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HomeBroadwayBLACK THEATRE UNITED Announces 2023 Gala Performers & Honorees October 30

BLACK THEATRE UNITED Announces 2023 Gala Performers & Honorees October 30

BLACK THEATRE UNITED Announces 2023 Gala Performers & Honorees

Black Theatre United (BTU) is proud to announce its inaugural Gala on Monday, October 30 at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York.

“A Salute to Broadway Legends: Past, Present, and Future”

Supported by Business for Good (BFG), the theme is “A Salute to Broadway Legends: Past, Present, and Future” and will be a star-studded evening in celebration of the indelible mark that Black culture has had and continues to have on Broadway.

Featuring performances by BTU Founders Vanessa Williams, Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, LaChanze, Billy Porter, Capathia Jenkins, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Darius de Haas, Natasha Yvette Williams and Lillias White, the Gala will honor Grammy-winning producer, singer and songwriter Kandi Burruss; actress, director, producer and philanthropist LaTanya Richardson Jackson; Academy Award-winning actor and philanthropist Samuel L. Jackson; President of Trate Productions Robyn Coles; Chairman of the Board for Cerevel Therapeutics Dr. N Anthony Coles; and Award-winning Arts & Culture Executive and Director of Steve Jobs Theatre at Apple Dr. Indira Etwaroo.

In addition to an evening of performances honoring trailblazing leaders in Black theatre who are inspiring the next generation of Black theatre professionals, there will also be a live auction featuring one-of-a-kind experiences. Additional talent will be announced at a later date.

BTU Co-Founder Vanessa Williams said, “Black Theatre United is thrilled to have Business for Good be our lead sponsor for our first annual gala. BFG invests in people to build better businesses, stronger communities, and a more equitable world. A perfect alignment for BTU’s vision and commitment. Diversity is a fact but inclusion is a choice.“

Tickets begin at $1,000 and tables begin at $10,000. They are available now at

You can also be a part of the call to action to inspire the next generation of Black theatre professionals in all communities across the country by becoming an inaugural sponsor.

BTU, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, was founded to build pathways of access and opportunities for Black and other students and industry professionals who have been historically marginalized in the theatre community. Proceeds from the gala will support BTU’s empowering programs in Mentorships, Student Internships, BTU’s Annual Advocacy Summit and BTU’s Education program.


As members of the Black theatre community, we stand together to help protect Black people, Black theatre, and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in communities across the country.  Our voices are united to educate, empower, and inspire through excellence and activism in the pursuit of justice and equality. We will tell our stories, preserve our history, and ensure the legacy of Black theatre as American culture. Join us.

This call to action is just the beginning. It was the latest manifestations of police brutality that galvanized Black Theatre United into being. With roots reaching into all 50 of the United States this coalition can harness invaluable political scope and influence. To elevate a cause or to overturn policies that target black people in any one state or community, the group will draw on members with local connections to use their visibility and influence for good in theater and on the national stage.


Watch the video announcing the creation of Black Theatre United.

Join the mailing list by filling out the form HERE.

DONATE to Black Theatre United.

For more information visit

Passionate and committed, BTU’s founding group of actors, directors, musicians, writers, technicians, producers and stage management includes: Lisa Dawn Cave, Darius de Haas, Carin Ford, Capathia Jenkins, LaChanze, Kenny Leon, Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, Michael McElroy, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Wendell Pierce, Billy Porter, Anna Deavere Smith, Allyson Tucker, Tamara Tunie, Lillias White, NaTasha Yvette Williams, Schele Williams and Vanessa Williams.


With values rooted in equity, access, opportunity, and prosperity, Business for Good has advanced the model of traditional venture philanthropy to Do Good and Give Back to communities in the Greater Capital Region of Albany.

Formed in 2020, BFG seeks to give back to move forward and is rooted in the core principle of “for good, not gain.” Its efforts were recognized on a national level with a 2022 Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Honorable Mention, which recognizes pioneering teams that are playing an important role in the betterment of the world through intentional philanthropy. Comprised of a mission-focused team, Business for Good™ believes no challenge is insurmountable through hard and thoughtful work. With a goal to provide businesses and organizations with sustained support, BFG invests in people for the long term and in every way.

Business for Good: building better businesses, stronger communities, and a more equitable world. To learn more, visit


KANDI BURRUSS is a Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, TV personality, actor, producer of television/film/stage and Broadway, serial entrepreneur and restaurateur. Never one to slow down, she is juggling her wide array of business ventures from Kandi Koated Entertainment, Bedroom Kandi, Kandi Koated Cosmetics, Tags Boutique, and her Atlanta restaurants, Old Lady Gang and Blaze Steak and Seafood; as well as maintaining her spot on-top dominating music, Broadway, film and television. 


