Willie Boston, Equity's Equal Employment Opportunity Business Representative from 1991 to 2007, received three standing ovations when he returned to accept the Rosetta LeNoire Award at the Eastern Regional Membership Meeting on Friday, April 13, 2007.
When his name was first announced by Julia Breanetta Simpson, co-chair with Christine Toy Johnson of the Eastern EEO Committee, the membership stood for extended applause. Ms. Simpson noted that the Award recognizes outstanding contributions made to the "universality of the human spirit in the American Theatre." Mr. Boston, she said, "served the members of this Association with dignity, grace, and a cherished sense of humor," and over his 16 years had "been instrumental in implementing the many initiatives that have been developed in an effort to combat exclusion and increase opportunities for actors of color, women, seniors and actors with disabilities."
In addition, she said that Mr. Boston had served as "a constantly reliable representative" at both the Joint Equity/American Theatre League EEO Committee and the Diversity Coalition (made up of members of Equity, the League, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, the Casting Society of America, Dramatists Guild and the League of Off-Broadway Theatres). "Though you have recently left Actors' Equity to pursue another job opportunity, the dedicated work you have done will influence, and be felt by, our members for many years to come." At the conclusion of her remarks, and as she presented Mr. Boston with the Award, there was a second standing ovation.
In turn, Mr. Boston said that when he heard that he would receive the award at the April membership meeting, he thought it was a Friday, the 13th joke. As the coordinator of the award presentation for many years, he said he "knew the caliber of past nominees and past recipients" and was delighted to be selected and happy to accept. The award, he said, is a "harbinger of what he attempted to accomplish and hopes to achieve in terms of diversity in all walks of life." He especially thanked Kitty Lunn, Maureen Moore, Andre De Shields, Christine Toy Johnson and Julia Breanetta Simpson upon whose shoulders he stood and with whom he worked over the years. Then came the third standing ovation.
Mr. Boston is currently Director of Affirmative Action/EEO at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.