Born For This: The BeBe Winans Story
Celebrating Black Arts In Boston:
In May 2018, my son and I had an opportunity to meet BeBe Winans and learn more about his new musical Born For This, which runs June 15th through July 15th at the Arts Emerson, Cutler Majestic Theater. The musical charts the rise of brother and sister singing sensations BeBe and CeCe Winans as they leave their Detroit home and venture into the world of televangelism, gaining fame on a national Christian platform, under the wings of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and their Praise The Lord Network (PTL).
In the early 1980’s, at a time when evangelical television was racially segregated, Tammy and Jim defied the industry and altered the landscape of Christian worship media forever. Championing the incredible talent of BeBe and CeCe Winans, Tammy and Jim Bakker confronted the blatant racism of white televangelists opposing integration, and in so doing, ensured that the brother and sister duo got a fair shot at stardom.
After our conversation with BeBe, it occurred to me that Boston might be able to play a part in helping catapult this show to Broadway. Not only does the narrative resonate with some of the race and socio-economic challenges that our city continues to face, but it also inspires notions of change and progress rooted in simply caring for one another and valuing the unique gifts and talents that people of all races bring.
At a time when Boston faces tough criticism about its racist history, community leaders, industry heavyweights and government forces are beginning to mobilize and are taking significant action to change the way people see and experience Boston. Evidence of this can be seen in the recent renaming of Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street, a gesture that moves to untie the racist history of the Yawkey name from a neighborhood street traversed daily by people of all races. In government as well, a shift toward race and gender inclusion is beginning to bud. The successful campaigns and historic wins of the six councilwomen of color elected to lead several of our city’s districts, are yet more evidence of a promising evolution toward equity.
The arts have always been part of the equation shaping the culture and beliefs of our nation. For too long however, black arts and black excellence have been denied the opportunity to shine brightly in this city. It is no small matter that Arts Emerson will be hosting Born For This, a story that puts an important spotlight on the rich and layered experiences that black families have to offer and share with our communities. If open to seeing anew, Boston has an opportunity to learn from BeBe Winans’ story. Based on true-life events, his musical promises to bring us all closer to the intricate beliefs and bonds that have, for generations, given black communities much of its strength and resilience. Seeing and supporting the show, is perhaps another way that we can collectively move toward cultivating empathy for diverse communities and understanding the impact that genuine inclusion can have on the trajectory of real black lives. Helping to promote this and other arts that give black artists a platform to shine, is not just a nice thing to do, but the right thing to do.
My hope in writing a few thoughts about the learning experience my son and I shared in meeting BeBe Winans and hearing about his remarkable work, is that people in the YW community will help spread the word on this and other opportunities to promote black arts and black excellence across all of Boston. Please help support this show and give the inspiring story of the Winans family, the attention it deserves.
Interim President & CEO at YW Boston