top of page


Yao Kahlil Newkirk

YKN Headshot1_edited.png

 Yao Kahlil Newkirk [he/him/his] is the former Artistic Director of the renowned Paul Robeson Theatre at the African American Cultural Center of Buffalo, New York.


Holding a BA & MA in Theatre Performance, he is also a Ph.D. Candidate of the Africana & American Studies Dept. of the University of Buffalo. Under the direction of his mentor Professor Iris Stevenson, also a native of Buffalo, Yao Kahlil was a member of the Crenshaw Elite Choir of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, CA. This group is the real-life inspiration behind the feature film Sister Act 2, Back in the Habit. As a Sister Act kid, Yao has performed on stages around the world alongside artists such as Jennifer Hudson, Ludacris, Enrique Iglesias, Usher, Smokey Robinson, Mary Mary, the Clark Sisters, Ben Vereen, Della Reese, Snoop Dogg, and many others.

While Yao Kahlil works in theatre, he is also a performance artist, installation artist, singer, songwriter, artist manager, orator, social experimentalist, motivational speaker, and playwright. His works focus on installations and social experiments that provoke thought and conversations highlighting the inequities associated with race and gender discrimination, along with intra-racial disparities. Yao is also certified in Mental Health First Aid, and intentionally uses the arts to promote healing and good mental health for all ages.

Yao Kahlil debuted  a new play, Queen Mary's Roundtable, in February 2022 in Buffalo, NY, based on Mary B. Talbert, an activist, suffragist, educator, and civil rights leader. As a great nephew of Mary, Yao Kahlil is proud to continue the legacy she left behind, fighting for equity and justice through the arts.

bottom of page