one, he's soft-spoken and tender often requiring you to lean in to fully hear him speak.

In Manhattan's Milk Studios, Attaway sat with Vibe and several other media outlets to discuss the Genie--who's equal parts Aladdin's best friend, moral compass, and ultimate wingman, as well as the true inspiration behind one of Disney's most enchanting figures.

As a little kid, you made a wish. What did you wish for that you’ve seen come true now into adulthood? Major Attaway: Oh that’s easy. Well, when I was 10 years old, I’m not sure of the actual age. I know I was sitting in the ninth row at the New Amsterdam Theater where I saw The Lion King on Broadway for the first time. I said to my mother as I was squealing from the edge of my seat 'This is what I want to do’ I knew I liked to sing and I knew I wanted to do something in this business but I wasn’t sure. Seeing The Lion King made it very clear to me, so now every day it’s a full circle moment because I work in the New Amsterdam Theater, and every performance I make sure to give a little love to whoever’s sitting in that chair just in case I see someone who looks a little like me.

Tell me the feeling you had when you saw The Lion King I knew that I wanted to perform. I had been in the Texas Boys Choir, started singing in church and I had been learning new languages because of the Texas Boys Choir. We learned to sing phonetically in German, Italian, and all these different things. But The Lion King was the closest thing to me that I saw. There was absolutely nothing like it because even on TV there was only so many shows I could watch. I was watching UPN or something like that, but The Lion King gave me all of it. It gave me singing. It gave me acting. It gave me a story that I already loved. A story that was reimagined and the puppets the majestic visual experience that I got, it just told me what I knew all the time that imagination--that was always hounding me--I can use it and I can funnel it into a way that I can make a living as well as help people at the same time. It gave me all of that, so much.

And the importance of this role to you during Black History Month? Oh my! Well, the version of the Genie that I play is based on Fats Waller and Cab Calloway, because the original design of the genie character was this. When Robin Williams was given the part he changed their idea for the character. So, I get to be a song and dance man on one of the oldest stages in Broadway. Where Stepin-Fetchit may have graced the stage, but couldn’t come in the front door. And so every once in a while I meet a certain person at the stage door and they say thank you because I haven’t seen someone like me up there.

Not only that, I’m the first voice and the first face that anybody sees when they’re coming to see that show. So I have to represent, and I understand that not only am I giving someone their first Broadway memory, it’s their first live performance memory. You know, a lot of people see the film and say 'Who can do what Robin Williams does?’ I don’t do what Robin Williams does. He’s a stand-up comedian. I am full, three-part entertainer. So that’s what you’re getting when you come to see me and I’m showing you that a man of my size, and where I’ve come from, and how hard I’ve had to work that you can do it. It’s possible.

How do you keep that magic going? How do you keep that fire in your belly? Lots of things can attribute to it. You have to take care of yourself outside of the work because if its all that you are, then it’s gonna drain you. You have to know how to take mental breaks. In telling of the story in itself, I have a unique situation with the Genie because I am required to break the fourth wall. I am required to check-in to the energy of the audience because I am the narrator as well as one of the characters so I have to make sure that I set the tone of energy. So I feel like its easier for who’s ever playing the Genie because we don’t just have to check in with the actors around us we have to talk the audience. So if their energy is up and down I can affect that. I can push against it, I can pull back to let them catch up or something like

The Genie himself, I ask myself different questions daily to keep the characters fresh. You see me come out of the lamp and offer him three wishes. No one asks me who was my last master? How did I obtain my Genie powers in the first place? What was I doing right before I rubbed the lamp? What does it look like in the lamp? These are questions that I can ask myself to keep my reaction to Aladdin fresh. Different ways to add to the story so there’s depth in me answering his questions that I answer every day.

Will Smith is going to be playing the genie in the live-action remake. Oh, I’m so excited.

Have you spoken to him? And if you haven’t, do you have any pointers you could give to him? They’re two separate entities. Yes, they’re both under the Disney family but Disney theatricals and Disney films are living their own separate lives. Now, what I would say if I got to meet him, it wouldn’t be about things I could tell him because the grind I do is different. The way he put together the character he had a certain timeline and form these things and it was done. Mine is, I’m telling that same story every day so I have to find nuances that keep it new and fresh for me.

