New York nonprofit brings HBCU culture to kids


By: N. James Dotson Jr./ Digital Editor

Big Apple Leadership Academy for the Arts, or BALAA, offers performing art for families below the poverty line in the Bed-Stuy area of New York.

Finding its permanent place in the area the organization started in rented spaces, schools, parks, and online offering performing arts lessons showcasing the specific stylings that are exclusively HBCU.

Big Apple Leadership Academy for the performing Arts/BALAA
BALAA teaches young girls the dance choreography from popular HBCU dance teams.

BALAA started by holding workshops and classes in different spaces before eventually working with McKinney Secondary School for the Arts which gave their Empire Marching Band Elite, a band program set up in the style of HBCUs, a free space to perform. With sounds influenced by The Marching Storm coupled with the dance stylings from Southern University Dancing Dolls the goal is give kids a chance to have an authentic black college experience for little to no cost for families.

According to an interview with Patch, Executive Director Jada John, the pandemic didn’t slow the mission.

BALAA pivoted to holding virtual or outdoor classes. By the summer, they were in full swing, John said, performing at and hosting a showcase at Bed-Stuy’s Black Lives Matter mural.

“What BALAA endeavors to do is provide services to youth around the City of New York, increasing the number of inner-city youths who are exposed to the arts, and providing a means by which they may begin pursuing careers in the arts or just enjoying participation in arts and enrichment activities at little to no cost to their families,” John said.