LATANYA RICHARDSON JACKSON is a critically acclaimed actress, director and producer of the stage and screen. She recently made history as the first female to direct an August Wilson play with her Broadway directorial debut of August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson” revival starring Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington, and Danielle Brooks. In 2014, Richardson Jackson received a Tony Award Best Actress nomination for her performance as “Lena Younger” in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” She also received the Distinguished Performance Drama League Award nomination. Richardson-Jackson also starred on Broadway as “Calpurnia” in Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” alongside Jeff Daniels, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Dakin Matthews, and directed by Bartlett Sher. In 2020, Richardson Jackson and her husband, Samuel L. Jackson produced EPIX award nominated docu-series ENSLAVED via their production company UppiTV. In 2018, Richardson Jackson narrated the feature length documentary “Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” on playwright Lorraine Hansberry, who penned the iconic “A Raisin in the Sun.” Richardson Jackson has received numerous awards for her philanthropic work including The United Negro College Fund and the N.Y. Keeper of the Dream Award. She was honored by the Ladylike Foundation, which is a faith based non-profit organization whose purpose is to educate, empower and inspire young women living in underprivileged communities. In 2016, she and her husband Samuel L. Jackson were honored by the Children’s Defense Fund for their longstanding commitment to the organization and their “Leave No Child Behind” mission. Richardson and her husband Samuel L. Jackson established the Samuel L. & LaTanya R. Jackson Foundation to carry out their commitment to a range of philanthropic issues in the United States and Africa. A graduate of Spelman College, she has served on their Board of Trustees and presently serves on the Advisory Board of their Women’s Center. She serves on the advisory council of Atlanta’s True Colors Theatre, the Ebony Repertory Theatre of Los Angeles, and is currently a board member of the American Theatre Wing and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. LaTanya Richardson Jackson and her husband Sam have one incredible, Emmy Nominated daughter, the beautiful Zoe Dove.


SAMUEL L. JACKSON. Appearing in well over 100 films, Samuel L. Jackson is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. Jackson’s portrayal of ‘Jules’, the philosopher hitman, in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” made an indelible mark on American cinema. In addition to unanimous critical acclaim, he received Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Tony nominations, as well as a Best Supporting Actor award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Among his many award-winning performances, Jackson made movie history with his portrayal of a crack addict in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever when he was awarded the first and only Best Supporting Performance Award ever given by the judges at the Cannes Film Festival. Jackson received an honorary Academy Award at the 12th Annual Governors Awards in January 2022. Most recently, Jackson can be seen reprising his role of Nick Fury in the Disney + original series, “Secret Invasion,” which premiered in June 2023. Jackson executive produced and starred in this latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe alongside Emilia Clarke, Don Cheadle, and Kingsley Ben-Adir. Last year, Jackson returned to Broadway with a revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, “The Piano Lesson.” The show opened onThursday, October 13th and ran until Sunday, January 29th . Jackson’s performance earned him his first Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play. In 2022, Jackson produced and starred in the critically acclaimed Apple TV+ original series, “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.” Jackson received a Critic’s choice nomination for Best Actor in a Limited Series for Television for his performance in the deeply emotional drama based on the bestselling novel.The series also received seven Black Reel Award nominations, four of which it won, and six NAACP Image Award nominations. In 2021, Jackson reunited with Salma Hayek and Ryan Reynolds for Lionsgate’s “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” the sequel to the 2017 film, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” He can also be seen in the newest “Saw” sequel, “Spiral,” with Chris Rock and Max Minghella and in Lionsgate’s “The Protégé.” In 2020, Jackson starred in the EPIX docuseries, “Enslaved,” which he also executive produced with LaTanya Richardson Jackson. “Enslaved” won three awards at the 2021 Canadian Screen Awards and two awards at the 2021 Impact Docs Awards. He also starred opposite Anthony Mackie in the Apple drama “The Banker.” In 2019, Jackson starred in Warner Bros.’ “Shaft” and Sony’s “Spiderman: Far From Home.” Jackson also starred as a young ‘Nick Fury’ opposite Brie Larson in the massive global hit, “Captain Marvel.” Jackson also reprised his role as ‘Mr. Glass’ in M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass.” The film is the final installment of the universe Shyamalan created, which also includes “Split” and “Unbreakable.” In 2018, Jackson lent his voice to the Academy Award-nominated film “Incredibles 2,” reprising his role of ‘Lucius Best/Frozone.’ In 2017, Jackson starred in Warner Bros. “Kong: Skull Island” with Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston. In 2015, Jackson appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-nominated Western “The Hateful Eight.” He starred as Major Marquis Warren, alongside Walton Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell. That same year, Jackson appeared in Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and Spike Lee’s “Chiraq.” In 2016, Jackson was seen in David Yates’ “The Legend of Tarzan,” starring alongside Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie and Christoph Waltz in addition to Tim Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Also in 2016, Jackson completed production on Brie Larson’s directorial debut “Unicorn Store,” “The Last Full Measure” with Sebastian Stan, Christopher Plummer and Ed Harris as well as Dan Fogelman’s “Life Itself.” In 2012, he co-starred in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” as ‘Stephen,’ with Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio. He also starred in “The Avengers,” which is part of his 9-picture deal with Marvel Studios. Jackson reprised his role in both Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which was released in April 2014, and the 2015 sequel “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” Jackson made his Broadway debut in 2011 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater in “The Mountaintop,” where he portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. The play also starred Angela Bassett and was directed by Kenny Leon. Jackson’s career began onstage upon his graduation from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a degree in dramatic arts. Among the plays were Home, A Soldier’s Play, Sally/Prince and The District Line. He also originated roles in two of August Wilson’s plays, The Piano Lesson and Two Trains Running at the Yale Repertory Theatre. For the New York Shakespeare Festival, Jackson appeared in Mother Courage and Her Children, Spell #7, and The Mighty Gents. Additional film credits include: “RoboCop,” “Oldboy,” “Mother and Child,” “Iron Man 2,” HBO’s “The Sunset Limited,” “Lakeview Terrace,” “Soul Men,” “The Spirit,” “Jumper,” “Resurrecting the Champ,” “1408,” “Black Snake Moan,” “Snakes on a Plane,” “Freedomland,” “Coach Carter,” “Star Wars: Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith,,” “S.W.A.T,” “Changing Lanes,” “Formula 51,” “Stars Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” “Caveman’s Valentine,” “Eve’s Bayou,” “Unbreakable,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Shaft,” “Deep Blue Sea,” “Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace,” “The Negotiator,” “The Red Violin,” “Jackie Brown,” “187,” “A Time to Kill,” “Die Hard with a Vengeance,” “Jungle Fever”, “Sphere,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” “Ragtime,” “Sea of Love,” “Coming to America,” “Do the Right Thing,” “School Daze,” “Mo’ Better Blues,” “Goodfellas,” “ Patriot Games,” and “True Romance.” On the small screen, Jackson served as Executive Producer for the Spike TV animated series, “Afro Samurai” which premiered in 2007. The series received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Animated Program from the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences. The first edition of the “Afro Samurai” video game launched in February 2009. Jackson also starred in John Frankenheimer’s Emmy Award-winning “Against the Wall” for HBO. His performance earned him a Cable Ace nomination as Best Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries, as well as a Golden Globe nomination.

