A morning strollwith Sade…
What was it like growing up in the theater community, and living close by?SL: I grew up on this block [around the corner from the theater]. I’ve been here since the ’70s! It’s always felt like a little piece of home. Everyone knows and takes care of each other, we all know our neighbors. The theater was really my first school—I was learning how to perform before I even learned how to read or write. I remember how much the audience appreciated that they could be in their own community while seeing a performance like they could at the National Black Theatre.
You’re working on an impressive theater renovation to support even more artists. What excites and inspires you to do this?SL: The National Black Theatre is the oldest black theater in New York City, continuously run since 1968, so it’s been around for half a century! Now we get to support a diversity of Black artists in such a wonderful, 21st-century way. I’m excited to create boundless opportunities for playwrights and directors, and to invite Harlem and the rest of NYC into our home to experience it all. We treat the theater as the artists’ home away from home.
How do you find the confidence to build a business with passion and purpose in NYC?SL: You can’t manufacture courage. I think it comes from a space deep within. I trust that my ancestors are guiding me, and that’s where my confidence comes from.
What guides your creative approach?SL: One of my favorite words is radical, which comes from the word “the root.” And the root of our community is culture; our creativity flows from there.
Where do you go in NYC to be energized and inspired?SL: There’s a garden in Harlem on 106th Street that has so much magic. My mother used to take me and my brother there as kids, so I like to take my son Thelonious. I also love DanceAfrica in Brooklyn [the largest African dance festival in the country]. It’s the most diverse community that comes together to celebrate culture.
It must be special to watch your son experience the community you grew up in, and now empower.SL: I love watching Thelonious traverse the theater and discover the same nooks and crannies that I did. I remember being so proud of my mother for building this institution, and how passionate she was. For my son to see that in me and to take pride in the theater is an incredible experience.
Speaking of your son, let’s hear from him too! Thelonious, can you tell us what makes you happy right now?T: Every morning when I come down for breakfast I do a cooking show. I turn on the camera and put everything in! My favorite thing to make is chocolate chips with whipped cream, sprinkles and chocolate milk.
What do you like to do with your friends?T: I love going to the beach and playing in the sand. And I love making art at school.