Karamu House

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Karamu's Leadership

Board of Trustees

Michael Jeans, Chair 

Sheila Wright, 1st Vice Chair 

Dr. Edward M. Barksdale Jr., 2nd Vice Chair,

Jamil A. Sanders, Treasurer 

Michael W. Bowen, Jade Davis, Diane M. Downing, Council President Blaine A. Griffin, Tamara Horne, Karen Howse, Jennifer Hurd, Colette M. Jones, Howard L. Lewis, Keith J. Libman, David M. Reynolds, Autumn R. Russell, Roshonda Smith, Frances Cudjoe Waters

President + CEO

The President + CEO of Karamu House, Inc., America’s oldest Black producing theatre.  Under Sias, since 2015, Karamu stabilized finances, raised over $10 million for restoration and increased attendance.  Prior to his tenure at Karamu, Sias served in several progressive roles for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) including Director of Arts Education and Artistic Director of Cleveland School of the Arts.   As a creative Sias has produced, directed, and performed in over 100 productions.  He most recently received critical acclaim for directing Karamu’s production of Freedom on Juneteenth and in October 2021 Sias performed narration with The Cleveland Orchestra in Sinfonia No. 5 “Visions” by George Walker. His work has been highlighted nationally in The New York Times, American Theatre Magazine, on NBC’s Today Show with Al Roker, and more.  Sias served as a delegate from the U.S. Department of State in Istanbul, Turkey, representing the Council of International Programs in the Youth Arts for Peace Project.  In 2018, he was inducted into The HistoryMakers, the largest African American oral history archive collection in the U.S.In 2019, Sias was named the Cleveland Arts Prize, Barbara S. Robinson award winner.   In 2021, Sias received the Community Leader Award from Cleveland Magazine.  He is a Fellow of the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program through Harvard Business School.  Sias serves as a National Board member for the League of Historic American Theatres. He is a Boards member of the Cleveland School of the Arts and the Assembly for the Arts. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in dramatic art from Jackson State University and a Master of Fine Arts in acting from The Ohio University.

Vice President + COO

Offers a unique combination and understanding of inspirational leadership, operations and logistics, organizational programming, and artistry, developed through intense non-profitenvironments demanding excellence, flexibility and the capacity to master multiple roles. Just a few ofthose roles include performing in Step Afrika!, the world’s only professional dance company dedicatedto the art of stepping (body percussion), which toured nationally and internationally, and teaching andco-creating new curriculum for Dance at Cuyahoga Community College. Aseelah was the formerexecutive director of Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre, Events Manager for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and Director of Dance for Cleveland School of the Arts. Her current role is Vice President + Chief Operating Officer at Karamu House, where she implementsoperational efficiencies across product lines, has developed new arts residency programs, andcurates socially and culturally responsive community arts experiences including after-school andweekend arts education models for life-long learners. She recently and concurrently served as the InterimExecutive Director of the Cleveland Arts Prize, the nation’s oldest municipal arts award. She is a 2023 YWCA of Greater Cleveland Woman of Achievement, was a member of the inaugural 2019 Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Fellowship cohort sponsored by Americans for the Arts, The Joyce Foundation and American Express. 

Director of Production

Is thrilled to return to Karamu House and theatre at large after spending the past 15 years in the Opera world as Production Manager with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and Virginia Opera. She is an accomplished Stage Manager & Company Manager having worked in dance, children’s theatre, touring companies, and opera. She currently serves as the Director of Production of Karamu House.

 Associate Artistic Director

Is a Black New Orleans artist currently based in Cleveland.  She is a griot, cultural memory worker, actor, director, and playwright, who currently serves as the Artistic Associate of Karamu House. Her most recent work includes The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin at Karamu, STEW at Dobama, writingand directing Red Summer at Karamu House. She was a part of Cleveland Public Theater’s Premier Fellowship Cohort for the 2020-2021 season. Her solo show The Absolutely Amazing and True Adventures of Miss Joan Southgate has been included on The Kilroy’s List 2020. She was a Barbara Smith Playwright in Residence at Twelve Literary Arts and the Nord Family Foundation Playwriting Fellow and Catapult Artist at Cleveland Public Theatre during the 2019-2020 theatrical season. Her solo show Ya Mama! (dir: Nathan Henry) launched its tour at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and a run at Cleveland Public Theatre this past fall.  

Director of Venues

Matt is a skilled operations management professional with over 18 years of experience overseeing commercial and municipal facilities. Having previously managed large-scale properties, he plans and executes complex maintenance, renovation, and new construction projects and has proven success overseeing multiple departments and facilities. He consistently evaluates processes and implements change to enhance strategic effectiveness across all levels of business. Matt provides leadership and strategic direction regarding Karamu’s venues and operations. He ensures that all facilities serve the needs of artists, staff members, and guests, while ensuring regulatory standards are upheld as well as historic preservation efforts. Matt also oversees venue support staff and manages contracts with vendors. Prior to joining Karamu in 2023, he previously served in several leadership roles at The Cleveland Orchestra, Providence House, Cleveland Skating Club, and City of Mentor. A native of northeast Ohio, he holds a bachelor’s degree in recreation, park, and tourism management from Kent State University.

ROCKELL CHURBY LLANOS              Associate Director of Patron and Donor Engagement

Karamu Staff & Colleagues 


Interim Technical Director

Production Manager

Stage Carpenter 

Maya Nicholson
Arts Education Manager
House Manager + Volunteer Coordinator

Marketing+Graphic Design


Stage Carpenter 

Box Office Associate
Grants Management

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