COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – She was introduced to us as “a lover of dance that fueled her commitment to the education of youth” that’s quite an intro, add to that a lover of West African arts and culture, which she uses as a social development tool for young people, and Suzan Bradford Kounta is, no doubt, a Remarkable Woman.
Bradford Kounta is the executive director of the East Side’s historic Lincoln Theatre.
“It sat for 30 years from 1974 to 2004. Sat dilapidated,” said Bradford Kounta of the once magnificent venue.
Built in1928 before the Great Depression, it is the symbol of a community’s resilience and rebirth.
“Holes in the sealing water running, chairs gone,” described Bradford Kounta. “I think if we would have huffed and puffed we could have blown it down.”
Named the general manager of the Lincoln in 2009 after a $13.5 million renovation. She added $3 million more, with a promise to fill the theatre again.
“I didn’t come in with a plan but I came in with a dream and with vision,” Bradford Kounta recounted.
When asked about the weight of her decision to take the job, Bradford Kounta added, “I did feel the weight, but I believed I could handle it, I believed I could carry it.”
She brought Thiossane, the dance troop she founded with her late husband, to the Lincoln to perform and to teach. Now eight signature programs emanate from the Lincoln.
From artist incubation to the “Walk of Fame,” honoring those who have taken Columbus to the world, to Club Lincoln in the 4,500 square foot ballroom, to “‘Peanut Butter Jelly and Jazz’ for the young people and their families, so on any given day … every space is full.”
Responding to the comment that she has “taken it and run with it” referring to her position at the Lincoln, Bradford Kounta agreed, “I did, I did, I’m a canvas.”
Painting her West African heritage into the hearts of children looking for meaning.
“It allows young people to understand that they’re loved, that they belong, and that they’re accepted,” she said. “That they have talent and that their creativity doesn’t make them different it makes them inclusive.”
In 2019 the woman called “Auntie,” by blood or by love, was named the Executive Director of the Lincoln.
“When we came this was next to a beauty salon,” Bradford Kounta remembered.
A make-over on the East Side for generations to come, one artist at a time. A blank canvas that Suzan Bradford Kounta is in the process of painting an East Side masterpiece.
“It helps to strengthen what your purpose is, and that I’m leaving this world a little bit better than what I came into,” Bradford Kounta reflected.
Meet our fourth and final Remarkable Woman next Tuesday at 5 p.m. Our finalists are being considered for Nexstar’s nationwide 2021 Woman of the Year award.
Read the stories of our past Remarkable Women finalists here in central Ohio.