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Barclays Center updates Sept. 2023 event calendar: on Monday, Just Brooklyn Prize Awards for racial justice, plus free "new music" concert, first in new series

The Barclays Center yesterday released an updated September 2023 community notice, disclosing two events on Ticketmaster Plaza Monday, Sept. 18: the Just Brooklyn Prize Awards, the first of an annual series, followed by a free concert with works by modern classicial composer Steve Reich, the pilot performance of an outdoor arts series at the plaza.

Both are sponsored by the Social Justice Fund of the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation, the philanthropic venture of the couple who own the Brooklyn Nets, New York Liberty and the arena operating company. 

The $50 million commitment over ten years, announced in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, is for "social justice initiatives and community investments that will benefit the BIPOC (especially Black) community, with a priority on Brooklyn."

The updated notice also disclosed a private event--not described in scope or specific location--this Saturday at the venue, from 3:45 to 7:30 pm.

The Just Brooklyn Prize

The Just Brooklyn Prize ceremony will be held starting at 6 pm on Monday. RSVP here

The keynote will be Brooklyn's Patrick Gaspard, the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress.

Just Brooklyn Prize Awards $100,000 To Five Brooklyn Racial Justice Champions, the Brooklyn Community Foundation announced 9/7/23:
In partnership with the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation’s Social Justice Fund, Brooklyn Community Foundation is thrilled to announce the winners of the inaugural Just Brooklyn Prize, which awards $100,000 to five outstanding BIPOC champions of racial justice in our borough. Each recipient will receive an unrestricted $20,000 grant in recognition of their contributions to the pursuit of racial and social justice in Brooklyn.
The funding comes from the Social Justice Fund; the Brooklyn Community Foundation is the administering agent. The prize seems an extension of, and variation on, the Fund's two rounds of previous Black Voices for Black Justice grants, which in one case totaled $100,000 and in another might have been more.

The winners

This year’s winners are:
The selection committee included:
  • Dr. Uche Blackstock, Founder and CEO, Advancing Health Equity
  • Sharon Daughtry. Executive Director, Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DNBA, historically funded by the arena operator and a partner in distributing free tickets to arena event)
  • Rev. Emma Jordan-Simpson, President, Auburn Theological Seminary
  • Randy Peers, President & CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce
  • Antonio Reynoso, Brooklyn Borough President
  • Ouigi Theodore, Founder, The Brooklyn Circus (an apparel brand)
  • Maya Wiley, President & CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights 
  • Angela Yee, Host, Way Up With Angela Yee (and host of block parties at the arena plaza)
  • Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation
The citation, and my caveat

From the press release:
“The Just Brooklyn Prize recipients are on the ground combating some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time, from every angle, right here in Brooklyn,” Clara Wu Tsai, the founder of the Social Justice Fund and owner of the Brooklyn Nets, New York Liberty, and Barclays Center, said. “They lead by example and we are pleased to support their work."
My caveat: surely the money can help--it's unrestricted--but a publication like The Brooklyn Reader, which tries to cover a lot of ground despite a tough revenue environment, would need far more than $20,000 to ensure coverage of some complicated "pressing social justice issues." 

For now, the city's Atlantic Avenue Mixed-Use Plan, which has prompted forceful response to the lack of affordability and its potential impact on Central Brooklyn's Black community, has gotten a lot less coverage in the Reader than, say, the less-complicated New York Liberty.

A free concert

After the award ceremony, there will be a free performance at 7:30 pm--no RSVP needed--of Reich's works. The press release states CLARA WU TSAI AND THE SOCIAL JUSTICE FUND PRESENT COUNTERPOINT: REICH.

It's an ambitious and interesting move to bring Reich's minimalist, meditative, not-so-melodic music--three pieces for clarinet, cello, and electric guitar, respectively--to an outdoor space next to two roads with regular traffic.

The press release states:
On Monday, September 18, 2023, Clara Wu Tsai and the Social Justice Fund will present an evening of music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Steve Reich. Reich’s rarely staged Counterpoint works will be performed on the Ticketmaster Plaza at Barclays Center. The trio of pieces will be led by three different musical directors, each one representing a separate wing of the city’s contemporary classical and avant-garde music scene.
Reich's Counterpoint works were written for a solo performer playing with a background tape of multiple performances on the same instrument; here they will be performed live with multiple performers.

From the press release:
Inspired by the sounds and harmonies of the city, Counterpoint: Reich will include:
“New York Counterpoint” (1985) performed on 11 clarinets, directed by Anthony McGill, the leading soloist and principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic

“Cello Counterpoint” (2003) performed on eight cellos, directed by Lester St. Louis, composer and multi-instrumentalist

“Electric Counterpoint” (1987) performed on 13 electric guitars, directed by Dither, the new music guitar ensemble
The works last 11 minutes, 11 minutes, and 15 minutes, respectively, so it shouldn't be that long a concert. 

Though Black musicians are underrepresented in the classical music world, the sponsors involved McGill and St. Louis, both of whom are Black, surely recognizing the spirit of the earlier award ceremony.

McGill, the first African-American principal player in the Philharmonic's history, according to the press release, has partnered with Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative in examining how America’s history of racial inequality impacts the arts.

A new arts series

From the press release:
This performance of Counterpoint: Reich is the pilot performance of a new free outdoor arts series at the Ticketmaster Plaza at Barclays Center, presented by Wu Tsai and the Social Justice Fund. The plaza, located at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, is at the heart of Brooklyn and a focal point for many of the borough’s diverse communities. The series is designed to bring world-class art and performance to Brooklyn, building on the borough’s rich cultural history, and reaching new audiences. It also aims to draw on and partner with community organizations to create a platform that will spotlight the work of local artists.
If so, free concerts will help somewhat to fulfill the spirit of the "You belong here" neon signage sponsored by the Social Justice Fund, and placed--with "We belong here" signage opposite--over the entrance to the MTA transit hub below the plaza. 

As I've written, that signage seems to do double duty as both public art and advertising to attract arena ticket buyers.