A few years back a dear friend sent me a gift in the mail. It was a dvd documentary, BEAH: A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS. Having grown up watching Beah Richards in film and on television, I knew I was in for a treat. Looking at Richards with her strong African features I’d always wondered how she survived in a place like Hollywood where women are valued less for their talent and more for their camera friendly European beauty. I didn’t know how much the story of Beah Richards’ life would come to mean to me. The documentary saved my life. It arrived at just the right moment. The student was ready.
And then one day I lost it. That’s right. I laid the dvd down and couldn’t remember where I put it. You know how you lay something down and can’t recall for the life of you where you put it? For a a year, every time I thought about the dvd, I’d tear the house apart all over again looking for BEAH, but it was nowhere to be found. I grieved. I felt like the woman whom Jesus spoke of in Luke 15:8-10 who upon discovering she’s lost a coin that’s dear to her survival sweeps and searches her house from top to bottom until she finds it.
And then one day, this week in fact, it reappeared. As strangely as it disappeared, BEAH: A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS reappeared. Just like that. Stuck there between some papers I’d rummaged through dozens of times. There must be a moral to this tale of losing and finding this dvd, I tell myself. There has to be. When I figure it out I’ll share it with you.
Right now I’m just happy to have found BEAH. If you don’t have a copy, get one. Every woman should have a copy of this documentary. It’s the story of a woman’s life, a thinking woman, a fierce woman, an unconventional woman, a woman who stared back with determination when the face across the desk looked up indifferently at her. And it’s the story of the young black woman who stumbled upon her story.
While working with Beah Richards on the film BELOVED, LisaGay Hamilton was mesmerized by the older woman’s talent and inspired by her wisdom. Two years after completing BELOVED, Hamilton heard that Beah Richards was low sick (as they say in the south) and phoned to ask if she could visit. That one visit stretched out over a year and marked the beginning of life-saving relationship for both women and became the basis for this remarkable documentary. Over the next year (which would be the last year of Beah’s life), Richards shared with the young actress LisaGay Hamilton the insights and truths she’d gained during her celebrated, sometimes controversial career. The exclusive documentary BEAH: A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS presents the hard-earned wisdom of this remarkable artist and activist, and explores the deep and tender relationship that developed between the two women.
BEAH: A BLACK WOMAN SPEAKS is the kind of movie you dress up for and watch along with your girlfriends. You’ll be talking into the night about the lessons of Beah Richards’ life.