Spotlight on: 'Karyn Parsons' & 'The Sweet Blackberry Company'
Actress Karyn Parsons is making DVDs about
a number of remarkable African-Americans
whose stories are little known in the U.S.
You recognize her face.
And now she's being recognized for her words.
Karyn Parsons, who starred with Will Smith
on the sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,"
has put on the hat of educator with a series
of animated films for children on DVD and
available at selected stores nationwide.
It is the first in a series of films that will tell the
little-known histories of African-American men and
women whose achievements kids can understand.
"There are remarkable stories about acts of
courage and triumph and I think it's a shame
that these amazing tales from which we
can learn so much have been forgotten."
And while her stories currently focus on
African-Americans, Ms. Parsons wants to
reach out to children of all Ethnic groups
"It's important for us to teach all
children," she says. "Every story
is for every person to learn from.
We're telling engaging stories
about phenomenal people ..."
Ms. Parsons work includes films about Garrett
Morgan, an African-American scientist whose
inventions include the traffic signal, and Ellen Kraft,
a fair-skinned African-American slave who freed
herself and her darker-skinned African-American
husband by posing as his master a White man.
"I don't see myself as an activist," she says.
"I first started this company because I wasn't
finding anything like ---- what I wanted to do.
"African-American history has so many,
many stories of creativity and courage.
My goal is to tell these stories ."
Karyn Parsons: Actress, Founder,
The Sweet Blackberry Company
Fans of `90s sitcom TV undoubtedly have fond
memories of "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air."
As Will Smith's spoiled eldest cousin Hilary
Banks, actress Karyn Parsons played the
"Valley Girl" socialite to pampered perfection.
Since "Fresh Prince" wrapped in 1996, Parsons
founded Sweet Blackberry, a company that
produces educational DVDs for children.
"I started the company in 2004.
My mother is a retired librarian and she used to
always come to me with different stories," she shares.
"She headed the black resource center, so she had
an incredible wealth of black history and culture."
That wealth of history and culture led Parsons to the
story of Henry "Box" Brown, a 19th century slave who
mailed himself from Virginia to Pennsylvania inside
a box, and once in the North, emerged a free man.
"I was so blown away by the story and the fact that I
had never heard of it before and [none of my friends]
had ever heard of it before," she explains,
"I thought this would be a great book."
She was introduced to animator Gina Kamemsky
and decided to include the story as part of a DVD
series of children's historical animated adventures.
With positive messages and a theme that
encourages reading, it wasn't difficult to find
others who wanted to be a part of the series."
In the case of `The Journey of Henry
Box Brown' story, we have Alfre
Woodard narrating," she says, excitedly.
Karyn's warm and engaging personality
undoubtedly helps recruit others as well.
But ultimately, her passion is her biggest asset.
"We want [the kids] to be engaged
in stories and reading," she says.
"My biggest purpose with these stories is to teach
children that they can do anything they want."
Sweet Blackberry: A Multi-Cultural
Educational Resource Company:
Sweet Blackberry is a company which offers
a series of educational DVDs is central to
our mission on behalf of parents and children.
Sweet Blackberry was established to share the
stories that some people may recall from their
childhood and stories that are new to then!
Borrowing from the tradition of folk and fairy tales,
these stories are complemented by eclectic music,
from conga to classical, and include narration by
acclaimed actors from film, television and stage.
The goal of the Sweet Blackberry DVDs is to
stimulate a child's imagination and knowledge
of their culture, and also to give parents the
confidence that they're sharing stories that
will stay with their child for a lifetime.
Karyn Parsons is of Mixed-Race lineage
and she began her acting career as a teen.
Her credits include both film and TV roles --
but she is probably best known for playing
starring in the role of the rich, spoiled
Hilary Banks, cousin to Will Smith's
character in the 1990s series
"The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air".
Keep up to date with Sweet Blackberry
by reading Karyn's blog found at