Actresses Danielle Brooks and Jocelyn Bioh, along with Amber Iman (the first woman—and first Black woman—to perform on Broadway post-shutdown), launched Black Women On Broadway in June 2020. The platform was created “to celebrate the history of Black women in theater,” but prior to that kickoff, the trio had been partnering since 2019 to build a community for such thespians.
Fast forward two years and the women are expanding their vision with the inaugural Black Women on Broadway Awards. The ceremony will be held on Monday, June 6, at the Empire Hotel’s rooftop lounge and will spotlight honorees Lynn Nottage, Kara Young, and Qween Jean. Nottage will receive the Audra McDonald Legacy Award, Young will be honored with the Florence Mills Rising Star Prize, and Jean will be presented with the Kathy A. Perkins Behind the Curtain Award.
“We do need spaces like this. There are so many women that feel a disconnect within this community,” Brooks shared with Variety when asked what takeaways they’ve gathered over the past two years.
“The thing that separates us from other organizations is we’re really tapping into the spaces that get ignored — the lighting departments, sound departments, the understudies, the writers, the producers, the people that are not always in the front of the stage, that aren’t the actors. We’re bringing space for them to be in the room,” she continued. “That’s really great for networking, but also for reminding this industry we are out here. Reminding younger girls that look up to us that there are different positions in this industry that you can aspire to that aren’t just being an actress. To expand our sphere and say, ‘Black women can take on all of it.’”
Iman, the self-proclaimed “dreamer” of the group, added, “I have always just dreamed of creating spaces for Black women to thrive. I’ve been really blessed in my life to work with, commune with, network with some of the most brilliant Black women in the world — two of them being on this call. And these two women, they have always made space for me.”
In regards to the inaugural ceremony, she explained its purpose is to “create an intentional opportunity for fellowship.”
“We only see each other at the audition, at the call back, when we’re running down 8th Avenue trying to get to the train. We never have time to just celebrate ourselves, celebrate each other, our wins, the fact that we survived and we’re still here. This awards ceremony is another way for us all to be in the same room and say, ‘I see you sis, and let’s just love on each other a little bit,’” she continued.
The Black Women on Broadway Awards is similar to events like Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood but will cater specifically to the Broadway community.
“The thing that excites me about this too, is often when it comes to [these type of events] the Broadway girls don’t get no love,” Brooks shared. “We be coming out the gate, eight shows a week, having babies and being wives, and doing all the things, without the same check or recognition. So, it’s also to remind people that we’re here, and the work that we do should be valued and held space for.”
Following the awards ceremony, Black Women on Broadway will launch a mentorship program for rising talent as a means for them to remain engaged, educated, and encouraged.