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C Letter Book Club: The Mother Of Black Hollywood



Generosity goes far beyond the giving of materialistic items or one’s time. True generosity is sharing your deep rooted pains with complete strangers-all in the name of influence. Jenifer Lewis, the fierce, yet remarkable accredited actress, singer, comedian and activist, shared with us mightily in her first memoir. The book is cleverly titled the name of her long standing alias ‘The Mother of Black Hollywood’.

Lewis, has portrayed the role of a mother in many prominent black Hollywood films. However, she wasn’t always known by her aforementioned alias. Her foundation consisted of days as an aspiring singer and performer, on a mission to pursue her dreams. Besides the warming, pleasant and downright hilarious moments shared, she unveils her deepest darkest moments, between the sheets of this book. What I particularly appreciated about this memoir, is not just the raw honesty, but it is all of the lessons to be grasped. The actress had enough experiences for us all to walk away with a new perspective; as well as a newfound patience to trust the process. Below are four major topics turned takeaways from this first rate, exceptionally written autobiography.

On Her Quest for Wholeness:

The examination of one’s conscience is just about the greatest thing one can do for themselves. Simply put, Lewis’ life was no walk in the park and in reading this book, you will witness her relatable journey from within. She details her quest to find wholeness, completeness, and happiness. Her spiritual journey was continuous. In her lifetime she’s explored past life regression, channeling, meditation, and religion.

The performer sadly lived with undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder for decades before she finally went to therapy. Thus, the pain, embarrassment and confusion that riddled her days are detailed in the very pages of this book.

The lesson here is straightforward: Spirituality doesn't come from religion, it comes from our soul. Wouldn't our journeys be less confusing if we knew who we were? It doesn't matter how many attempts it takes to makes things right, as long as we are persistent in doing so.


On Claiming Fame & Persistence:

Lewis, an NAACP Image Award Nominee, foresaw her destiny many moons before it came into fruition. Since her adolescent years she claimed her success, as she literally spoke it into existence. Understand that her vision of fame and fortune, is but a mere part of the point. The focus here is the strong belief she had in herself that she could actually do it.

When she found her way in, she used her industrious characteristics to keep her there. When the over-the-top actress went through dry periods where her phone didn't ring for work, or she was denied a part, there may have been tears-but only for a moment. She created her own projects, with her own team of like-minded individuals. Ms Lewis consistently kept her career productively afloat. Her relentless pursuit to continually create is where our center of interest and inspiration should lie.

On HIV/AIDS:

If you ever wondered what it may have been like during the 1980’s AIDS epidemic, this book is parallel to a virtual reality ride straight though the minds and the hearts of those affected. During her time as a broadway actress, most of her male counterparts were open homosexuals at a time when the disease was heavily impacting their community. More than a few times, she was hit with the depressing news of a fatality of someone she was close to.

Lewis, who is now an advocate in the fight against AIDS, underwent enough pain for us all to drop a tear. Her descriptive, story telling nature will have readers mourning with her. Overall, death is inevitable, but there is still a very important key takeaway here: Wrap it up! HIV/AIDS still infects thousands of people each day worldwide, and the disease can be prevented by simply using protection. Hence the cliche line: Safe sex is great sex.


On the Importance of Travel:

Lewis took us on an adventurous ride with her around the world. She spoke of the countless times in her life that she had to reset her inner compass by going on a refreshing vacation. She scribed about her journeys through places like Egypt, Rome, Athens, Russia, and the Philippines. She detailed a luxury trip she took around the world on a private jet for a month, and even walked us through a moment she spent with a family of nomads in Mongolia!

The key to be learned here is the imperative investment of travel. Furthermore, let us take note of her travel destinations. It is one thing to spend a vacation over-drinking on a Caribbean Island, but it is quite another to sing Amazing Grace inside of a three-hundred year old glacier in Reykjavik, Iceland. Traveling adds greatly to your intellect, and broadens your horizons. Instead of investing in that new bag, sneakers, or whatever your materialistic desires may be, perhaps you should invest more into travel.

The takeaways in this meticulous work of art are plenty. Jenifer Lewis’ victorious story is honorable to say the least. If you don’t walk away with any of the many gems, I can guarantee you one thing: a loud, hearty laugh. The overall tone is hilarious, and Lewis’ wit is admirable.


No one is immune to the trials and tribulations of life, and that is proven in ‘The Mother of Black Hollywood’; so grab a pen and take note.

Learn more about Lewis in her own words at NPR.

Learn about how you can join the fight the end AIDS at The Red Pump Project.


Jayyiah Coles is a journalist and filmmaker whose work on the documentary "Chinx: One Year Later" debuted on Revolt to widespread critical success. Her work can currently be found at The Rap Fest.

Keep up with her here!

Photo Credits: ABC Press, Jenifer Lewis

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