Half of a drama mask smiling and words Columbus Black Theater Festival

The Columbus Black Theatre Festival (CBTF) celebrates its seventh year this July. As an African American playwright myself, my goal for the CBTF is to showcase original plays by other Black playwrights – especially new playwrights – to encourage them and others to tell our stories so that our generation can leave our future generations a blueprint of our lives as we lived them in our time.

When I first started the CBTF there were those who wanted the “Black” removed from the name, said it would be offensive to some races of people. My response was that only Black people were concerned about what others thought when the focus is put on their race. Columbus, Ohio has a wide variety of festivals throughout the summer. We have an Asian Festival, a German Festival, an Italian Festival and so many other festivals. Why can’t we have a Black Festival?

What I find interesting is that the CBTF doesn’t have much support from the Black community, especially the Black theatre community in Ohio. I say interesting and not surprised because I fully believe that many Black Ohioans suffer from the Willie Lynch Law of separation and not supporting each other. An example of this is that Black people flock from all over to attend the Asian Festival held in Franklin Park, a park that once held the Juneteenth Festival until the City shut them down and didn’t allow them back in Franklin Park after a “shoot-out” occurred during one of the festival days. There’s no flock of Black people attending the CBTF. 

There are Black playwrights here in Columbus Ohio that take their plays out of state but never submit their plays to the one held right where they live. Another example of how the Willie Lynch Law is still alive and well in some of the Ohio African American minds. It’s so deep in their DNA that they don’t even know it’s there, but those of us who understand what’s in a name see it. 

The good news is that there are Ohio Black playwrights who are representing Ohio. This year’s line-up brings Jasmyn Green (Lie in the Bed You Make) returning for the third year, Mel Yarbrough (Out of Time) returning for the second year, Jo Terrell (If Only It Would Move) and Ohio’s JB3 Entertainment is bringing Tuskegee Love Letters by Kim Russell. From Indiana, Cameo Jarrett, is bringing Don’t Cry for Me and Moriah Shiddat from Lansing, MI returns this year with “Zula.”

The CBTF continues to also offer a free theatre workshop for youth. This year it’s a four-day workshop on writing and performing a short play for youth in grades 5th to 9th. It will be held at the Columbus Metropolitan Main Library from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM July 8th-11th. This workshop is to encourage young minds to understand how to bring their stories to life through writing and the performing arts and is open to all races.

The CBTF is a self-supporting event that Mine 4 God Productions (M4GP) struggles to support financially each year. However it’s important that there be a platform that showcases new original plays written by people of color, Black people, so that our stories will live on. When I think about “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Porgy & Bess,” “A Native Son” and the other plays that told the stories of their time and place in society, America and the world and how we as a people, a Black people felt, thought and lived our lives – it forces me to keep continuing to bring the CBTF each year that I am alive to Ohio. My prayer and hope are that we get the support we need to “fill the seats” each year so that it’s not all in vain and writers will write.

We welcome support in all ways: volunteering at the festival, buyinhttp://ww.mine4godproductions.comg tickets, placing ads in the playbill, making donations and spreading the word about the CBTF. It’s July 12-14th at the Columbus Performing Arts Shedd Theatre in downtown Columbus, OH. For tickets and more information go to our website

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