This year, the illustrious Black Theatre United (BTU) is hosting its inaugural Gala at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York on October 30. With the theme for this year being “A Salute to Broadway Legends: Past, Present and Future,” the event promises to be a star-studded evening that celebrates the significant impact of Black culture on Broadway. Guests slated to attend include Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Cookie Johnson, Al Roker, Deborah Roberts, Blair Underwood and more.
BTU will also honor Grammy-winning producer, singer and songwriter Kandi Burruss, rapper and philanthropist Common, actress, director, producer and philanthropist LaTanya Richardson Jackson and more. The sold-out gala is supported by one of its lead sponsors, Business For Good.
Founded by philanthropist Ed Mitzen, Business for Good is a non-profit organization that focuses on closing the wealth gap in America and creating opportunities to level the playing field. One of their initiatives involves uplifting Black excellence in theater to create a more inclusive and equitable society where Black artists can receive the support they need to succeed.
Business for Good is investing in the future of Black artists by supporting Black Theatre United, which helps to ensure that Black voices and stories are heard and amplified on the stage. This investment creates a more equitable society where everyone can reach their full potential.
Actress Vanessa Williams, co-founder of The Black Theatre United and Ed Mitzen, founder of Business for Good, spoke with EBONY about Business For Good’s mission and being a sponsor for Black Theatre United’s inaugural gala.
Vanessa, you and Ed have maintained a friendship for years. What does it mean to have Business For Good be a lead sponsor for the first-ever gala of Black Theatre United?
Vanessa Williams: Business For Good is indeed a lead sponsor. Ed and his company came in last year or when we first thought about trying to get our gala together. He’s supported us for over a year and a half which has been fantastic. As co-chair of the gala and also a founder of Black Theater United, having those allies that are not only friendly but the ones that say they are going to be supportive and actually pony up the money to show up with real financial aid to help make our initiatives come into fruition — we really appreciate it.
What is the organization’s mission and values?
Ed Mitzen: Business for Good was founded in 2021 by my wife and I. We are a nonprofit focused on combining financial investment with the social impact of finance to create change in primarily communities left behind over the years. We focus on injecting resources directly into the communities and helping entrepreneurs and business people, primarily people of color to help get up the income curve.
What specific initiatives has Business For Good undertaken to make a positive impact?
Mizten: We create more inclusive and equitable opportunities for Black artists and offer the support they need to help ensure that Black voices and stories are told and amplified on the big stage. Vanessa and I have crossed paths over the years and this was just a wonderful opportunity to work together.
Black Theatre United’s inaugural gala is completely sold out! What are the purpose and goals for the event?
Williams: It’s our first, so we’re introducing ourselves to the world! We are spelling out what we’ve been doing since our initiation in 2020 right after George Floyd’s death. After a series of phone calls among individuals in the theater industry, we decided to have a call to arms and figure out what we were going to do and what can we do. We thought about police reform and education. We all knew that we were collectively in the entertainment business for many years and we felt that was where we wanted to start. We’re lucky that we are all stars. Black people do have money, and we do need more representation in terms of producers. We plan to highlight the fact that black dollars do make sense and there is black wealth to tap into.
Business For Good strives to be a pillar in the community and ensure its actions align with its principle of “for good, not gain.” How have you given back?
Mitzen: A big part of what we do is to help people get up the income curve. So we help to inject capital and provide marketing resources and accounting to raise these businesses and grow them. We helped two aspiring Black female public defenders who wanted to start their own private practice in the Albany area. We gave them capital and mentorship. We renovated an office for them and produced all their marketing. They’ve done great and ironically, they’re the only Black-owned law firm in the city of Albany, which is pretty pathetic when you consider it is the state capital. They’re well on their way to having a successful private practice for years.
The future for Black Theatre United seems very bright. What are some aspirations that you have for the organization?
Williams: To continue to bring Black talent into spaces where they have not been. We’ve talked about advertising with our mentorship program, continuing to train and give opportunities for Black individuals to learn every aspect of the business. For instance, Karen Ford is one of our family members, and she is the only Black female sound mixer on Broadway. When you go to see a musical, and you see a gorgeous, tall Black woman at a mixing board, you know it’s Karen. We want her to have as many people as she possibly can train and have the opportunity for Black talent to learn the art of sound mixing.
To learn more about the organization, visit bfg.org.