Committee Spotlight! Equity in the Arts & Culture

Brooklyn NAACP Launches Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee …

With Rajendra Maharaj at the Helm

By Leslyn Grant

The Equity in the Arts and Culture Committee is a newly formed committee at the Brooklyn Branch of the NAACP that uses the arts to “provide a platform for artists and activists to express themselves.” These were the words of the chairman of the committee and Third Vice-President of the Brooklyn Branch, Rajendra Maharaj during a discussion about the role the committee hopes to play.

Mr. Maharaj is an accomplished playwright, director and choreographer whose repertoire has earned him several awards and nominations in direction and choreography for Broadway and off-Broadway productions. Included in his extensive list of plays are Sister Selma – A story of an African American nun who marched on Selma, and When They come for One of Us, They come for All of Us: This is America.

With the help of Vice Chair Paul Wilt, Mr. Maharaj said that the committee has partnered with other organizations to highlight the talents and achievements of black and brown people, and has been particularly successful in seeking out and showcasing talented youth. Mr. Maharaj said that his committee discovered a youth choir, Forward Ave, which performed at the branch’s annual membership luncheon in April.

Other events billed to take place under the auspices of the committee include WeFest, a weekend of artistic performances around diversity and inclusion featuring a special presentation honoring Harry Belafonte on August 4, and select performances of Sweet Lorraine, a dramatic interpretation of the final conversation between Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin before she passed in 1965. According to Mr. Maharaj, such events, “start the conversation about advocating for the Arts which shapes us in so many ways.”

Mr. Maharaj said that it’s a “very exciting” time for the committee because as people learn more about the group’s efforts they are lending considerable support. Politicians are taking note and are indicating a willingness to take part. He said community interest has helped the committee start a monthly podcast series called “Conversations” that highlights important issues involving arts, culture and politics.  He is also receiving calls from other organizations that want to help bring about change through arts arts and culture. The committee is definitely off to a great start.


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