Singing the Same Old Songs in Harmony Is Far Easier than Talking Across Racial Lines

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charles Randolph-Wright, the director of “Motown: The Musical,” likes to tell the story of how a national tour of his Broadway show, when it touched down in St. Louis last year, offered respite and relief to young people from the Ferguson area. The Missouri town is now famous as a touch point in the national conversation on the relationship between police and the communities they serve.

“Teachers said they hadn’t seen the kids smile in months” before that evening in the theater, he told me at a reception before the opening of the show’s Charlotte run. That stop happened to coincide with the trial of officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed black man, which eventually ended in a hung jury, mistrial and decision not to re-try the case.

Beyond The Ballet World, Misty Copeland’s Triumph Shatters Stereotypes About Black Women

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-When Misty Copeland was promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre this summer — the first African-American woman to reach that pinnacle in the company’s 75-year history — the significance of her accomplishment extended far beyond the ballet world.

Is diversity on Broadway – onstage and in the audience — here to stay?

When legendary Broadway producer David Merrick revived the flagging box-office and pizzazz for his long-running musical “Hello, Dolly!” by casting Pearl Bailey to play the lead character originated by Carol Channing and, with Cab Calloway, lead an all-black cast, he was thinking bottom line. It is, after all, show business.

Being 1967 America, in the middle of civil rights change, there were arguments among those of every color on whether the production — with no mention of racism and prejudice – was a retrograde throwback to segregation or a breath of fresh air. Of course, since the default in America was “white,” the same discussions never happened with Channing’s all-white cast.

But what finally counted was the overwhelming response from audiences, who just wanted to be entertained. The show drew not only traditional (read white) theater-goers but also people of color, thrilled to pay the price of a Broadway ticket to see something at once different and familiar. It worked for my mother, who dragged her young daughter (actually, we were co-conspirators) on a train from Baltimore to New York to see “Dolly!” and other shows, igniting a taste for Broadway and a desire to seek out theater that was more multi-colored than the nickname “Great White Way” would indicate.

In 2015, Broadway is taking renewed notice in how to present entertaining, sometimes challenging fare and keep a diverse, global audience interested. That might mean singer Brandy taking a turn in the long-running “Chicago” or NeNe Leakes of “Real Housewives” coming on board in the final month as the wicked stepmother in the multiracial cast of the now-closed “Cinderella,” one with KeKe Palmer, an African-American princess, in the starring role.

Is Jill Abramson right about it being harder to retain women journalists of color than to recruit them?

“Promoting women of color has always been important to me. But promotion also has a retention challenge,” Abramson said last week at the Journalism & Women Symposium (JAWS) conference in Palm Springs, California. “I brought in some fantastic women of color to the Times. One of them is Lynette Clemetson who’s still a great friend of mine. But she left the Times to start theRoot. The competition for the talent is keen.”

After being fired and replaced by her deputy, Dean Baquet, in May, Abramson has continuously expressed pride in the number of women she hired and promoted at the Times during her tenure. She repeated the refrain at the JAWS conference, but ducked a question asked by The Washington Post’s She The People blogger Mary Curtis: In a nutshell, Curtis wanted to know whether Abramson really meant that she was proud of hiring and promoting white women.