Black History Month 2024: Spotlight on National Black Theatre Workers 

As a workforce development nonprofit serving a majority Black population, Building Skills NY is proud to celebrate Black History Month. The month holds special resonance in New York City, where Black Americans have played a defining role in the performing arts from the Harlem Renaissance to the birth of hip-hop.  

Since 1968, the National Black Theatre (NBT) has celebrated this rich history by producing transformative theater that celebrates all facets of the Black experience. In 2022, NBT broke ground on a new home in partnership with LMXD, the mixed-income development affiliate of L+M Development Partners. Located in the heart of East Harlem, the new premises will feature a studio theater, flexible and temple space. The theater will make up part of mixed-use development including over 200 residential rental units, a quarter of which will be affordable housing. 

BSNY has had the honor of placing several of our qualified participants into employment on the NBT redevelopment project since 2022. As Black History Month comes to a close, hear from a few of these workers about what this historic project has meant for them and their careers. 


Manhattan resident Shawauna Berry worked as a Fireguard on the NBT project after earning her F-60, G-60, and other key certifications through Building Skills NY. She views her time at NBT as a formative experience that set her up for success in her current role as a General Laborer at Harlem Hospital.  

“My time on the National Black Theatre project started off hard, but it turned out to be one of my best jobs. It really encouraged me. I still pass by the site every day and think, ‘Wow, I was a part of this.’ It’s awesome to know that I was there from the beginning.” 

– Shawauna Berry 


Harlem resident Jermane Mordelle is a Junior Mechanic on the NBT project. He secured the position after earning his National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Electrical certification through BSNY’s Construction Career Accelerator program, in which he was a star student.  

“Working at the National Black Theatre is a blessing. Providing a place for people to live as well as having something for the community to visit and enjoy gives me a sense of pride as a young Black male.” 

– Jermane Mordelle 

Bronx native Yan Carlo Severino is an Electrical Helper on the NBT project. The role marks another step forward in his career in the electrical trade; he’s previously worked for two local subcontractors. 

“I heard about Building Skills from a friend, and they have been wonderful about getting me jobs in a timely manner, especially this one. I have been learning a lot with my new crew and doing roughing, pipe work, and deck work. It means a lot that I can work on a historic space because I’m doing a great thing for a community that deserves to see Black art at its finest.” 

Yan Carlo Severino