Keep the curtains open

Black-Repertory-Group-Oakland-1400x1050, <strong>Keep the curtains open</strong>, Culture Currents Local News & Views
A night out at the Black Rep.

by William Palmer, Editor in Chief

As a Black creative and artivist, you have access to a creative space that would not only allow you to catapult into the entertainment industry, but is also abundant with powerful connections. The Black Repertory Group, one of only 10 remaining African American theaters in the U.S., is that space, and it’s right here in our Bay Area backyards!

Our youths’ knowledge of and access to this legendary theater may have a significant impact on the journey of future Black creatives. You’d be concerned, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, many are in the dark about this royal purple cultural gem, but it’s time for that to change.

The Black Repertory Group, first known as The Group, was founded in Berkeley in 1964 by married high school teachers Birel L. and Nora B. Vaughn. After many threats from the KKK, struggles within their communities and multiple location changes, The Group finally became the Black Repertory Group in the early 1970s, during a time of massive social, political and cultural change.

In the late 1980s, after several years of performing at community spaces throughout the Bay Area, the Black Repertory Group, aka the Black Rep or BRG, finally put down roots in Berkeley, making the historic Black Repertory Group Cultural Arts Center, which houses the Birel L. Vaughn Theater, 3201 Adeline St. building its home. 

Over the next several years, they built a reputation so strong that it connected them to some of the biggest names in Broadway, television, radio and music – from Tyler Perry to Ishmael Reed – and these connections still stand today as Vaughn’s daughter, Executive and Artistic director Dr. Mona Vaughn-Scott, and her son, Development Director Sean Scott, continue the mission as Keepers of the Culture through theater, arts and education.

The Black Rep invites Bay Area youth to know that you deserve a space that is “for us, by us.”

The opportunity to utilize the Black Rep’s rich history and great reputation to create a Harlem-like arts atmosphere in the Bay is available to us right here, right now. Success for the BRG means success for you and for our youth who need support. The Black Rep invites Bay Area youth to know that you deserve a space that is “for us, by us” and is a safe haven for those like you. By its nature the Black Rep is Black First Unity for creators and artivists.

This is what the 2023 Black Repertory Group x MTMC MLK Day Fundraiser is all about. On Feb. 4, 2023, The MLK Day and Black History Fundraiser will offer a bazaar, an open mic and a headlining show by OakTown Soul. There also will be a raffle with three different gifts as a warm thank you to those who participate.

With the pandemic’s ongoing negative impact on Berkeley’s small businesses, the Black Rep also took a hit. As COVID rose, their “sold-out” sign began to collect dust. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we keep the Black Rep’s name alive and ensure that future creatives have the same support our elders did. If the historic Apollo Theatre accomplished that for New York, then why should we hesitate to create and sustain our own beacon for Black Bay Area creatives?

OakTown-Soul-collage-1400x1400, <strong>Keep the curtains open</strong>, Culture Currents Local News & Views
Faces of OakTown Soul that will be headlining at the Black Rep on Feb. 4.

Jazmin Hawkins, director of the New Arts, put together the MLK Day fundraiser to showcase the youth’s gratitude and appreciation for the Black Rep’s community work, including powerful programs such as:

  • Youth summer and afterschool programs
  • Youth violence prevention programs
  • Health Education Through Theater (HETT)
  • Street Kids At Risk (SKAR)
  • Meaningful partnership programs with churches and community organizations to address homelessness
  • Founding of A Girl Who Looks Better Acts Better
  • Research studies on drug abuse amongst at-risk boys and men
  • And many more award-winning achievements

The SF Bay View newspaper calls out to all creatives to see this space as your home! Join us for the 2023 Black Repertory Group x MTMC MLK Day Fundraiser to help this beautiful, Black, necessary space continue to support creatives like YOU!

William Palmer, Editor in Chief of the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, is an advocate for juvenile justice, holistic reentry expert and a social engineer. He can be reached at