Karyn Parsons, yes Hilary from the hit sitcom ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,’ circa 1990’s is buzzing in media circles, because of her latest project, an animated film about Janet Collins, who was the first black soloist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. Determined to get this film off the ground, she recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the educational piece. Housed under her company, Sweet Blackberry, Karyn hopes The Janet Collins Story will teach children about perseverance, determination and commitment. Karyn and her vision is truly inspirational. I was able to catch up with the busy actress to discuss her company, Sweet Blackberry and the reasons why she chose to do an animated film about Janet Collins.
Actress Karyn Parsons Launches Kickstarter Campaign For New Project
Take a peek at my discussion with Karyn:
Konnect: Tell us about your company Sweet Blackberry. When did it launch and what’s the overall mission?
Karyn Parsons: I launched Sweet Blackberry in 2005. The mission is to bring little-known stories of African American achievement to kids through various forms of media, chiefly animated films.
Konnect: What projects are within Sweet Blackberry’s portfolio?
Karyn Parsons: To date, we’ve done The Journey of Henry “Box” Brown, the true story of a slave who mailed himself to freedom. The incredible Alfre Woodard narrated that one. Our second film was called Garrett’s Gift and it is the story of Garrett Morgan the inventor, as a young boy and how he struggles to find what he’s good at and what to do with all of that creative energy that always got him into trouble. He ends up inventing the traffic signal.
Konnect: We are aware that you are now working on your third animated film about dancer Janet Collins. How did that come about? And what’s the basis of the project?
Karyn Parsons: I heard of Janet Collins after reading her obituary. I was blown away by her story, one I had never heard. I didn’t know anything about her before then. It was such a powerful story about being exceptionally talented, but still being asked to dramatically alter her appearance (“paint it white”) in order to perform with the prestigious Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo. She was only 15 when this happened. She turned it down, and used that incident to fuel her and to make her unstoppable. She became the first Black soloist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera!
Konnect: Why did you take the Kickstar approach to raise funds for the animated film?
Karyn Parsons: Everyone that hears about Sweet Blackberry is so excited by what we’re doing. So happy to hear that we’re making an effort to bring stories that risk being lost, that are valuable stories in American history, to children. I thought that Kickstarter just made sense as a way of bringing our supporters together and making them collaborators. After all, these stories are for all of us. And for all of our children. Sweet Blackberry is a non-profit organization. No one is trying to get rich here. We want to make the stories and get them to kids. Plain and simple.
Konnect: Who are key celebrities involved in the project? What roles do they play in terms of support?
Karyn Parsons: I’m thrilled to say that Chris Rock is narrating! The father of two girls, he understand firsthand the importance and the relevance of a story like Janet Collins’.
Will Smith and the cast of Fresh Prince, Jada, Questlove, MISTY COPELAND!!! They’re all donating gifts, tie, and one-of-a-kind experiences like watching your favorite episode with the FPOBA cast and having a Q&A afterward. 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!
Konnect: What message do you hope your fans will get from this project?
Karyn Parsons: I hope they’ll learn how they can make a difference. If we join together in this effort, we can make this film! The feedback I get regularly from teachers, parents, and librarians, is resounding positive. They want more. This is needed.
I also hope that they’ll learn about Sweet Blackberry and what we’re doing, AND about Janet Collins, a dynamic ballerina who was determined woman, passionate, beautiful, and Black.