Today we celebrate an actress and activist, the wonderful Phylicia Rashād. Born Phylicia Ayers-Allen in 1948, she has blended her long acting career with a passion for celebrating black history and breaking down barriers. As a child, Phylicia, her older brother Andrew and younger sister, Debbie Allen, lived in Mexico to escape US racism. Rashad is fluent in Spanish and upon returning to the United States, became a champion for civil rights. After graduating from Howard University, she made her early career on the Broadway stage. In 1983, she moved to television, starting with a role on One Life to Live.
Rashād took on the role for which she is best known the following year when she was cast as Claire Huxtable on the long-running sitcom The Cosby Show. Playing a wise, practical mother, she also made a point of injecting black history lessons into a number of shows. During the program’s eight-year run, she was nominated for two Emmy awards. After the series ended, she took on a number of other TV and movie roles. She also returned to the stage as time permitted.
While maintaining an active career, Rashād also worked tirelessly to promote the arts in America, especially the contributions of African-Americans. Her work has been recognized with a number of awards and honorary degrees. When she received an NAACP Image Award in 2009, the presenters called her the mother of the African-American community. In 2008, she also won a Tony Award for her performance in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry‘s A Raisin In the Sun. What is shocking to me is that it was not until 2008 that an African-American won a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.
Still going strong at 64, Phylicia Rashād has much more to offer and much energy and wisdom to share. Let’s close with her own words:
The stubbornness I had as a child has been transmitted into perseverance. I can let go but I don’t give up. I don’t beat myself up about negative things. There’s always something to suggest that you’ll never be who you wanted to be. Your choice is to take it or keep on moving.