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When I spoke to Erykah Badu in February 2008, shortly before the release of New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), she strongly suggested all was not well with the Black Forest Theater, from which Badu had hoped to save the soul of her native South Dallas. "Financially, it's a burden," she said. "It's hard. It is. I need the community's support as much as I can, and they do, but it's a big job to take on without having the correct kind of sponsorship and backing."
Certainly, she held up her end of the bargain, hosting after-school programs for neighborhood children; hosting Russell Simmons when he came to town in 2002 for a Hip Hop Summit; and, on occasion, bringing in the likes of Dave Chappelle, Snoop Dogg, The Roots and even Prince for after-hours gigs that energized that particular block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Ironically, the marquee pictured on Google Maps reads, "NEVER GIVE UP.") But as you can see from the picture I took over the weekend, she lost her battle with the landlord -- not long after the piece ran, as it turns out. Though it's still listed among her endeavors on the BaduWorld Web site and the answering machine still works, the official Web site's gone, and the place is empty now -- for lease and forlorn.
Property manager says L.C. Cortez told Unfair Park today he hopes to have someone in the space by July. He says that since the for-lease sign went up a few months ago, "about 95 people have called and inquired about it." But he says anyone who takes over the Forest Theater must be able to afford a one- to two-year lease that's "about $7,500 a month ... which is why we'll be highly selective." To which he adds: "Hope for the community is still alive. We're not going to diminish the hope for the community. It's alive and well."
As for Erykah, well, she's doing OK: She's awaiting the imminent birth of another child and recording a new album.