Syracuse, NY – Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh; Andreas G. Frank, president, Front Line Care, Hillrom Company; Senator Rachel May (D-53rd) New York State Senate; and Syracuse Police Chief Kenton T. Buckner are the first guests in a series of eight video interviews, “100 Conversations for Change,” a new initiative from 100 Black Men of Syracuse, created and hosted by President Drake Harrison and produced in partnership with Syracuse Stage and Black Cub Productions.
On Sept. 29, the first four “100 Conversations for Change” interviews will become available to the public to stream for free at syracusestage.org. This is the first program in Syracuse Stage’s re-imagined 2020/2021 season. Each interview is approximately 30 minutes long.
The conversation continues on Oct. 8, from 6 – 7 pm in an online Zoom discussion with Harrison and participants in interviews one through four, moderated by Joann Yarrow, director of community engagement and education at Syracuse Stage.
All “100 Conversations for Change” interviews and the Oct. 8 event may be accessed free of charge. They are part of Syracuse Stage’s “Syracuse Stories,” a locally focused series of free online performances, discussions and events that constitute a significant part of the theater’s 2020/2021 season. Those interested in joining the Oct. 8 conversation must register in advance through syracusestage.org or by calling the Syracuse Stage Box Office at 315-443-3275.
“100 Conversations for Change” interviews feature community leaders and officials from various organizations who are asked to address ways to affect positive change in Central New York communities. Follow up interviews will be conducted after six months to assess any measurable impact of the ideas and plans discussed in the initial conversations.
In addition to the first four interviews with Walsh, Frank, May and Buckner, guests for interviews five through eight are Dr. Casey Crabill, president, Onondaga Community College; Fanny Villarreal, executive director, YWCA Syracuse; Errol Bedford, president, and Reggie Stephens, vice president, Higher Learning Network; and Rev. Frederick D. Daley, pastor, All Saints Parish.
Harrison explained that “100 Conversations for Change” was inspired by the commitment that 100 Black Men of Syracuse have to the young people that it mentors.
“We felt compelled to seize the moment by launching intentional conversations that are actionable and accountable, designed to respond to the issues of our day—Black Lives Matter, policing, education and health disparities and civic participation,” said Harrison. “We have to hold leaders accountable. We invited respected leaders and influencers who have the authority to be change agents in industry, technology, health care, education, finance and politics to explore ideas in making systemic change and to ask the tough questions about how change can happen in our community. Each invited leader is requested to work with the 100 to develop plans for positive change. Watch where they are now and see where we are in six months as we follow up with each of them.”
As part of its re-imagined 2020/2021 season, Syracuse Stage has heightened its focus on the local community. Several shows included in the mainstage season address concerns pertinent to the current political and social moment in the country and the region. These include a world premiere, “salt/city/blues,” by Syracuse Stage Associate Artistic Director Kyle Bass, which sets a domestic drama in a fictional depiction of Syracuse. Anna Deavere Smith’s “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” based on the Rodney King assault, presents a relevant and dramatic examination of racial strife in the nation, while the American classic “Our Town” offers a timely call to consider the humanity that unites us at a time when we are most divided.
The “Syracuse Stories” series at times will reflect topics and concerns similar to the shows in the season. Among the upcoming events in “Syracuse Stories” are a performance of “A Gatherin’ Place,” an original play created and performed by the women of the Harriet Tubman Troupe, directed by Dr. Juhanna Rogers and produced in association with Auburn Public Theater. “A Gatherin’ Place” will also be available free of charge at syracusestage.org Oct. 15 – 25 and includes an open Zoom conversation with the Harriet Tubman Troupe on Oct. 18 at 5 pm.
“It is an honor to partner with Drake Harrison and the 100 Black Men of Syracuse and support their vision behind the ‘100 Conversations for Change,’” said Yarrow. “It is what engagement is all about—to foster a relationship with our Syracuse community where we share each other’s stories and make a difference.”
Founded in 1974, Syracuse Stage is the non-profit, professional theatre company in residence at Syracuse University. It is nationally recognized for creating stimulating theatrical work that engages Central New York and significantly contributes to the artistic life of Syracuse University, where it is a vital partner in achieving the educational mission of the University’s Department of Drama. Syracuse Stage’s mission is to tell stories that engage, entertain and inspire people to see life beyond their own experience. Each season 70,000 patrons enjoy an adventurous mix of new plays, and bold interpretations of classics and musicals, featuring the finest theatre artists. In addition, Stage maintains a vital educational outreach program that annually serves more than 15,000 students from 14 counties. Syracuse Stage is a constituent of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the American theatre, and a member of the Arts and Cultural Leadership Alliance (ACLA), the University Hill Corporation and the East Genesee Regent Association. Syracuse Stage is a member of The League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the largest professional theatre association in the country.
100 Black Men of Syracuse Inc. initially began as an idea conceived by Jerome Walker and Walter Eiland. Their plan was to build a grassroots organization that would foster the ideals of building community by nurturing young people. In 2006, they convened about 25 to 30 black men who shared their common concerns about the state of the Syracuse community. The group recognized the necessity for a stronger presence of African American males working to halt the deterioration of their neighborhoods and acting on a strong desire to rebuild a sense of community from within. They looked at the national organization 100 Black Men of America as a feasible model that could help them begin this process. Hence the 100 Black Men of Syracuse Interest Group was formed. Beginning in 2007, members of the group adopted bylaws, opened an office at the South Side Innovation Center and held its first elections. At the same time, the organization launched a range of initiatives and activities consistent with its mission and center around four core program areas. The group also incorporated as 100 Black Men of Syracuse Inc., secured support from The Gifford Foundation and others and secured federal tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Black Cub Productions, LLC, is a creative agency that helps brands adapt to the fast-growing media age. Driven by curiosity it comes up with solutions that create emotional connections between brands and consumers. It offers services from a strategy and production standpoint to ensure content meets the requirements for the most engagement possible. Black Cub was created by two young African American men who wanted to give a platform for underrepresented cultures, starting with their own. They banned together using the skills that they acquired in higher education of photography, videography, design and storytelling at Syracuse University. Here they began to learn trades of working in the media industry, starting with local companies and growing to larger industries in the Greater NY Area.