In response to the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent calls in the industry to acknowledge the longstanding lack of representation and systemic racism in the theatre, Broadway stars Vanessa Williams, Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and many more founded Black Theatre United. Williams spoke to Good Morning America recently to talk about the organization, its mission, and more—check it out below.
“We want to highlight what we needed to see change and be a resource for people who say, ‘I can’t find a black lighting designer.’ And we can say ‘Oh, we have somebody in mind,’" says the Tony and Emmy nominee. “We want to be a change agent.”
While applauding the shift towards inclusion on the stage, Williams lamented the lack of color behind the scenes. “We want to see more representation...in management, staffing, sound design, lighting design, scenic design,” she says. “All of those components that make Broadway what it is today.”
On top of seeking a more diverse theatre workforce, Williams added that Black Theatre United is currently focused on promoting the census.
In addition to the theatre, Williams discussed her time as being the first Black woman to win the Miss America Pageant in 1983. While the victory was a landmark in inclusion, the performer found herself on the receiving end of racial tirades. “I had no idea what to do, but as a 20-year-old, I represented myself and was the person I am...people have to realize we are all human beings and we deserve to be treated equally.”