Rochester’s Roots: A space for Black culture, art and voices

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The joy of News10NBC journalist Deanna Dewberry’s job is meeting people who color their piece of the planet with broad bold strokes, beautifully unapologetic.

Dewberry spoke with one of those people, Reenah Golden, the founder of the Avenue Blackbox Theatre on Joseph Avenue in Rochester.

The theatre is a little performing space with a giant mission — celebrate Black culture, enjoy Black art, and uplift Black voices. Like the butterfly’s metamorphosis, Golden believes art can change any place and space into something beautiful.

“I’d like to see it be part of this effort to really transform this neighborhood, this community,” Golden said. “I’d like to see the art spilling out from this space, onto the sidewalks, onto the buildings.”

Bettering a community one song, one exhibit, and one poet at a time.

When the board president of the Joseph Avenue Arts and Culture Alliance showed Golden this once vacant building, she didn’t see what was. She saw what it would become.

“I could see the potential from the start,” Golden said.

The Avenue opened in 2018. Golden’s passion was contagious, attracting both builders and benefactors, one of whom donated a piano signed by Alicia Keys.

“He was the winning bid for this piano because he wanted to make sure that it came here,” Golden said.

She wants to give those in the community the vision of what’s possible.

“I really continue to see this as a space where people can develop themselves, but most importantly, people can feel like these stories matter, Black stories, Black art matters.”

That’s the thinking behind Golden’s new line of clothing. Its message is simple — Black period.

“It’s a statement and a message,” Golden said. “It’s a powerful statement. That we don’t have to explain ourselves. We can be unapologetic about our art, about our creations, about our voices, our ideas.”


The proceeds from all sales support her vision of Black creations filling every corner and crevice of her building.

“But mostly what I want it to be is a sacred space that this community can be proud of, and also it can be a space that welcomes in creatives, young people, emerging artists so that they can really tell their stories,” Golden said.

Stories of pain and struggle. Stories of love and loss. Stories of hope.

“I’ve always believed in the power of the arts to build and transform community but also to give young people a safe space to really just become,” Golden said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily closed the theatre to the public, but the Avenue Blackbox Theatre still offers an array of virtual programming.