ROBYN COLES is currently President of TRATE Productions, a producer of television, film, and theater. Mrs. Coles is an avid supporter of the arts and social justice. Mrs. Coles is a board member of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, Black Economic Alliance, American Theatre Wing and former trustee of Playwrights Horizon, Alvin Ailey, A.C.T. SF, the San Francisco Opera Guild and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation and a member of their finance committee.. Mrs. Coles is a Co-Producer and Tony Award winner of A Strange Loop and Parade. Prior to her current duties, Mrs. Coles served as the CEO of Computer Marketing Services and CEO of Scientific Supplies Network, a medical supply company. Mrs. Coles received her bachelor’s degree in Urban Affairs and Economics from Goucher College.


N ANTHONY COLES, M.D. has served as the Cerevel Therapeutics chairperson of the board of directors since December 2018 and previously was also the chief executive officer of Cerevel from September 2019 to June 2023. Previously, Dr. Coles served as co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Yumanity Therapeutics, LLC, from October 2014 until September 2019, and he continues to serve as the Executive Chair of the Board. Dr. Coles served as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, from 2012 until 2013, having served as its President, Chief Executive Officer and a member of its board of directors from 2008 until 2012. Prior to joining Onyx in 2008, he was President, Chief Executive Officer, and a member of the board of directors of NPS Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company. Dr. Coles currently serves on the board of directors of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the Council on Foreign Relations and is board Co-chair of Black Economic Alliance. Dr. Coles is a member of the Board of Trustees for Johns Hopkins University, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is currently the chair of the Council for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., In 2022, Dr. Coles was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Educated at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Coles earned a medical degree from Duke University and a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University. He completed his cardiology and internal medicine training at Massachusetts General Hospital and was a research fellow at Harvard Medical School.

  1. INDIRA ETWAROO (Award-winning Producer, Director, Scholar, and Arts and Culture Executive) has worked across the world to develop multiplatform venues and content that represents the exquisite and complex diversity of the world. She currently serves as the Director of the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple in California. Dr. Etwaroo was a major force for content innovation and inclusion in the public media field, as the Founding Executive Producer of The Greene Space in NYC and Founding Executive Producer of NPR Presents to bring live, on-air and online content to audiences across the world. She Executive Produced the American Broadcast Premiere of the 75th Anniversary of Zora Neal’s Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching Godand the first-ever recordings and live broadcasts of August Wilson’s entire American Century Cycle. She led The Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn through radical growth, as its Executive Artistic Director, leading to the Presidential Medal of the Arts for the 2020-2021 season under her tenure. In response to the converging pandemics of 2020, she spearheaded the launch of the first-ever national strategic plan for Black theater institutions across the nation, raising $10.5 million for the field.  Dr. Etwaroo has been a professor of graduate studies at Temple University and NYU and has lectured and published extensively on the performing arts, race, womanhood and equity.
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