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Voza Rivers

Theatrical producer Voza Rivers was born on December 27, 1942 in Harlem, New York City. He graduated from George Washington High School in 1961. Rivers obtained his A.S. degree in police science from the College of Police Science and served as a Detective in the New York City Police Department. He received his B.A. degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and later completed his studies for the M.A. degree in Communication Arts from New York Institute of Technology, in New York City.

In 1964, Rivers joined Roger Furman’s New Heritage Theatre, and became New Heritage Theatre Group’s executive producer in 1983. Rivers expanded New Heritage Theatre Group’s division and focus by producing a series of South African plays and collaborating with black South African playwright Mbongeni Ngema in the 1980s, educating theatergoers about the horrific impact of the apartheid struggle.

The first South African play, Woza Albert!, heralded for its satirical take on Apartheid, won over twenty awards worldwide. The second collaboration, Asinamali!, went to Broadway and was nominated for a TONY Award. Rivers received acclaim for the introduction and presentation of the third collaboration with Lincoln Center Theatre, Sarafina! the South African musical by Ngema, depicting students involved in the Soweto Riots in opposition to apartheid. The TONY and GRAMMY nominated Sarafina! premiered on Broadway in 1988 at the Cort Theatre, and following 597 performances and 11 previews, closed in 1989.

In 1997, together with playwright, author, director and educator Jamal Joseph, Rivers co-founded the youth group IMPACT Repertory Theatre, nominated for an OSCAR and GRAMMY for Best Song for the film August Rush in 2008.

Rivers has produced award-winning works Off-Broadway as well as productions at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Manhattan School of Music, Hunter College, Columbia University, City College-Aaron Davis Hall, Carnegie Hall and the world famous Apollo Theater; and has worked with artists including Nina Simone, James Brown, Ray Charles, the Count Basie Orchestra, Tony Bennett, Max Roach, and Celia Cruz.

He has produced more than 1500 events including music events and concerts featuring world-renowned artists in the U.S., South Africa and Japan. He has also produced for artists such as: Nancy Wilson, Ruby Dee, Luther Vandross, Ashford and Simpson, Boy George, George Benson, Tito Puente, Lionel Hampton, Isaac Hayes, Little Jimmy Scott, Miriam Makeba, and Chaka Khan. Films executive produced by Rivers include: Hughes Dream Harlem (Langston Hughes), Sutton: A Man for All Seasons (Percy Sutton), A-Alike (2003 Oscar nominated student film), Lifted (2007) and The Savoy King: Chick Webb & the Music That Changed America (2012).

Rivers has served as chairman of the Harlem Arts Alliance since 2001. From 2015, he has served also as the executive producer of Harlem’s Gertrude Jeannette's The H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players theatre. He is currently the 1st Vice-President of The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce and is also the Executive Producer and Vice Chairman of HARLEM WEEK.

Voza Rivers was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 29, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.094

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/29/2018 |and| 10/24/2018

Last Name

Rivers

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

P.S. 68

George Washington High School

First Name

Voza

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

RIV03

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cuba

Favorite Quote

Let My Work Speak For Itself.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/27/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Favorite Food

Broccoli

Short Description

Theatrical director Voza Rivers (1942- ) produced the long running and award winning Sarafina!,on Broadway and served as chairman of the Harlem Arts Alliance and president and executive director of the New Heritage Theatre Group.

Employment

New Heritage Theater

New York Police Department

Greenlight Films

New York Entertainment and Sports Advisors

Favorite Color

Gold

Etu Evans

Fashion designer and entrepeneur Etu Evans was born on February 2, 1969 in Orangeburg, South Carolina though he spent much of his youth with his family in Harlem and Queens, New York. His mother Rosa was an educator, who helped Evans overcome a learning disability and eventually excel in school. Evans started his first business, in flower arranging, at the age of six. By the time he was thirteen, he began showing interest in fashion and interior design. Evans attended South Carolina State University, where he graduated cum laude with a degree in social work in 1992.

