Mrs. Black North Carolina USA 2017 Chanda J. Branch relinquished her crown on Sunday March 18, 2018. During her reign Mrs. Branch advocated for engaging youth and minorities in the arts for social change and social justice. Often, the ability to pay for lessons and everything else associated with training is a barrier for those who have great talent. This excludes certain groups from participating fully in the arts on many levels. Her long term goal is to open a studio where children can discover and train their talents in fine arts, whether they can pay tuition fees or not.
Chanda Branch is an alumnus of Tennessee State University, with a B.S. in Speech Communications & Theatre including Teaching Certification. Leadership and civic engagement were instilled in her as core values at a young age in her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida and she remains committed to those concepts as she helps to build the community in Raleigh, North Carolina.
As a professional classroom educator of English, Dance and Drama, Chanda is an award winning standout. She has produced plays and variety shows for students despite constraints on time, money, and resources. Her experience confirms her belief that young men and women blossom when they have an opportunity to express themselves creatively, and being involved in a stage production teaches skills that reach far beyond what students will see on a test.
Mrs. Branch was appointed to the City of Raleigh Arts Commission in 2014 and reappointed in 2016. The aim of the commission runs parallel to her own as “the Commission is dedicated to the ongoing goal of connecting people to the arts and building a vital and ever-expanding creative community for Capital City residents and visitors.” She serves the city and the commission as the Chairperson of the grants committee, which oversees the distribution of municipal funding for arts partners.
She is proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and Sigma Alpha Iota Music Fraternity for Women. She is working toward a lifetime membership with the NAACP and works with a number of local community organizations aimed at improving the quality of life for all citizens of Raleigh and North Carolina. She is happily married to Corey Branch; who is not only the love of her life, he is also the Councilmember from District C to the Raleigh City Council.
Chanda Branch was named Spectacular Magazine 2016 Woman of the Year – Arts & Culture. She discusses her inspirations, mentors and legacy:
Describe what makes you a successful leader in the area for which you were honored?
I think that my success in the arts can be attributed to a combination of passion and opportunity. It’s easy to devote time and energy to something that you love. It is easy to say yes to attending another event, another meeting, another rehearsal, even after you have already worked a full day. Then you find that because you attended that meeting or event, you made a great new contact. Or you re-energized yourself and created long lasting friendships in that rehearsal. You will also find that opportunities present themselves, often unexpectedly, because others can see how much you love what you are doing.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
My mother, of course, but as a young woman away from home, I was blessed with a mentor in Diana K. Poe, who was my college vocal instructor and director of the Tennessee State University Showstoppers. She taught me a lot about leadership and reframed my thinking of womanhood and power dynamics. I was impressed with the way she carried herself with grace and commanded respect. I admired the way she mastered her craft and demanded excellence from me as well. To this day, she continues to challenge me to improve as an artist, an intellectual, a wife, and citizen of the world.
What problem or condition in your respective field do you want to solve or improve?
I was blessed with parents who saw the value in investing, early on, in my talents and interests. I danced, acted, played piano and flute, marched in the band, spun in the guard and was even a competitive baton twirler (State Champion)! My parents and grandparents made it possible for me to follow my dream of performing, not matter the cost. I don’t say that to brag, I say it to draw attention to the fact that not every child has that same level of access. There are talented young people in our communities who do not have the financial support or emotional backing needed for lessons, tuition, equipment, and travel fees associated with participation in the arts. There are many more who don’t know that they are interested in the arts, because they have never been exposed to them or have been told that art is for certain people and not them. Everyone, regardless of their physical, cognitive, or socio-economic limitations should have universal access to the arts.
What legacy will you like to leave behind?
My legacy will be found in the scholarships and grants that are created to fund the training and education of young artists. It will be found in the memories of the many that were touched by seeing me perform. It will be in the walls of the fine arts academy that I will open and in the hearts of those who serve as fellow members of commissions, committees, and boards who work to preserve and perpetuate art in all of its forms.
In May 2018 Spectacular Magazine will recognize the brightest innovators and game-changers between the ages of 18-35 who are transforming the world in their own way with the inaugural Spectacular Magazine Millennial of the Year Awards in the categories of Arts, Activism, Athletics, Beauty, Community Service, Education, Entrepreneurship, Health & Fitness, Public Figure & Technology.
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