Karyn Parsons is best known for her iconic role as Hilary Banks on the hit ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. These days, the actress is using Black history to reach children and give a voice to lesser-known African-American figures through the organization she founded, Sweet Blackberry. Parsons’ nonprofit has produced three animated films: Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story; Garrett’s Gift and The Journey of Henry ‘Box’ Brown, all of which have garnered much acclaim and won prestigious Parents’ Choice Awards and Learning Magazine’s Teacher’s Choice Awards, among others. Her latest project is an animated short that tells the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to become a pilot.
The Bessie Coleman Story will be narrated by actor Laurence Fishburne. Parsons will launch her second Kickstarter campaign June 20 to help fund the Bessie Coleman project. According to BlackPast.org, Coleman became the first Black woman to gain an international permit to fly back in 1921. She was finally inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2014, Parsons launched her first Kickstarter campaign to bring The Janet Collins Story to life. Collins was the first Black prima ballerina; she was also the first African-American soloist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. After that fund-raising raised over $77,ooo, Parsons has been able to work toward getting the film into libraries and schools and broadcast to a wide audience. Comedian Chris Rock narrates the 20-minute film.
You can learn more about Parsons’ forthcoming projects at sweetblackberry.org.