SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe was proud to present its first-ever Juneteenth Arts Festival on June 18. Hundreds of community members were in attendance over the course of the day as WBTT hosted numerous businesses, organizations, and food trucks, screened films from local filmmakers and students from Ringling College of Art & Design, and presented spoken word, dance, and live music on an outdoor stage.
Speakers included WBTT Founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs, Sarasota Mayor Kyle Battie, WBTT board member and event sponsor Dona Scott, WEDU producer/editor of the film “This Light of Mine” Danny Bruno, and Judge Charles E. Williams, who spoke on behalf of event sponsor Community Foundation of Sarasota County.
A highlight of the festival included two screenings of “Playing Through: The Story of Ann Gregory,” a film – written by Curtis Jordan, and directed by Balbinka Korzeniowska – that pays tribute to the first Black female golfer to play in a U.S. Golf Association tournament. The screenings of “Playing Through” in The Donelly Theatre were free through the generosity of its filmmaker, Curtis Jordan, and a generous festival sponsorship by The Community Foundation of Sarasota County.
Film shorts were screened in WBTT’s Howard J. Millman Theatre. There was also an all-day outdoor stage featuring a dance performance by Monessa Salley and Natalie Aceves; spoken word by Melanie Lavender, Eric Morris and Whitney Mays; and plentiful live music, including featured performances by Stage of Discovery students Jaliyah Campbell, Hadara Porter, Amilia Samuels and Samuel Waite, a solo turn by young artist Astrid McIntyre, and the headlining act “R.A.D.,” a group comprising popular WBTT artists Raleigh Mosely II, Ariel Blue and Derric Gobourne Jr., as they performed an exciting selection of soul and R&B hits.
“We could not be happier with our debut Juneteenth Arts Festival – there were diverse artistic offerings and numerous Black-owned businesses to support,” said WBTT Founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. “Our organization’s mission is to promote and celebrate African American history and experience; we were delighted to celebrate this newly-created federal holiday with our friends in the community.”
Presenting Sponsors were Dona & Sam Scott; Co-Sponsors were The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and Dr. Donald and Doris Johnson.
For more about WBTT, visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists, and builds self-esteem in youth of color. Visit westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 941-366-1505.