Houston is a diverse major American city, yes? A melting pot, if you will. So why in the name of Bill White would the folks at Miller Outdoor Theater and Miller Theatre Advisory Board need to assemble two new task forces for African-American and Asian entertainment, as they announced today?
Turns out that these new think tanks -- The Juneteenth Task Force and the Asian Programming Task Force -- are meant to generate better ideas for the annual Juneteenth and Asian American festivals that take place each year at Miller Outdoor Theater.
Clearly the powers that be have heard the gripes. It's been no secret that public interest in these festivals has been lacking. Dr. Bridgitte Shen Lee, who's part of the new Asian Programming task force, is diplomatic to a fault, but admits that she was surprised to see no more than 500 people on a "perfectly good day" at the most recent Asian American festival. (This in a town where people clamor to anything that offers outdoors and grub.) And she's heard "more than once" from folks in the Asian community that the festival's programming has been less than stellar.
That starts in part with reaching out to members of Houston's myriad Asian communities and getting them involved. Lee says she can see working with the International Festival on creating a theme for each year's fest at Miller. And she says that aside from connecting with seemingly disenfranchised minority groups — this new push is a matter of money, too. "These programs are funded through the Hotel Occupancy Tax," she says. "So we have to make sure we're bringing in professional-caliber entertainment."
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So how much better will next year's festivals be? That remains to be seen, but we can thank our stars that at least now, there are task forces taking care of them. — Steven Devadanam