Although we had to move our July 22nd ride away from the Broadway Theatre due to surrounding construction, we’ll pass by it this coming Monday, August 26th, while riding a repaved Broadway as part of our free and inclusive Library-Lovejoy Ride (starting from the Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square, 6:30pm sharp).

Built in 1914, the Broadway Theatre was first a movie house then a mosque in which Malcolm X and Muhammed Ali gave speeches; it’s now one of only two remaining historically African-American owned theaters in New York State, along with The Apollo in Harlem. Learn more below from Michael Quinniey of Friends of the Sattler Broadway Theatre and Western New York Minority Media Professionals, which first led the charge to revive this historic building.

What kind of restoration progress have y’all made since Slow Roll was at Broadway Theatre last year?

We have one major out-of-state investor willing to put up all the costs of restoration, working on the details of the contract. And we also have a local investor looking to invest $250-500,000 maybe by the end of August, plus we’re looking to take advantage of Opportunity Zone federal funding.

On a smaller level, we’re positioning to get our historic landmark nomination so we can qualify the theater for tax credits – Mike Puma and Preservation Studios are doing that work, they also did Shea’s Seneca Theatre.

We’ve really worked hard on the structure; raising money is always an issue.

We’ve also added three new board members, which has allowed us to gain access to wider audience to raise money and awareness – so many people we’ve met are still unaware of what we’re doing.

How does the theater connect with the mission of the Minority Media Professionals of Western New York?

The theater is a byproduct of the mission. When we started 20 years ago at WKBW Channel 7, we soon outgrew the station with 500 kids in the program. WKBW GM Bill Ransom encouraged us to find our own building, as a byproduct to serve and educate young people through media – so the reason why we bought the theater was to be our new home. We can use media as a way to get young people to do better academically.

We never thought it would grow to something like this – we just asked each other, “What can we do to make a difference?” Tyrone Christopher, who’s still at WIVB, and Tony Jones, who’s still at WKBW, started this as impact youth, to get them out of their comfort zone and more engaged in their communities through media. Now, multimedia has crossed into all professions, light years away from when I got into it in mid-80’s as an intern at WKBW.

Broadway Theatre in its heyday

How can community members get involved?

Community members can get involved by going to our website and emailing us, or by calling 716-715-0384. We’re open to working with everyone. The real story behind our growth is that we have people from all walks of life, all political backgrounds, working for the common cause of community and youth. Anyone who wants to volunteer, all are welcome – if you have a commitment to community, to young people, come work with us.

Above photo by Mario Lorenzo – lead photo by Clay Davies