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Harlem's National Black Theater Scammed by Investors, Report Says

By DNAinfo Staff on March 13, 2011 1:07pm  | Updated on March 14, 2011 6:12am

By Gabriela Resto-Montero

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MANHATTAN — Two investors who were supposed to oversee renovations of the National Black Theater in Harlem instead used the money for their own businesses, leaving the theater in foreclosure, the New York Post reported.

Richelieu Dennis and Nyema Tubman reportedly used a $6.5 million loan intended for an overhaul of the theater at 2031 Fifth Avenue for their own soap and lotion business, Nubian Heritage, the Post reported.

As a result, property taxes on the theater went unpaid and the bank lender began foreclosure proceedings against the 43-year-old institution.

"Our eight-year relationship with Nubian began with such promise, but quickly became an enormous drain on our financial resources," said Michael Lythcott and Sade Lythcott, the children of National Black Theater founder Barbara Ann Teer, in a statement.

"This group continually took advantage of our commitment to African American entrepreneurship and our advocacy on behalf of our friends," they said.

Teer founded the theater in 1968 as a venue for black artists, and brought Dennis and Tubman in as investors in 2002 when the venue was in danger of closing, the Post reported.

Dennis and Tubman started selling their lotions and soap on the street in the 1990s and received loans from the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone to open a storefront and expand on the Internet, the paper reported.

The businessmen used the theater building as collateral for a $6.5 million loan in 2006 and the bank foreclosed on the property after Dennis and Tubman stopped paying the previous loans, according to the Post.

A spokesman for the partners said they played no part in the theater's financial woes and that the foreclosure was due to its own  mismanagement.