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S. Pearl Sharp


“Sometimes to get to the light you gotta type in the dark. . .”

Job description: works words, conjures vision/ on cultural arts, Black history, wellness. “I have not known rape or/ drunk uncles with unlicensed hands/ or fathers who f’d their generations/ These eyes have not witnessed murder/ and I want you to know this. . .”  

Born to a poet-singer, taught to bake bread and iron a pillow case without a cat face by a hot-comb wielding, classical singing grandmother/joined at the hip to a child of slaves, great-grandfather / train for radio & TV production at BGSU before color television exists / long detour / return to radio around 2005 via NPR commentaries and essays and some Pacifica Radio moments / “I write soft songs/ hard poems / 3rd eye music . . ."

Bite from the Big Apple, arriving ’64, naïve Ohio flower discovering the real world/independence, living solo, finding voice/ copy writer for TV Guide/ one of many turning Johnson’s Poverty Program into NYC’s vibrant Black Arts Movement/ study under novelist-essayist John Oliver Killens/ poet-ize in Harlem/learn community theatre with Al Fann and Company using Maltz’s Psycho-Cybernetics as an acting text/ self-publish two collections of poetry / form the group Poets & Performers/frightened substitute teacher by day, high note singer by night in Pearl Bailey’s Hello Dolly / leave B’way for first film speaking role in Gordon Parks’ The Learning Tree — the seminal experience / write first play with music, The Sistuhs, produced on both coasts / break some color lines in TV commercials /know unemployment office too well /sanity preserved (well, sort of) by writing. 

“This poem will not be cut/ it will not be cast/ It does not do windows or Whoopi Goldberg imitations . . .” Escape from subway trains to city of angels and agents in ’75 because finally there is work for Black actors in TV / female lead in Minstrel Man (CBS-TV) opposite Glynn Turman/ turn down a role in Roots/star in Hollow Image (ABC-TV), which brings only one work offer: huge bucks to star in porno film/ not! / The Donna Cheek Story, a Wonder Woman agent, Night Cries, guest roles Knots Landing, St. Elsewhere/ Oppressed by town where main product is illusion, including inviolate illusions of Black folks/ Artivist flowers. “Are you now or have you ever been?/ searched summoned silenced subdued suppressed ?”

Co-founder, Black Anti-Defamation Coalition (BAD-C), edit its Media Matters newsletter, therefore “white listed” (with cohorts) for several years by the industry / Hush production managers who say “We didn’t know there was one” by compiling, with support of Alex Haley and friends, the first-of-its-kind 1980 Directory of Black Film/TV Technicians,West Coast / “We still write love poems/ because it heals us/ coming slow in the day/ or late in the life/bandaging pain and absence. . .” 1975, without understanding that I should understand the publishing industry, form Poets Pay Rent, Too, andpublish Robert Earl Price’s Blood Lines and my Soft Song collections /co-founder, Lorraine Hansberry Playwrights Workshop/ Sr. editor for Juneteenth, first commercial Black audio-book company/really joking, no intention to actually write Black Women for Beginners, now in 4th printing (distrib. Random House) / Dearly Belovedfirst short story published / ”Why do you dance our death / instead of our life? / Step into the water child / let the shackles slip from your soul . . .”

Sales and P.R. gig at L.A.’s Aquarian Book Shop & Spiritual Center leads to metaphysical studies/ gain self-permission to be an artist / “Queen Mothers gone to film school/ making messages to reach us/ during the commercial break . . .” reality check: more comfortable behind the camera/ Los Angeles City College, make two films on identity — Back Inside Herself, (1984), a poetic short. [View the Back Inside Herself 2009 Remix on YouTube ] and semi-animated short Picking Tribes,with art by Carlos Spivey (1988) / make first independent documentary Life Is A Saxophone on poet Kamau Daa’ood (1980) /It’s O.K. To Peek(1996) controversial women’s health video, produced with Arabella Chavers-Julien / Last film gestation is 10½ years for The Healing Passage/Voices From The Water (2004), on healing from the present-day residuals of the trans-Atlantic slave trade [View on The Documentary Channel] / a bunch of cultural arts docs for the City of Los Angeles’ CH35: Central Avenue Live!, Spirits of the Ancestors, L.A. to L.A., Fertile Ground: Stories From The WattsTowers Arts Center/ films get me to the Motherland 3x and Norway ”. . . Capture the Other’s form from sacred canon/ imbue with hue howl blood and drum/ jazz riff click dip in da hip . . .”

the 90’s: focus on artistic collaboration/right-brain-left-brain weddings with musicians, dancers, visual artists, photographers: /Mixed Media Poems(1991) on stage / Typing In The Dark (1991) in print / There’s A Brown Girl In The Ring,the essays of Beah Richards, written with Richards/ two poetry w/jazz CDs, On The Sharp Side(1995) and Higher Ground(2008) / Evolve essay with Jazz Antiqua Dance Ensemble (2010) “ My body’s in the Fall/ My mind still thinks I’m Spring. . .”

drop first name ‘cause it don’t sound good to the ear /claim the pearl / learning eldership / bringing Water From The Well with performances and workshops that merge the literary and healing arts./

works by S. Pearl Sharp

L.A. Woman Project Documentary, 2013

Kate Crash