Columbia College Chicago alum Vincent Williams ’03, founder and president of the Black Theatre Alliance/Ira Aldridge Awards, was posthumously honored at the Black Arts & Culture Alliance of Chicago‘s 23rd Annual Black Excellence Awards, presented November 6, 2023, in a gala ceremony at Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theatre. Williams, a graduate of the BA Program in Performing Arts Management from what is now the Columbia College Chicago Business and Entrepreneurship Department, was honored with a Special Recognition for his outstanding and devoted service as a Black Arts Advocate.
As previously reported in this blog, Williams, who died April 19, 2023, founded the Black Theatre Alliance Awards in 1995 to honor African Americans who achieve excellence in theatre, dance, and all areas of the performing arts in the Chicagoland area. The awards also pay homage to Ira Aldridge (1807-1867), an African American actor famed for his performances in Shakespearean roles in Europe. Over the decades, the Black Theatre Alliance/Ira Aldridge Awards honored Chicago theatre artists – including many alumni and faculty of the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department – for their work in the areas of playwriting, performance, direction, and design. In recent years, the Black Theatre Alliance Awards ceremony was held at Columbia College’s Conaway Center.
Williams was one of three individuals receiving Special Recognition at the 2023 Black Excellence Awards. The other Special Recognition honorees were Erin Harkey, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and Chicago Poet Laureate avery r. young. For a full list of 2023 Black Excellence Awards honorees, click here.
Additionally, the Black Arts & Culture Alliance honored the inaugural class of the Chicago Black Arts Hall of Fame, presented by the Alliance with support from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Among the leaders of Chicago’s Black arts community who were inducted into the hall of fame for their vision, legacy and lasting impact was theatre director Chuck Smith, a former longtime Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member and, for 20 years, facilitator of the Theatre Department’s annual Theodore Ward Prize for African American Playwriting.
The Black Arts & Culture Alliance of Chicago is a nonprofit service organization dedicated to supporting and promoting Black excellence within the performing, visual, literary, technical and design art forms. Founded in 1997 as the African American Arts Alliance by a group of Chicago’s leading Black artists and arts organizations, the Alliance promotes the continued development of organizations and individual artists as well as highlighting their accomplishments through its annual Black Excellence Awards, which were established in 2001.