I would love to meet him and have him watch my performance. That would be awesome, but other than that I think that I’m just excited that you just mentioned mine and his name in the same breath. That’s the best part about that question to me. [Laughs]

After the show, there’s a standing ovation for you, clear as day. How does that make you feel? Grateful. I’m there to serve the moment and to tell the story. I’m just glad they enjoy it, to be honest. I understand how many people want to be here and the hunger is so real for so many people who want to do this job. Every moment I’m just grateful to be in this space and when they respond in that way and stand on their feet and clap. An ovation is not something that is expected and I don’t think its something that needs to be given every time just because I’ve completed a song or just because I’ve completed the number you enjoy. If I’ve moved you then you should move. If not, that’s okay and I respect that.

Talk a little bit about your hustle as a black person on Broadway. I will tell you something specific to my career that has to do with me being a black person in musical theater.  I realized at a young age, with all of the characters that were available to me for me to play, I’m telling history stories and I might have to be a slave. If I’m telling a fantasy story, I can be anything I want. If I want to tell someone’s story who has been black and lived a black life, there’s going to be some hardships at some point. There’s no question. There’s going to be something I have to tell or live through on stage.

I auditioned for everything but sometimes I would be more excited to receive the opportunity to play something that is based in fantasy because when you have to do that over and over again you have to do the work. One way or another you have to find your way to that emotional place, and so I spent one year of my life where I did Rag Time and Rent and then Rag Time again and I said ‘Oh that’s about six months of funerals where the black man I’m playing has to lose.'

Of course, there are lessons learned and things like that, but given the choice, in the long run, I love playing the Genie. Yes he may be in shackles in doing the work, but he’s the most powerful being in the place and he will always be. That is a plus for me as a black man.

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Six Things To Know About The Mysterious Death Of Tamla Horsford

Georgia officials have officially closed the case of Tamla Horsford, citing no foul play in her mysterious death.

But the case of a mother of five who died at an adult sleepover has raised a vast amount of questions due to the nature and behavior of those present. The mysterious death of Tamla Horsford caught the eye of the public this month, but the 40-year-old was found dead at a friend’s home in Cumming, Georgia in November 2018.

On Wednesday (Feb. 20), Major Joe Perkins with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office told reporters in a press conference that none of the 40-year-old's injuries were aligned with foul play. “It was a party. They were drinking,” 11 Alive reports. “She was drinking. Most of the partygoers had gone to bed at that time, and she was on the deck alone.”

It was initially reported that Horsford accidentally fell off a balcony on Nov. 4, where she was attending a “Football Moms” sleepover with seven other mothers and three men. Local news site WSB-TV shared an early coroner’s death certificate that listed Horsford’s death as an accident but the fall from the deck caused “multiple blunt force injuries” and “acute ethanol intoxication,” known commonly as alcohol poisoning which might have led to the fall.

But friends and the internet sleuths believe there are other layers to the story as it never reached public attention until it was reported that court employee Jose Barrera was fired for illegally accessing documents related to the case. Barrera is also the boyfriend of the woman who owns the home.

Horsford’s best friend Michelle Graves who wasn’t at the party also believed foul play took part in her friend’s death. “It’s impossible to get the injuries that she had from one fall,” Graves said. After speaking to the WSB-TV about the case, she claimed her personal information was released by Barrera and sent to five of the women who were at the party. Only during an investigation into Graves claims it was revealed that Barrera accessed court documents related to Horsford’s case as well as a stalking incident involving his girlfriend.

On Wednesday (Feb. 20), more details were released about the case in the form of a 911 call made by Barrera the day Horsford’s body was found. While Barrera's 911 call was made at 8:59 am, Horsford’s body was discovered at 7:30 am by the homeowner’s aunt. Hashtags with Horsford’s name and videos shared by popular activists like Chakabars who have helped bring the story to public knowledge.

With so many layers to uncover, here’s what you need to know about the mysterious case of Tamla Horsford.


1. Tamala Horsford Was Found Dead At “Football Moms” Sleepover, But Men Were Present

In a video sent to WSB-TV from the adult sleepover, Horsford is all smiles while singing “Happy Birthday” with friends. What’s also seen in the video are three men, including Jose Barrera who made the 911 call. Many have wondered why men were present if the witnesses claimed it was a sleepover meant for women.

2. Her Wrist Was Cut, But Attendees Believe She Fell Off A Balcony

In the 911 call released Wednesday (Feb, 20), Barrera is heard pointing out a cut on Horsford’s wrist. "She's lying in the yard, basically on the patio downstairs. She's not moving one bit. She's not breathing," he told dispatchers. "I'm noticing a small cut on her right wrist. She's not breathing whatsoever. I don't know if this cut was self-inflicted."

