[What’s Going On]
Dr. Barbara Ann Teer will be laying in state on Sunday, July 27 at the National Black Theatre, from 1-6 pm.
On Monday, July 28, a procession begins at the National Black Theatre, 2031-33 Fifth Avenue 125/126 Streets to Riverside Church at 490 Riverside Drive, 120/122 Streets, Harlem, where Barbara Ann Teer’s Memorial service begins at 3 pm.
In lieu of flowers, Dr. Teer’s family requests that donations be made to the National Black Theatre. Please visit the website www.nationalblacktheatre.org.
BARBARA ANN TEER, A REMEMBRANCE
A reprint of my March, 1998 KIP Business Report article:
A FLAIR FOR DRAMA AND A HEAD FOR BUSINESS
Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre turns 30.
Thought of by some as Harlem’s renaissance woman extraordinaire, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer is the founder and CEO of the National Black Theatre, NBT, a not for profit performing arts center. Once recognized by President Readon as “one of the 63 most important arts Institutions in America” NBT celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year.
Teer, a co-founder of the Negro Ensemble Company, operates NBT under the expressed mission of “economic empowerment through the arts.” Her $10 million state of the art complex is the only revenue generating African American theatre in the nation” In addition to housing a performance center, NBT also contains 62,000 square feet of commercial space. As a result, the rental income received offsets the building’s operating expenses and subsidizes its cultural activities.
A University of Illinois Dance major, Teer graduated at 18 and then moved to New York. She danced and toured with Martha Graham and other companies until sustaining an injury7. The theatre beckoned and she responded, performed and enjoyed a lucrative acting career. But, she wanted more.
In 1968, against the backdrop of America’s Black arts explosion, Teer founded the National Black Theatre in rented studios on Fifth Avenue at 125 Street in Harlem. Her late sister, Frederica, joined her in running NBT soon after it opened) From the start, the group soared creatively; one of their first productions was aired on public television and they toured internationally.
In 1983, a fire totally destroyed NBT’s studios. Rather than look for new rental space, Teer, purchased the building in which they were located and orchestrated the $10 million renovation and remodeling of the facility.
With NBT’S 30TH Anniversary come plans to add another theatre to the complex, as well as to renovate the building’s older sections. As she has for three decades, Teer stands poised to take NBT to even greater heights.
I also wrote a review of the play “Nzingha’s Children, a clever confection of tears and laughter, which reunited African ancestors with a young African-American woman who’d lost her way in that same issue. “Nzingha’s Children” launched the NBT’s 30 Anniversary theatre season.
It was vintage Teer! On July 17, ten years later, Teer launched NBT’s 40th season with “Orunmila: The Adventures of The Father of Ifa Divination,” a classic Yoruba folktale, a dance drama. Dr. Teer kept the African orishas and muses alive and well in the arts world she presided over at the NBT.
Lamentably, NBT also begins its 40th year celebrating the life of its beloved founder who died on Monday, July 21. As the NBT obit so poignantly reveals, Dr. Teer was an icon in the healing art of Black Theatre, which was her fulcrum. The NBT housed the largest collection of Yoruban Art in the Americas and was the venue where a variety of artists took front stage center during some point in his/her career.
The NBT was a stage for home-grown community and political action groups as well. Visionary and cutting edge, she had a lot of jewels in her crown, she was also a writer, producer, and African chieftain, who was the recipient of many awards, including many honorary Doctorates. She loved and embraced Harlem, calling it home and becoming one of its most prominent doyennes. She brought her own special brand of cultural literacy and pageantry to Harlem which will benefit generations well into the 21st Century.
Dr. Teer is survived by her two children Sade and Michael Lythcott and an extended family of artists – actors, dancers, musicians, fine artists – business associates, politicos and friends. Owens Funeral Home on Malcolm X Boulevard will host her transition in New York before she is interred in East St. Louis where she will be reunited with her ancestors.
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