We got the chance to sit down with the President and one of the co-founders of Broadway Advocacy Coalition, Britton Smith. He exclusively let us in on his Tony Awards preparation that ultimately led to his powerfully charging speech as he accepted the Special Tony Award on behalf of the organization at the 74th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday, Sept 26th, 2021. Here he talks about his inspiration behind his outfit choice, what was going through his head before his speech, and what he didn’t say that he wished he had.
Get into this enlightening interview below led by Drew Shade, along with exclusive pictures taken by Martine Browne at the Park Lane Hotel. Smith is wearing a suit by the brand TAAK and is seen pictured with his close friend Josh A. Dawson.
DREW (Broadway Black): What was the experience of checking into your hotel with your close friend, Josh A. Dawson, with the anticipation of the next day looming?
BRITTON SMITH: Nerves. Fear. A lot of prayer. I always like to shake God’s hand and say “Yo, dawg! Please possess me. I have a plan, I have an idea of what I want to do, what I want to say, that represents the organization, that represents my hopes but God at the end of the day what are your hopes? What do you want to happen?” It’s always scary to have to surrender like that in front of people but it always is right. So, I know that’s always the way. But sometimes I can get so eager and excited to share that I don’t make time for
*drops phone accidentally*
Sorry, my headphones got messed up. Ummm. I don’t make time play for the joy and the remembering of it all. So, having Dawson around was so medicinal. He’s the homie in every way. He’s grounding, joy-filled, we’re silly together, he also reminds me how big this moment is. He’s a friend that doesn’t mind affirming you, reminding you like “You that nigga, nigga! Like nawl That’s dope!” He’s seen the journey of BAC when it’s been super hard and takes my breath away from exhaustion, from angst, and from anger. So, celebrating it with him was perfect. There wasn’t a better person to be with that day.
DREW: Talk to me a little bit about your outfit choice. How did it come about? What made you choose the black and the simplicity of it all?
BRITTON: Mmmmm. I wanted it to be classic, a nod to the nights I remember watching. like “oooo everybody’s so fancy and so classic and uggghhh I just want to be able to fit in there one day.’ And I don’t fit in and I love that. I don’t want to fit in. I want to always be as me as possible.
So, I have a friend named Vaughn who is an incredible stylist. I worked with him on a shoot years ago. He’s also a strange ass Black dude. So, we connect around our silliness but also our passion. He introduced me to this brand from Japan and I asked him “Yo, can you get this suit’ and he was like ‘yeah but I can’t get it until Friday” and I was like “Oh, shit!” So, it came on Friday and by God’s grace she fet (fit) good and we had this woman, brilliant seamstress, come and tailor it on me that day. I just felt so silky, Drew, I felt so silky. Awww man, it felt good
DREW: As it should, it looked good, it looked clean on you.
BRITTON: I don’t know if you ever feel like this, sometimes I feel like… I don’t know, you’re a handsome man, you know when people be like “Go head, Drew! You think you look good!” But it’s very rare where I absolutely look back on photos and go “nigga, you look good.” But I was like “Nigga you look goooood. You look rich, Go awwwfff. You look riiiccchh!” And that’s a rare feeling for me, to actually feel that and gas myself up in that way. So, I appreciated that.
Talk to me about your speech. Did you practice your speech? Did you speak from your heart? How did those words come out of you?
I did practice. The Sting really helps me understand that you can practice what you want but when the spirit hits… As like Tituss said in fuckin’ ‘Respect,’ when the spirit hits bro, ain’t shit you can do, nobody can do. And I love it, I love when the spirit hits. But I like to prepare, “You gon be on tv nigga, figure this shit out” So, I prayed a lot about it, a lot of it I wrote at my altar at the crib, and then it was like three pages. Then I asked one of our board members at BAC, his name is Ben, I called him like twice to just talk about some stuff and the first thing he said was “Britton this is too polite. You don’t want to forget that you’re going to be in a room in a container of your peers. You want to continue to be challenging our peers and this is a moment to do that.” And when he reminded me of that I was like “Oh, shit. Yeah!” I went back to the altar, found some more courage, and had it all planned. I shared it with Josh the morning before, so nervously. And Some of it came out and some of it didn’t make it out. I don’t know, the moment of getting up and having to actually speak kind of took over what I had planned but I know it was God intervening and being like “I got you, bro. Just shut up and let me talk.
DREW: Is there anything that you didn’t say that you wish you would’ve?
BRITTON: Oooo (long pause)
Ummm… (long pause)
I’m going to say no. There is so much to say. But I think I said it all. Yeah, I think it was all said but there are some nuances and some specifics that I wish I had time to… or… breath to, man I was so overwhelmed I… (laughs) I think I said it all, yeah I think I said it all. I’ll leave it at that.
DREW: What was the last thing you did before you left the hotel?
BRITTON: Oh can I tell you one thing I know I wish I had said, Drew.
DREW: Yeah go ahead!
BRITTON: Yeah, when they said Lynn Nottage was going to give us the award. I was like “That’s amazing!” And I was on Instagram and Kara is in her show and she posted something that said Lynn Nottage said that “when you’re on Broadway the world hears you.” And I was like “Oh, shit. That’s amazing!” and like what do I want the world to hear? And I think Black people in this industry, including myself, thought that we would become free when we got into the industry and we see that no one in the industry is free until they own something. People who are free on Broadway, the most free, the most able to run that shit, have their ideas heard, don’t get a lot of “No”’s, are the people who own things. So, as Im realizing that and coming into that. I don’t want to rent my freedom, I want to own it. I’m sorry to be like “Broadway is kind of too small for me unless I can own something.” So, I was going to say something like, Black people remember that the magic that is in us is bigger than all of this shit we’re even fighting for. Cause yeah we’re fighting for equity on Broadway but at the end of the day, unless we own, it ain’t gon feel as free as we want it to be. And we spend a lot of energy trying to fix the white man’s house when we could be building up our own and owning it. But I didn’t have time to say that or it didn’t come out. So, maybe God didn’t want me to say it but I was so charged by “What do you want the world to hear?” from Lynn Nottage and I was like “Ooo yes! Freedom is ownership.” Period.
DREW: I love that. I love it. Last question for you. What was the last thing you did before you left the hotel
BRITTON: Called an Uber and it came so fast I had to run.
Yo, seriously. I did. I was like “Oh my God I gotta call an Uber’ and it was one of those two minutes away and I was like “Oh shit!” So I had to run to the Uber.