Evans established the design company Etu Evans, LLC in 1993, focusing on jewelry and hats. However, he continued a career outside of fashion and in 1996, earned his M.S. degree in applied behavioral science from Columbia University, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. Evans moved to Europe, where he worked in Italy and France as a behavioral therapist. In a chance meeting on the streets of Paris, Evans met the publicist for Gucci, and decided to leave his job in order to focus on design.

The scope of Etu Evans, LLC has broadened to include accessories and, especially, shoes. Evans became known for his fashion forward footwear designs, which have been worn by celebrities including Tyra Banks, Halle Berry, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah, Beyoncé Knowles, Danny Glover and Chris Tucker. His work has been featured at New York’s Fashion Week and covered in a broad range of international fashion magazines.

In 1998, Evans founded the Solesville Foundation. This organization collects, repairs, and redistributes new and used shoes and is frequently cited for the effectiveness it had during the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, Louisiana. Solesville also coordinated a youth AIDS walk and a shoe repair apprenticeship program for underprivileged youth. Evans’s philanthropic efforts have earned him the Burger King Everyday Heroes National Campaign Honor and the “Citizen of the Year” award from his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and the National Association of Social Workers. Etu was also chosen by Ebony magazine as one of its “30 Leaders of the Future.”

Etu Evans was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 30, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.243

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/30/2007

Last Name

Evans

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Schools

Marshall Elementary School

Brookdale Elem

Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School

South Carolina State University

Columbia University

Fashion Institute of Technology

Parsons School of Design

First Name

Etu

Birth City, State, Country

Orangeburg

HM ID

EVA03

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Since Greatness Is Achievable, Then Excellence Is Not An Option.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

2/2/1969

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Broccoli

Short Description

Fashion designer Etu Evans (1969 - ) designed shoes for celebrities including Erykah Badu, Halle Berry and Beyonce Knowles. He was also the founder of Solesville: Etu Evans Foundation.

Employment

Columbia University

Delete

Institute of Youth Entrepreneurship

Etu Evans, LLC.

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Etu Evans' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Etu Evans lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Etu Evans describes his mother's family background and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Etu Evans describes his father's personality and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Etu Evans talks about his paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Etu Evans remembers his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Etu Evans describes his early fashion influences

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Etu Evans talks about the significance of footwear in the African American community

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Etu Evans talks about his early memories and entrepreneurship

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Etu Evans remembers celebrating the holidays

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Etu Evans lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Etu Evans describes his community in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Etu Evans describes the sights and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Etu Evans talks about his learning disability

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Etu Evans remembers Brookdale Middle School in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Etu Evans remembers his parents' divorce

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Etu Evans talks about his early business ventures

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Etu Evans recalls developing his taste for luxury fashions

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Etu Evans talks about his interest in interior design

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Etu Evans remembers visiting his relatives in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Etu Evans remembers South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Etu Evans recalls his introduction to social work

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Etu Evans describes his religious influences

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Etu Evans talks about mental health in the African American community

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Etu Evans talks about the history of footwear

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Etu Evans talks about the process of making shoes

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Etu Evans remembers establishing Etu Evans, LLC

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Etu Evans recalls opening Sole Kitchen in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Etu Evans remembers his admission to Columbia University in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Etu Evans describes his graduate studies at Columbia University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Etu Evans remembers the Parsons School of Design in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Etu Evans recalls transferring to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Etu Evans describes his work as a behavioral therapist

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Etu Evans describes his start in the footwear design industry

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Etu Evans talks about his celebrity clientele

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Etu Evans describes his coursework at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Etu Evans recalls his peers at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Etu Evans recalls working with the Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Etu Evans talks about the Solesville: Etu Evans Foundation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Etu Evans talks about the value of quality footwear

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Etu Evans shares two of his shoe designs

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Etu Evans talks about teaching at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Etu Evans talks about his reputation as a shoe designer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Etu Evans talks about the invention of the shoe lasting machine

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Etu Evans lists his awards and honors

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Etu Evans describes his public speaking career

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Etu Evans talks about his perspective on religion

