Celebrating Organizations Driving Social Change During Black History Month

This article spotlights four remarkable AudienceView organizations committed to advancing social change, supporting BIPOC artists, and fostering diversity through arts and education. These organizations are making significant contributions during Black History Month and beyond.

  • Fighting racism through theater and education.
  • Showcasing black classical musicians virtually.
  • Expanding mission for racial healing and support.

In celebration of Black History Month, we’re highlighting a collection of our clients that are committed to the important work of driving social change, supporting BIPOC artists, amplifying marginalized voices in our communities, eradicating racism and so much more.

We are proud to partner with these amazing organizations to help them fulfill their missions.

Black Ensemble Theater (Chicago, IL)

Founded in 1976 by the immensely talented actress, producer and playwright Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater (BE) fulfills their mission to eradicate racism and its damaging effects upon our society through the utilization of theater arts.

Black Ensemble Theater has grown tremendously over the last 45 years, from its humble beginnings as a small community arts organization to a vibrant nationally and internationally renowned arts institution. In 2011, BE celebrated the grand opening of the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, the organization’s first permanent home located in the heart of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

A leader and innovator in the African-American and mainstream arts communities, Black Ensemble Theater is recognized as one of the most diverse theaters in the United States, producing excellent musical theater. Beyond being recognized for its outstanding original productions, BE has developed exceptional educational outreach programs, including: Plays With A PurposeBlack Playwrights Initiative (BPI)Strengthening the School Through Theater Arts (SSTTA) and Summer Job Training for Youth.

BE successfully utilizes a combination of theater and educational outreach programs to bring races together in a community which embraces similarities and fosters dialogue, understanding and acceptance.

Colour of Music Festival (Charleston, SC)

Since 2013, the Colour of Music Festival (COMF) has brought together classically trained black musicians of African descent to share their musical talents, knowledge and inspiration. The festival calls Charleston, South Carolina home, but expanded its footprint in 2018 by adding events in collegiate venues and performance halls in Washington DC, Atlanta, Houston, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Richmond.

The festival’s mission is to highlight black classically trained artists and to give black composers a platform. Their mission is fulfilled through this annual gathering of top black classical musicians that have been trained at some of the most prestigious music schools, conservatories and universities in the world.

Now in its ninth year, the organizers announced that the show will go on via a series of virtual performances that span baroque, early classical and modern works. The performances, which honor Black History Month, will be live streamed from many of Charleston’s historic venues (along with a special event hosted in Nashville, TN) over five days in early February. The decision to host their first-ever virtual festival was in response to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

For tickets and more information about the Festival’s Virtual Concert Hall, visit colourofmusic.org. Tickets are $25 per household, per performance.

Penumbra Theatre (St Paul, MN)

One of just three professional Black theaters in the United States, Penumbra has staged more than 200 plays since it was founded in 1976. The legacy Black arts organization announced back in August that it is getting a new name and a broader mission, evolving into the Penumbra Center for Racial Healing. Described as more than a rebranding, the organization’s new focus is designed to better resource Black artists and drive social change.

While the organization will still produce plays, performing arts will become just one of three areas of focus, with the others being racial equity and wellness. The Penumbra Center for Racial Healing will launch new artistic offerings, equity training services, a wellness center and expanded staff to support its new areas of focus.

Paramount Theatre (Aurora, IL)

The Paramount Theatre, located in beautiful downtown Aurora, Illinois, provides world-class entertainment – including dance, music, Broadway-caliber theatre and children’s programming – for an annual audience of 350,000 patrons from over 250 communities. The organization’s success and continued growth is evidenced by the addition of the Paramount School of the Arts and recent renovation of the Copley Theatre.

The shutting of their venues due to COVID-19 didn’t deter them from their commitment to being a defining catalyst for personal and community transformation. Thanks to a grant, they recently launched the Inception Project – a new initiative from Paramount’s New Works Department that was developed to support and amplify BIPOC and marginalized voices.

While Paramount Theatre is known for its Broadway-caliber shows, the first two Inception Project productions – Pretended by Lanise Antoine Shelley and Bull: a love story by Nancy García Loza – are non-musicals. The long-term goal is to make the Inception Project an annual event that serves as a launch pad for the production of new works that will be staged in their 165-seat Copley Theatre.

The Inception Project is part of a bold new statewide initiative in Illinois to address and heal the harms caused by racism. The program was aided by a $40,000 grant from Healing Illinois, a racial healing initiative of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) in partnership with The Chicago Community Trust.