New York, New York - When it comes to the preservation and
promotion of little known stories of African American history,
actress and writer Karen Parsons has taken on this important
task with her nonprofit Sweet Blackberry.
Parsons, who is most-famous for her role as Hilary Banks
on the TV sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, is using her
nonprofit to produce animated, short films about African
Americans like Henry “Box” Brown, the enslaved African
American who mailed himself to the North to obtain his
freedom, and Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the traffic light.
Now, Parsons has launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce
a 15-minute, animated short film to tell the story of Janet Collins,
the first African American ballerina and the first person of color to
perform as a solo dancer at the Metropolitan Opera in New York
City. Comedian and actor Chris Rock will narrate the film.
“I heard of Janet Collins after reading
her obituary. I was blown away by
her story, one I had never
heard. It was such a powerful
story of being exceptionally
talented, but still being
asked to dramatically alter her
appearance (“paint it white”)
in order to perform
with the prestigious
Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo,”
Parsons said. “She was only 15 when this happened.
She turned it down, and used that incident to fuel her.
Make her unstoppable. She became the first Black
soloist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera!”
Parsons’ “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” co-stars as well as American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland and Questlove of The Roots are contributing to the cause by rewarding funders with memorabilia such as a pair of Copeland’s pointe shoes and Questlove’s drum sticks.
“Will Smith and the cast of Fresh Prince, Jada Pinckett Smith, Questlove, amazing Black ballet dancer Misty Copeland! They’re all donating gifts and one-‐of-‐a-‐kind experiences like watching your favorite episode with the FPOBA cast and having a Q&A afterward,” Parsons said.
“Chris Rock, Jada, Joseph Marcell(Geoffrey the Butler) from Fresh Prince, and Alfonso Ribeiro, will all be doing customized, outgoing voicemail messages! Tatyana Ali and I will go on a shopping trip with a backer! Fun stuff!”
The campaign deadline is Friday, July 18th at 11 a.m.
To learn more about the campaign or to contribute, visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/798791271/the-janet-collins-story-presented-by-sweet-blackbe