As mentioned above, an original coroner’s report claimed there was blunt force trauma to Horsford’s body from the fall, but close friend Michelle Graves says the family hired another medical examiner who reportedly found multiple abrasions on Horsford’s body. "We're glad we're not the only ones who feel there's something awry with the story and with how she lost her life," Graves told Mike Petchenik of WSB-TV.

3. Boyfriend Of Homeowner Where Horsford Died Was Fired For Accessing Court Files On The Case

In December 2018, Barrera, who worked as a pretrial services officer within the Forsyth County Court system was placed on administrative leave for using his position to “access confidential files on a current investigation surrounding a death in which you were a witness.”

Forsyth County News reported he was later terminated in a letter where Court Administrator Robin S. Rooks wrote he lost confidence in Barrera’s ability to do his job. It wasn’t until February 1 that an incident report was written mentioning Barrera’s actions. In addition to the findings, Graves claimed Barrera stated in the same report that the Georgia native exposed her “work and cell phone numbers, home address, work address and driver’s license, along with information about her height, weight and extended family.” Graves stated the information was given to the other women who were at the adult sleepover.

He denied the accusations but alluded that anyone’s information can be found publically. “For her to believe that her information was leaked by me is grossly incorrect and I will believe that until the day I die,” Barrera told FCN. “Anybody can be found.”

Barrera previously worked as a probation officer in Hall County from March to November 2017 and earlier as an officer of the Department of Community Supervision in Cumming County. He was fired for the latter position but alleged it was an unlawful firing due to an “interoffice disagreement over a relationship with a coworker.”

4. Public Curiosity Believes There Are Racial Undertones To The Case

Friends and relationships exist outside of color lines all the time, just see an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or studies on the population increase of non-white people in America. But Horsford’s case has raised eyebrows because she was the only woman of color at the party. Forsyth County’s history with black people isn’t the most favorable as it was a popular gathering of white supremacists as recent as 1987.

In a segment on the early days of The Oprah Winfrey Show, the former talk show host took a trip to Cumming, where she talked with residents about their disdain for “race mixing” the LGBTQ+ community as well as the difference between “blacks” and “ni****s.”

Weird history aside, the case didn’t get national attention until two months later. History has proven deaths of black women are often overlooked and while this case was heading that way, Black Twitter and black Georgia natives tried to rewrite it.

A GoFundMe was also made for Horsford’s family but hasn’t raised much since it’s creation on November 27, 2018.

5. Homeowner And Other Attendees Of Party Have Received Death Threats On Social Media

Marcy Hardin, Jeanne Marie and Nichole Renee Lawson are reportedly some of the women who were at the sleepover at the time of Horsford’s death. As the story gained traction, the group has been the target of death threats accusations that they played a role in their friend’s death.

Law firm Banks, Stubbs, and McFarland LLP, who is representing the homeowner, issued a statement maintaining their innocence.

“At this time, each of the partygoers and their families have received death threats on various social media postings," it reads. "The threats need to stop. This tragic accident is exactly that, an accident. It is unfortunate, sad, and unbelievably heartbreaking to her family and friends. However, certain very vocal friends and family members of Mrs. Horsford have been describing this accident as a “murder.” Nothing can be farther from the truth."

6. The Case Has Been Officially Ruled An Accidental Death

On Thursday (Feb. 20),  Horsford's case was officially closed, 11Alive reported.

“The State of Georgia has ruled the death accidental and consistent with an accidental fall,” said Major Joe Perkins with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. “None of the injury patterns noted were consistent with foul play.” After speaking to the attendees' police said Horsford's death happened when she accidentally fell from a deck at the house.

None of the attendees saw the fall because they were reportedly sleeping when it happened. “While the injuries sustained appeared to have been likely received in a fall, detectives awaited toxicology and medical examiner reports to verify the findings,” Perkins said.

Horsford’s body was taken to the GBI medical examiner for an additional autopsy report. Her family has told reporters that they aren't ready to speak the public about the case and are hoping to have family photos of Tamla Horsford removed from social media.

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Darnell Bennett

'Frozen' Actors Discuss The Significance Of Being Black On Broadway

The breeze blowing off of New York's Hudson River made for expediency, as pedestrians bundled in their winter's warmest traveled to and from their destinations. The gunmetal January sky often teased rainshower, adding another unwanted weather condition. Stinging cold with freezing rain is prime for miserable attitudes. But inside Milk Studios, warmth and jubilance bounced.

The African-American cast members of Disney's Frozen, Aladdin and Lion King were dressed in all black as photographer Darnell Bennett snapped candids and portraits. The purpose of the photoshoot? Simple: celebrating blackness on Broadway.

