Amidst the bright lights of Broadway and the glitz and glamor of New York City’s Times Square one man has garnered the attention of a curious crowd who are hanging on to every word he utters.
Broadway actor Daniel J. Watts, who has performing credits in “After Midnight,” “Motown the Musical,” “Memphis” and “In The Heights” among others, has decided to use his acting chops to bring awareness to the plight of the people of Ferguson, slain 18-year-old Michael Brown, and the countless number of other Black men who have been adversely impacted by police conduct and misconduct. He is joined in the effort by Broadway actor Nik Walker (“Motown,” “Peter and the Starcatcher”), an integral part of the event.
Prior to the “Broadway Unites for a Peaceful Demonstration” held on Black Friday 2014, the duo released a statement announcing the event and explained why they desired to open “a dialogue between artists on the topic of social justice.”
“As artists, it’s very easy to blind ourselves to the issues plaguing our world today,” explains Walker. “This meeting won’t be to take a side in the Ferguson case. We just want to promote a respectful and productive conversation, so that events like this are never forgotten…and always learned from.”
Watts told NewsOne.com the “Broadway-wide demonstration” brought the Hollywood community together because often times “we don’t discuss anything outside of Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS.”
“We have such a huge platform to talk about as many social issues as possible,” Watts said.
Watts spoke out about the Ferguson grand jury decision saying, “I felt the system failed us again. Mainly because I have been following the case very closely, I’ve been watching the grand jury and noticing how the prosecution handled the jury and I know that is not proper protocol or normal protocol.”
“The whole situation seems a little bit fishy and that’s just not because I’m Black. I think as an American, people need to know how things are being run.”
A group of young African American women who studied theater at Howard University traveled to Times Square to witness Watts’ performance first hand after learning about the demonstration through an Instagram post that directed people to “block out Broadway.”
One of the budding actreses, 21-year-old Alexia Maree pointed up to the flashing billboards of Times Square and began speaking about how art can impact justice saying, “everyone is distracted by something that’s five square feet away from them and to just be able to have a say or an idea or a friend or your own self be on one of these things means that you influence something on a global scale.”
Carmen Ruby Floyd, a New York native, shared why she attended Watts’ Times Square demonstration and why she is taking a stand for justice.
“I’m standing for my husband. He is a tall dark male and that could have been my baby.” Floyd wagged her finger at the camera and said defiantly, “you don’t mess with my baby. So I’m standing for my love of my life.”
Watts also shared how important art is to bringing awareness to important social issues saying, “art has the power to overcome obstacles. Art has the power to change minds, change hearts, change lives.”
“That’s why I feel like if I want to change something, if I feel as though there are social injustices, I should do it through art to help change it.”
Watch the video clip above for portions of Daniel J. Watts’ captivating performance and let us know in what ways are you using your own personal platforms to bring awareness to the tragic death of Michael Brown and the plight of Ferguson, Mo.