Karamu House president and CEO, 51
Why he's interesting: The Mississippi native left a post leading arts education for nearly 40,000 students at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in September to man the country's oldest African-American theater, the 101-year-old Karamu House. The actor and director plans to make Karamu more inclusive of all audiences with new programs and increase access to the arts such as music and literature.
Mixed Media: Starting in June through next January, the 200-seat Jelliffe Theatre is getting a face-lift with new seats, lighting, a sound booth and a reimagined lobby. "With the Jelliffe closing, we need to look at our building differently." The renovation allows Karamu to use other spaces, including the 100-seat arena theater, concert hall, cafe and Louis Stokes room for poetry, visual art, instrumental ensembles and more.
Race Course: Karamu's Social Justice Series, which includes Detroit '67 Feb. 5-28 about the riots in Detroit, offers opportunities to create dialogue about Cleveland's Glenville and Hough riots with talkbacks and teacher resource guides. "With young people, it's important for them to have an informed understanding of the climate we are in as it relates to race relations across the board."
Green Thumb: Sias spends sunup to sundown on off-days laying concrete, planting, building patios or chopping trees in his yard. "It's such wonderful therapy and excitement to look at and use all of one's creative juices."
Divine Intervention: "I was born into a world of arts and culture, and cultural consciousness." That happens when your mom is a dance teacher, your cousin is famous opera singer Grace Bumbry, and you're required to learn piano and perform a weekly talent show.
First gig: Jesus in an Easter show. "My father came and said, 'Why is the devil playing Jesus?' "
Open Door: Karamu means a place of joyful gathering, so while the theater is groundbreaking for being one of the first to welcome African-Americans as equals, Sias would like to let all people in. "We want you back home at the house. The community is a community of all races and cultures, all ethnicities, all persuasions. We are an American institution."