Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Ebony Jo-Ann and Jessica Williams to receive Inaugural Reel Sisters Hattie McDaniel Award on October 25

Jessica Williams and Ebony Jo-Ann

Jessica Williams and Ebony Jo-Ann

Ebony Jo-Ann, an award-winning veteran actress noted for her role as Ma Rainey in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Jessica Williams, beloved comedienne on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, will be honored with the Reel Sisters Hattie McDaniel Award (formerly known as a Pioneeer Award), on Sunday, October 25, 2015, at Kumble Theater, Long Island University, 1 University Plaza, Brooklyn, NY 11201. The awards ceremony featuring an evening of film, entertainment and fun, kicks off at 6:30 pm. For ticket information call: 212.865.2982. Tickets are $35. Click here to purchase tickets.

Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series renamed the award to honor a true pioneer who opened the doors for Black women and other women of color in film. Hattie was the first African-American woman to receive an Oscar — overcoming the challenges facing Black actors in Hollywood where there were few acting jobs available to them and limited roles.

Ms. Jo-Ann has been seen on Broadway in Gem of the OceanDrowning Crow, the revival of The Sunshine Boys with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, Sheila’s Day (co-author), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (original production and 2003 revival) and Mule Bone; and off-Broadway in Crowns at Second Stage Theatre, Inacent Black at the Mitzi Newhouse/Lincoln Center and Do Lord Remember Me at the American Place Theatre and Hunter College. Her regional credits include the title role of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at Syracuse Stage and at the Kennedy Center in the August Wilson’s 20th Century; The Sunshine Boys with Jack Klugman at the George Street Playhouse; as Cookie in the Negro Ensemble Company’s production of Samm-Art William’s The Waiting Room; as Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in the tour of If This Hat Could Talk; in Sanctified at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and as Essie Belle Johnson in Tambourines To Glory (True Colors Theatre Company, Helen Hayes Award nominee); Waiting To Be Invited at ACT Theatre/Seattle and the Denver Theatre Center; The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman vs Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae at the New Federal Theatre and the National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina; Heaven and the Homeboy at Montclair State College; From the Mississippi Delta at Boston University, the Cincinnati Playhouse and the Alliance Theater; Lost in the Stars at the Long Wharf Theatre; Spunk at Center Stage; Bubblin’ Brown Sugar at Walnut Street Theatre; and Fame:The Musical at the Coconut Grove Theatre and the Walnut Street Theatre. She has been in the national and international tours of The WizSatchmoApollo: It Was Just Like Magic and Sheila’s Day in Grahamstown, South Africa. Television credits include “The Jury,” “Law & Order SVU,” “100 Centre Street,” “The PBS American Authors Series,” “New York Undercover,” “Law & Order,” “Outreach” (pilot), “New York News” and “One Life to Live”.  Film credits include Adam Sandler’s Grownups and Grownups 2 as Mama Ronzoni, Noise with Tim Robbins, Kate & Leopold as Nurse Ester, Pootie Tang as Pootie’s Mother, EddieThe Day the Ponies Come BackTears of a ClownThe Stand-InFly By NightDark WatersChain of DesiresThe Orphan KingWhen in RomeThe Other BrotherThe BoxerDriving FishThe Stand-in and Marci X, Our Last Time (African Burial Ground Museum)  and Frederick Douglass: An American Life as Harriet Tubman. Ms. Jo-Ann is the recipient of six Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Awards,  a 2014 National Action Network’s WOMAN OF EXCELLENCE award for her continuing and outstanding dedication through her artistic talents as well as her contributions to civil and human rights, and a 1993 Jeff Award for supporting actress in the touring production of The Wiz.

