BALAA, a new performing arts nonprofit modeled after HBCUs is giving Bed-Stuy, New York youth new ways to express themselves. On opening day, young girls performed dances reminiscent of the Southern University Dancing Dolls or the Alabama State University Stingettes. Young boys formed a band with the flavor of Prairie View A&M University‘s Marching Storm. Learn how the next generation is getting in touch with the HBCU culture you’ve come to love in a new story from Anna Quinn at Patch below.

BALAA, a new nonprofit that offers performing arts to families below the poverty line, opened its first dedicated space on Gates Avenue.

A youth arts organization that has been steadily growing its reach even amid the coronavirus crisis has found a permanent home in Bed-Stuy. 

Big Apple Leadership Academy for the Arts celebrated a grand opening on Gates Avenue over the weekend, marking the first dedicated space for the nonprofit since first launching in the summer of 2019. 

Courtesy of BALAA

The organization — which provides performing arts opportunities for families below the poverty line — had been operating out of temporary spaces, a local school, in parks and online as its band program nearly doubled in size even during the pandemic.

“As the summer began to come to a close, it became increasingly apparent that we needed a new plan of action,” Executive Director Jada John told Patch.

BALAA, as the nonprofit is known, signed its first commercial lease for space on the third floor of 1014 Gates Ave., near Broadway. It opened on Jan. 30.

The new space will let the organization continue its mission of offering programs to families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in the arts.

Courtesy of BALAA

“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.

Courtesy of BALAA

BALAA started by holding workshops and classes in different spaces before eventually working with Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School for the Arts for a free space for its Empire Marching Band Elite, a band program set up in the style of historically Black colleges and universities.

But when the school closed because of the coronavirus crisis, 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.