It's no surprise many of the actors—both members of the ensemble and understudies—would've had to enter the theater via a backdoor a few decades ago. The history of segregation runs deep within the theater community, so it's not lost on the actors that being center stage wasn't a luxury often afforded to their theatrical foremothers and fathers.

But with time hopefully comes change.

In 2013, Frozen hit theaters, and even if you tried you couldn't escape the standout ballad, "Let It Go." Five years later, the movie found its Broadway home at the St. James Theater, where audiences can see Aisha Jackson, a black girl from Atlanta, Georgia, act as a standby as Elsa's kid sister, Anna. (The role of Elsa is portrayed by Patti Murin) Taking over the role as Kristoff is Noah J. Ricketts, another actor of color and a large triumph in the fight for equality, representation, and normality.

Ricketts and Jackson sat with VIBE and several other outlets to discuss their road to Broadway and why musicals aren't just for kids.


VIBE: What is like to be black on Broadway? Aisha Jackson: It’s beautiful. I’m always honored and glad to be able to represent us on stage. The best moments are when someone comes up to me and says, "This little girl was sitting next to her mom and she said ‘mommy she looks like me!’" That to me is why I’m doing this; just to inspire other little chocolate drops so they know they can do it, too.

You really stepped up. Tell us the story behind it. It was the day before the first understudy rehearsal. They usually rehearse the people who are on stage all the time first, and then they get to us and say this is what we’re doing. So I sit and I'm watching and I’m writing everything down, but I hadn’t had rehearsal since we did it in Denver which was three, four months prior. The day before, Ms.Patti Murin (who plays Anna) had bronchitis and she did the matinee and everyone was freaking out. I was like I’m not going to freak out until they tell me. But I was like ‘Okay God, I really don’t want to do this show tonight.’

So I warmed up in between shows, it was a two-show day, and my stage director came to me and said, ‘she’s going to pull through.’ I was on stage with my dance captain and they were like ‘Just run through it for rehearsal tomorrow.’ Ten minutes later, my stage director came back and said ‘so you’re on tonight’ and I was like, Oh...Okay.

But I prepared. Something I like to say is, ‘stay ready so you don’t have to get ready,’ and so I prepared and was ready.

How important is it for you to be on Broadway during Black History Month? Noah J. Ricketts: It’s very important. I would say in the last five years Broadway has changed so much in terms of representation. I know when I was growing up and coming to see shows in New York, I saw black people on stage but only telling black stories. So to see people globally accepting these stories and to see them in a new way and being a part of that change for a younger generation is incredible.

When did being a Broadway actor become real for both of you? NR: We made our Broadway debut in the same show.

AJ: Oh really? Which one?

NR: Beautiful, The Carol King Musical. I think that was the moment, at least for me, that I had my first Broadway bow. I was swung into the show four days early, so I had to really rush to learn the show. It was kind of one of those 'stay ready so you don’t have to get ready' moments and it’s amazing to be here now.

To be on Broadway is incredible. There’s so much training involved. You work your whole life to get to a certain point and one day you wake up and its here. We try and soak it in as much as we can every day and every time we bow we really try and take in the audience's applause because we don’t take it for granted at all.

AJ: I think the Broadway bug bit me when I did a production of Aida in high school. I was on stage as the understudy and they let us do one show. I went out there and I did it and I felt so at home and at peace on stage. I was like ‘Okay, I think I can do this. This is what I want to do with my life.’  I feel like we’ve all been given gifts to inspire others and my prayers are to minister and inspire others.

How would you explain the importance of going to see a play on Broadway? NR: I would say its important for children and adults because Broadway shows and Broadway plays are your life reflected. There’s something to gain each time you see a show or a musical. It could be as simple as Frozen the musical. So many people think it's just for kids, but the stories behind that really resonate with adults and families specifically. I would say give it a shot. Take that money that you may spend on a basketball game or a Christmas present and spend it at the theater because you never know what your kids can take from it and what you’ll take from it.

How do you feel like you’re giving back? AJ: Well representation matters—I say that a lot. Growing up, my mother always made sure I saw people of color excelling and so I think for us, that’s a way for us to give back to make sure that these little kids see themselves on stage in stories about them, in stories they can relate to, just see themselves doing well. I feel like in news and politics we focus on ‘this is bad,’ ‘this is poor,’ ‘this isn’t working.’ I think for us, it’s our responsibility to show them you can do this to succeed. The sky is the limit. Just keep reaching.

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