In 2013, Ms. Jo Ann reprised her role as Ma Rainey for The Greene Space’s AMERICAN CENTURY CYCLE Recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.  Click here to listen to The recording of 1920: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

Ebony Jo-Ann as Addapearle, Darlesia Cearcy as Dorothy and the Munchkins in The Wiz is 40 at Rumsey Playfield, Summerstage in New York on August 12, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Ebony Jo-Ann as Addapearle, Darlesia Cearcy as Dorothy and the Munchkins in The Wiz is 40 at Rumsey Playfield, Summerstage in New York on August 12, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

This summer, Miss Jo-Ann appeared in PROJECT1VOICE’s 50th anniversary staged-reading of the NEC seminal workHappy Ending by Douglas Turner Ward, directed by Timothy Douglas, with Arthur French, Lizan Mitchell and Leslie Odom, Jr. at the Harlem Hospital Mural Pavilion; at Summerstage in Central Park and Marcus Garvey Park for The Wiz is 40;  and released her latest CD Please Save Your Love For Me. Ebony Jo-Ann Official Website

Ebony Jo-Ann, André De Shields, Dee Dee Bridgewater and George Faison after the #summerstageis30 performance of #thewizis40 at Rumsey Playfield in New York on August 12, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Ebony Jo-Ann, André De Shields, Dee Dee Bridgewater and George Faison after the #summerstageis30 performance of #thewizis40 at Rumsey Playfield in New York on August 12, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Jessica Williams is a young writer/performer out of Los Angeles’ UCB system and a former cast member in The UCB Sketch pilot for Comedy Central. She grew up in Torrance, CA and starred in the Nickelodeon show Just For Kicks as a teenager. While she was studying Film and English at Cal State Long Beach and doing improv as a member of “ComedySportz: The College Team,” she landed the role as the newest correspondent for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Recently she was featured on Variety’s “Top 10 Comics To Watch” and this year will recur in the upcoming third season of HBO’s Girls.

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Hattie McDaniel — 1893-1952

Actress Hattie McDaniel was born on June 10, 1893, in Wichita, Kansas. By the mid-1920s, she became one of the first African-American women on radio. In 1934, she landed her on-screen break in the film Judge Priest. She then became the first African American to win an Oscar in 1940, for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. Then in 1947, after her career took a downturn, she starred on CBS radio’s The Beulah Show. She died on October 26, 1952, in Los Angeles, California.



IRT: 2,3,4,5 trains to Nevins Street Station
BMT: B, M, Q, or R trains to DeKalb Avenue Station
IND: A, C, or G trains to Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street Station

Flatbush Avenue Station

B52, B26, B37, B38, B41, B45, B52, B54, B67, B103


From Queens
Take the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway west to the Tillary Street Exit. Follow Tillary Street to Flatbush Avenue. Make a left onto Flatbush Avenue. The Brooklyn Campus is on the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb Avenues.

From Staten Island or Brooklyn
Take the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway east to Cadman Plaza West. Follow Cadman Plaza West to Tillary Street. Turn left on Tillary Street and then right on Flatbush Avenue. The Brooklyn Campus is at the third traffic light on the left.

From Manhattan
Take the Manahattan Bridge to Flatbush.
Continue down Flatbush until you reach The Brooklyn Campus on the corner of Flatbush and Dekalb.

Or take the Brooklyn Bridge and make a left turn at the first light on the Brooklyn side (Tillary Street) and proceed one block to Flatbush Avenue.

Take a right onto Flatbush and continue straight until you reach The Brooklyn Campus on the corner of Flatbush and Dekalb.

Photos and Video: Behind the Scenes with THE WIZ’s André De Shields at The Wiz is 40 at #Summerstage30
Ebony Jo-Ann Celebrates PLEASE SAVE YOUR LOVE FOR ME CD Release, with a concert at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar on July 15
Elain Graham, S. Epatha Merkerson and Ruben Santiago-Hudson set for PROJECT1VOICE’s 5th Annual 1VOICE/1PLAY/1DAY 2015 NYC staged-reading of HOME; Arthur French, Ebony Jo-Ann, Lizan Mitchell and Leslie Odom, Jr. set for 50th anniversary staged-reading of HAPPY ENDING 

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Blog, Jade and

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Click here for other articles by Lia Chang, here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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