Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe celebrates inaugural Juneteenth Arts Festival
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe recently celebrated its first Juneteenth Arts Festival, hosting hundreds of community members, several businesses and organizations, screened films from local filmmakers, and students from Ringling College of Art & Design.
Speakers included WBTT founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs, Sarasota Mayor Kyle Battie, WBTT board member and event sponsor Dona Scott, WEDU producer/editor (“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 June 18 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 in The Donelly Theatre were presented free by filmmaker Curtis Jordan, and the Community Foundation.
“We could not be happier with our debut Juneteenth Arts Festival – there were diverse artistic offerings and numerous Black-owned businesses to support,” Jacobs said. “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.”
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; and spoken word by Melanie Lavender, Eric Morris and Whitney Mays. Live music included 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 of popular WBTT artists Raleigh Mosely II, Ariel Blue and Derric Gobourne Jr. who performed a selection of soul and R&B hits.