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Etu Evans talks about the next generation of shoe designers

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Etu Evans describes his plans for the future

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Etu Evans reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Etu Evans narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

7$5

DATitle
Etu Evans describes his early fashion influences
Etu Evans shares two of his shoe designs
Transcript
And then, your father [Frederick Evans, Jr.], how would you describe your father if you had to describe him (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Gregarious, very outgoing, very talented printer, everyone comes to him for his printing services. And when I look at all of his pictures, very sophisticated dresser for his--for the times.$$What, what kind of elements were included in your father's style?$$He had a--I remember a picture of him in high school with a white dinner jacket on, some really nicely tailored black slacks, a great black bowtie, kind of sleek European in its silhouette, and a red carnation. Great mock neck sweaters, he just had impeccable taste.$$And what about your mother [Rosa Johnson Evans]. Was she fashionable?$$My mother is (laughter) fashionable and anything that has color in it, it has her name on it. I had to actually a few years ago pull her back from the metallic. I said, "Mom, we're not doing--that's no longer the trend, need to let that go," and I gave her some neutral pointier shoes. But she loves fashion$$And then, of course, your grandmother [Queen Esther Evans] you said is still wearing stilettos--$$Yes (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) can you just describe her fashion for us a bit?$$Yes, well, my mom borrows my grandmother's shoes still to date. She's very fashion forward when it comes to shoes, very pointy, very feminine. And she would sit me on her canopy bed--first of all her room is the ultimate jewelry chest.$$This is your grandmother?$$Yes. It's a treasure chest, it's congested but it's certainly purposeful (laughter). The shoeboxes connected like trains around the top of the ceiling, there are beads of every color cascading off of the dresser, and in another corner there is a, a some archtectrical high-rise of hats, so she loves fashion. Everywhere you move you see something to wear.$$And so did you get an opportunity to observe your grandmother dressing and--$$That's how I got into shoes (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) do you think that influenced your--$$Absolutely, she would sit me in her emporium of fashion and she would say, "Etu [HistoryMaker Etu Evans], what shoes should I wear?" And then I would always select the shoes that she should wear to church. And then I began--that's probably why I'm in behaviorism, 'cause I believe kids become who they are before they're age seven, that's just my personal philosophy, based on what they are exposed to. So, she would sit me on that, on that canopy bed and then I noticed that her body would change, so then I moved from you should wear that shoe or I like that toe or I like this bow to what's making your body change. And I realized the magic of shoes, and ever since then I was smitten, I began tearing my grandfather's shoes apart, running around through the house wearing his shoes. And I discovered how to take his dress shoe and, if I took the sole off of it, it became a driving shoe so that's really what--$$So (simultaneous)--$$--(Simultaneous) sparked my interest.$We were just talking about how a shoe is made and how it makes you feel, can you show us a couple of shoes and talk about the construction (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Absolutely. Impeccable construction, well made last, Italian last, and then this shoe, actually, this is one of the samples that I started working on. I wanted to kind of like when you're saying does she--she loves me, she loves me not, that's where this is inspired from the petals when you pull them apart. And I've discovered that once I completed this shoe design that she would love me. We've gotten a lot of love for this design, so this is one of the designs that I've been playing with in the factory, and just playing with different heels. We've done it without this, in patent leather in the back and metal. And this one, the feminine fanfare continues, you know, with grosgrain ribbon over suede and a lattice of bows, which I think is very sexy and sophisticated, a wider heel.$$And are you doing anything for the person who needs extreme arch support or for people who need a wider shoe, or support in the heel? Some of your common--$$I would say what we are doing is that with what I've found rather is that many women come to us to have their boots spliced because they have trouble particularly in the Latino and the African American community with the calves. So what I've decided to do in my line is I'm creating what I call equity girls, who are larger in size. So you can have the special ordered boot in particular where you have the calf you won't have those problems (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) So the shoe can come up high.$$Yes, that seems to be a major problem. We haven't had many problems with shoes not fitting.$$So people are quite comfortable.