Paul Robeson Citation Award
2017 Award honors Jamal Joseph
Equity award recognizes those who best exemplify and practice the humanitarian principles to which Robeson devoted his life.
Jamal Joseph, Executive Artistic director/co-founder of Impact Repertory Theatre received the 2017 Paul Robeson Citation Award from Actors' Equity Foundation and Actors’ Equity Association at the Association’s Eastern Regional Board Meeting on September 25, 2017 in New York City.
Jamal Joseph accepting the award. Credit: Rachel Goldfarb
The Paul Robeson Citation Award honors individuals or organizations that best exemplify and practice the principles to which Robeson devoted his life: commitment to the freedom of expression and conscience, belief in the Artist’s responsibility to society and respect for the individual and dedication and concern for service to all humankind. The award was first presented to Robeson himself in 1971. Subsequent recipients include: Paul Robeson; Maya Angelou; Harry Belafonte; Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; James Earl Jones; Athol Fugard; Lena Horne; Joseph Papp; Sidney Poitier; Pete Seeger; Baayork Lee; and, most recently, Artists Striving To End Poverty (ASTEP) and its founder Mary-Mitchell Campbell.
Joseph has been described as a “Panther, Poet, Professor, Prisoner, and Oscar Nominee.” He is also a mentor to countless human beings of all cultural backgrounds and ages. Joseph credits his time spent in the Black Panther Party (at age 15) and nine years in State and Federal Prisons (as part of the “Panther 21”) as the fire that forged his creative sword. He is now a full professor at Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program and co-founder and Executive Artistic Director of the acclaimed youth performance company Impact Repertory Theatre, based in Harlem, New York. His films have been featured on FOX, A&E, Starz and The Urbanworld Film Festival.
“Jamal Joseph has been bold and forthright with sharing his personal story, and all the ways that he has turned his life lessons into inspiring young people to change the world in a positive way are a manifestation of his commitment to the freedom of expression and conscience,” said Actors' Equity Association Councilor Christine Toy Johnson, who nominated Joseph for the award and presented it to him. “His tireless work over the past 20 years in mentoring teenagers to become youth activists through the arts demonstrates his belief in the Artist’s responsibility to society and respect for the individual. And his dedication and concern for service to all humankind is unwavering and ongoing in his writing, film making and mentoring. More personally, his mantra to ‘keep a positive thought because a positive thought cannot be denied’ and his philosophy to ‘go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated’ have been a driving force behind my own career and advocacy work.”
In accepting the award, Joseph related a story of breaking down boundaries between rival prison gangs through collaborative theatre-making. “In that big yard, we created a safe space through the arts,” he said. “In that big yard, we created a circle, our own court where guys were communicating about who they had been and where they had come from, and now they had a place for expression and safety. And we found in the context of that prison, a way to communicate. Some of the guys could write poetry, and some of them could sing, and some of them had some dance moves. And I sat there with what I thought was tremendous burden and found tremendous hope, realizing what the creative arts could do in terms of giving you liberation, no matter where you were. And remembering then that the movement has always had a poem.”
The entire ceremony was broadcast via Actors' Equity's Facebook page. You can watch the video on Facebook or below.
Jamal Joseph with Actors' Equity Foundation Executive Director Joan Glazer, nominator Christine Toy Johnson and Robeson Committee Chair Alyson Tucker Mitchell
Credit: Rachel Goldfarb
Arizona Theatre Service
Diversity on Broadway
On June 1, 1971, the Council of Actors' Equity Association established what is now known as the Paul Robeson Committee, and designated Frederick O'Neal as Chair. The Committee resolved to present annual citations to the individual or organization that, during the preceding year or years, best exemplified and practiced the principles and ideals of this great humanitarian, Paul Robeson. For a complete list of recipients click here.
Paul Robeson as Othello