On May 11th,The Brotherhood-Sister Sol held their annual gala event, Voices; this year honoring esteemed actor, Jeffrey Wright and renowned visual artist Carrie Mae Weems. In addition, great names in entertainment and politics were present to support the influential organization. I had the pleasure of speaking with a few of them on the red carpet.
The Brotherhood Sister Sol is an organization working for the betterment and success of black and brown youth in New York City. They dedicate themselves to young brothers and sisters at their most crucial stages of development, helping them rise to excellence. Providing a safe space for all youth, including us black and brown nerds through their after-school program, “Comic Life.”
For many years their gala fundraiser, Voices has honored artists and actors who are exemplary models of the heights to which one can excel. Some of the past honorees being, Cornel West, David N Dinkins, Tracee Ellis Ross, Soledad O’Brien, Michael Ealy, Kerry Washington, Rosario Dawson and Harry Belafonte. This year honoring one of the nerd community’s own, Jeffrey Wright, star of The Hunger Games series, Angels in America, and most recently, HBO’s Westworld.
I had the great honor of speaking with Mr. Wright on the Red Carpet, and in introducing myself as representing Black Nerd Problems, Mr. Wright finished my sentence!
Black Nerd Problems: A lot of the work you do is…
Jeffrey Wright: Nerd work
(It made my heart smile, that “nerd work” is how he referred to it!)
BNP: What draws you to the types of roles you choose in your career and the storylines you have been a part of?
JW: Smart writing, that’s it. If I find a script and the words jump off the page and talk to me in a way, and move me in a way that is meaningful to me, then I am compelled by it, by design, that’s really the bottom line. I try to find smart stories and a group of smart collaborators.
BNP: Do you consider yourself a nerd?
JW: A nerd, I don’t know, people call me a nerd. I guess I have some nerd qualities. If I am a nerd about anything, I am a nerd about politics.
A nerd about politics, is compelled to work with smart writing, which has led him to a career in “nerd work,” and supports youth excellence. What more could Bro-Sis youth need in a role model. What more can an actor like me ask for in a role model.
He even remembered working with my mother in his college years at New WORLD Theater at UMass Amherst.
Also in attendance was the talented, Michael K Williams best known for, The Wire, and Boardwalk Empire. Williams revealed his nerd life as a youth in a quick chat on the red carpet.
Michael K. Williams: Black Nerd, I like that
BNP: (laughs) I was going to say, do you consider yourself a nerd?
MKW: Absolutely, you know the era when I was growing up it was not cool to be a nerd. Where I was growing up there was the alpha male, and I was not that. I was considered soft, I was a sensitive kid, it paid off in the long run cuz my sensitivity is what I attribute my acting to, but I got picked on like, a lot as a kid. You know, I was the nerdy guy, I did nerdy things.
BNP: A lot of the work that you’ve done is something that inspires young nerds all over the world, what draws you to the characters and roles you choose in your career?
MKW: The first thing that draws me is always the writing, I’m a fan of the writing. You know it doesn’t matter how conflicting or what the character is going through, if the writing is honest and I believe it, I’m going to do it to the best of my abilities.
As someone who doesn’t always consider herself a writer due to self doubt or high expectations, these artists made me feel compelled to embrace the career of actor and writer.
Throughout the night, we were dazzled by black excellence and inspired by an organization so vital to youth success.
Carrie Mae Weems said “We only here for a minute, we’re only here for a nanosecond, our lives are like dust in the wind in this extraordinary meaningless of time and the only thing that we have is a deep deep profound search for the truth…Who am I, what drives me?”
Micah Marté youth alumni, spoke of Bro-Sis being where she found her drive, her ability to take risks and aim higher.
In Wright’s acceptance speech of the “June Jordan Clarion Call” Award, he references an indie film he worked on beside formerly incarcerated men in NYC. Wright felt it was important to mention as it “Speaks to the crippling importance of the work and importance of Bro-Sis.” He spoke fondly that these men were holding their own in front of the camera in a way he was honored to work beside. He couldn’t help but wonder, where they would be with the guidance of Bro-Sis.
Wright was humble, empathetic, warm, humorous, and thankful, we should all be honored to call him nerd.
The evening was awe inspiring from Carrie Mae Weems enrapturing speech, to the youth testimonials that make your soul cry.
This event is truly about the artists and programs that foster next generation of black nerds Most importantly the staff, mentors, chapter leaders, after-school facilitators, Directors. It takes so much responsibility and heart to do what they do. The organization’s Associate Executive Director Cidra Sebastien said it best, “Superheroes are real, The Bro-Sis Staff are Superheroes.”
Thank you Bro-Sis. Keep giving us black and brown nerds a place to live out our imaginations and dare us to bring them to reality.
To support The Brotherhood Sister Sol or learn more about their programs visit brotherhood-sistersol.org