In Memoriam: ABENA JOAN BROWN

By Kensey, Barbara | Black Masks, Spring/Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

In Memoriam: ABENA JOAN BROWN


Kensey, Barbara, Black Masks


ABENA JOAN BROWN

eta Founder, Artist, Activist, Warrior

Grand Yeye Abena Joan P. Brown, co-founder of eta Creative Arts Foundation made her transition Sunday, July 12, 2015, following a short illness. She was eighty-seven years old. Recognized internationally as a major force in theatre and organizational and artistic development, Brown served as president and producer of eta Creative Arts Foundation from its inception in 1971 until her retirement on March 1, 2011, a period of forty years. During her tenure. Brown built eta into a major presence in Black theatre and steered the organization into the purchase and renovation of a 15,000-square-foot facility that houses a 200-seat theater, a gallery /community space, classrooms and studios. She later spearheaded the acquisition of an entire city block from 75th to 76th Streets, along South Chicago Avenue for future expansion. Her goal from the onset was to create a venue where the stories of African American people could be told for generations to come.

A native Chicagoan, Brown began dancing at age three and was deeply involved in the arts throughout her lifetime. She gained widespread experience as an actress, company manager, stage manager, director, and producer as well as an internationally acclaimed arts administrator and fundraiser. During the early developmental and nurturing stages of eta. Brown worked as the director of Program Services, responsible for the overall operations of the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, a multi-faceted agency. In 1982 she left the YWCA to devote full time to eta Creative Arts Foundation as its CEO, building it into Chicago's first and only Afri-centric professional performance and training cultural arts center.

Celebrated for her business acumen and insights on various aspects of the arts, Brown distinguished herself as a masterful businesswoman as well as an artist with more than 200 professional theatre productions to her credit. A rare individual, she has presented papers on various aspects of the arts across the country and internationally and was a participant in the First Black Theatre Summit convened by playwright August Wilson in 1999.

Abena Joan P. Brown received a Bachelor's degree from Roosevelt University and a Master's degree in Community Organization and Management from the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration. In January, 1993, Brown also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Chicago State University.

Along with the bestowal of the title, "Grand Ye Ye of Chicago's African Community'' by the African Festival of the Arts in 1994-95, over the years, Brown has been the recipient of over sixty other prestigious honors and awards, attesting to the value that the community places on the work of eta Creative Arts Foundation. …

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