The Slave Theatre is more than a building with a base and four walls; this preeminent institution, founded by the Honorable Judge John L. Phillips, aka “The Kung-fu Judge,” is an iconic representation, historically spearheaded by culturally-conscious, community and family-oriented persons of the African Diaspora. In the late 1980s early 1990s, organizers of the Slave Theatre strategically fostered dynamically relevant programs, symposiums, lectures, events, and forums, to name a few. The artistic and intellectual versatility Judge Phillips offered with this imperative space, generated positively progressive influences within the predominantly Afro-Caribbean communities in Brooklyn, New York. These individuals became so profusely versed with knowledge of their African Origins, their activism spanned not just the boroughs; they became global visionaries—traveling to Africa (Egypt and Ghana) with Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannan and other renowned scholars. Like scholastic leaders Dr. Ben, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Ali & Helen Salahuddein—co-founders of the D’zertclub: African Genesis Institute—Judge Phillips had the intuitive foresight that charged him to create a space he knew and African persons knew was critical then as it is even more so today for the empowerment, purification, healing, and holistic collaboration of persons of African Descent. It is the thorough reflection of his clarity, his vision, his mission, his extraordinary execution and the immensely constructive impact his creativity has had within NYC, that ignites the fervor to do everything possible to resurrect life back into the Slave Theatre.
Middle and High School Educator and Entrepreneur Sandra John nostalgically remembers the event held at the Slave Theatre after the Release of Nelson Mandela. “The Slave Theatre was an extremely effective establishment because it instilled a sense of pride, a knowingness of who you are. You felt connected to your people. During that time, there were a lot more interactions in the streets. People made eye contact and stopped to have conversations about how to make our communities better, our children, various services like counseling and legal aid. I felt like I had a true extended family because my family and I along with other families, grandparents, attended events at the theatre at least twice a week and even during the weekends. I remember the internal environment of the theatre; the life force energy was powerful because the images and writings reflected so many aspects of African people.”
Like Sandra John, young people and adults alike are crying out for a platform, a place of refuge, where communal efforts can arise again. As of now, on Tuesday evenings, West African Dance Classes are taught by professional Dancer, Lycist and Educator Empress Idama on a contribution-based system; on Thursday evenings, film screenings and discussions are held and on Sundays, a Rastafari Upliftment concession is held. How will the resuscitation of The Slave Theatre further aid and benefit the development of African-American, Caribbean and Latino communities? Besides the exponential growth and evolvement of the programs currently hosted at the theatre, young people will play a consciously active role in combating the stereotypes and functions of systems and persons who terrorize and subjugate them to falter into criminal behaviors. Their artistic gifts will be nurtured and scaffolded by adult educators and leaders of various fields—both artistically and academically. Young people will receive training in music, martial arts, African history, science and mathematics to name a few. The expertise and guidance of aware adults who know that cultivating a youth’s identity determines that youth’s self-esteem and consequent contributions to their education, their families, community and our global schema, further highlights why The Slave Theatre needs to be revamped and why its Closure or change of Guardianship is NOT an Option!
Though sparingly beneficial, the Media has done a grave injustice and disservice to young people of African Descent. Too often, young people of African Descent are subliminally affected by information that degrades them. If they are not viewed as pursuing activities lined with criminal intent, they are purposefully displayed as ignorant and unlearned, disrespectful to their parents and friends, etc. Essentially, they are rarely depicted as entities of value like their White, Asian, and Latino counterparts. Individuals of different ethnic groups represent identities that are complete because of the vast array of depictions viewed within the media…and they tend to stand second to none whenever their skill—intellectually or otherwise—is magnified.
The Slave Theatre, as a functional unit, will train young people and adults alike to utilize technology to show their intrinsic gifts in a light that, instead of denigrating themselves, their family, culture, history, and ancestors, resonates in the light and magnetism of their true character—powerful and bright. These true aspects showing them in multifaceted lights, will eventually eradicate the false stereotypes that have fueled the behaviors—low performance in schools, violence, imprisonment, etc.
To support the revitalization of The Slave Theatre, call 718.669.9992 or 347.465.0926 and come to the “Redeem-Restore-Reclaim” celebration on October 22nd, 2011 with a $10 donation—enjoy Vegan food, partake in an exciting raffle drawing and prepare for several dynamite performances. Start time 7 pm. Closure of The Slave Theatre is NOT an option.