Avery Franklin Brooks was born on October 2, 1948 in Evansville, Indiana to a musically talented family. His maternal grandfather, Samuel Travis Crawford, was a tenor who graduated from Tougaloo College in Mississippi in 1901. Crawford toured the country singing with the Delta Rhythm Boys in the 1930s. Brooks also is musically inclined having played jazz piano, and has performed as the great baritone/actor/scholar Paul Robeson in the play entitled “Paul Robeson”. He sang the lead in the A. Anthony Davis opera “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X”, and performed as “Theseus” and “Oberon” in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Washington’s Arena Stage. Long affiliated with Rutgers University, he was the institution’s first Black MFA graduate. Additionally, he served as the National Black Arts Festival’s (NBAF) Artistic Director throughout the 1990s in Atlanta, Georgia. An actor, activist, musician, director, and educator of epic proportions, Brooks was quoted in an interview about his work with NBAF and his performances: “If I were a carpenter, I’d find a way to empower using that skill. I’m using as much as God has given–my mind, my voice, my heart, my art forms. This is the highest form of expression on the planet from God, to me, to you”.
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