Actress Gabourey Sidibe is ready to take on one of her most important roles to date as host of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange, a documentary series highlighting contemporary life, art and pop culture in the African Diaspora. The fifth season of AfroPoP, produced by Black Public Media, premiered Tuesday January 22 on public television’s WORLD channel, continuing on Tuesdays weekly through February 5, 2013.

Sidibe who is best known for her Oscar nominated performance in the film, Precious decided to accept the role of host as an opportunity to learn more about her roots. “I am part African—I am Senegalese. So I looked at as a chance to get closer to where I am from,” she says.

Furthermore she is hoping that this season, which focuses on human and women’s rights issues, will shatter myths about Africa. The challenge is not new for the Harlem raised star, since as a young woman she had to combat stereotypes. “Growing up I was the African kid in my school. Every time I went back to Africa people thought I was sleeping in a bush and being chased by lions but it wasn’t that. So I hope people can see themselves in this series and I hope it highlights that everyone struggles and celebrates.”

The universal human experience is also the core theme of visual artist, Peter Wayne Lewis’ exhibition, Paintings from the Middle Earth Part IV at Skoto Gallery. Special guests on opening night included legendary painter, Ademola Olugebefola and writer of the exhibition’s e-catalog, Babacar M’Bow. The series of works presented visually unites themes of science, art and music as the artist’s fluid lines draws parallels between these worlds to demonstrate their interconnectedness. “There are creationists who think science is an aberration and not part of the equation,” Lewis says. “But it is only a description of the majesty of what you may say your God is so it is all one in the same thing. Human begins in our foibles are trying to describe this gift we are given which is life.” The exhibition is on-view until February 23, 2013.

Further exploring themes of life is the exhibition, Elements in Red, on view at New World Stages and curated by Bernard Stote. Works by artists such as Harlem Arts Alliance member Leon Nicholas Kalas, Joyce Yamada and Math-You explore this primary color and expand its connotations beyond passion and violence. “When I did the call for art I noticed getting such a diverse application from artists from blood and war to love to landscape,” says Stote. “It’s amazing how vibrant that color is and how any different themes it can invoke in artists.”

While this week offers opportunities to check out all of the aforementioned projects, you’ll also want to support upcoming events including actress/comedian, Kim Coles’ one-woman show, Oh But Wait, There’s More and Keith Sweat’s appearance at MIST Harlem.

The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.