Something Within Beah

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.

13 Responses to “Something Within Beah”

  1. Kesha Says:

    Dr. Weems! Glad you found the DVD. Sounds like you found it at the right moment - a moment of discovery became a moment of discussion for us :-). To me finding the DVD symbolizes that things that are most critical and crucial to us may be buried - but they are not lost. They beckon to be uncovered, rediscovered and found….

  2. Woman in Transition Says:

    Wow. Searched YouTube out of curiosity and, as is the case these days, most anything can be found there (five parts). Not sure if the documentary’s creator knows this and/or appreciates it, but it’s there.

  3. David Says:

    I’m not one to peer my head into the conversations of Black Women but if you would allow me to express myself, I must be honest. I’m too young to remember much of her (Beah Richards) work but her role as Baby Suggs Holy in Beloved, made me sit up and take notice. I knew she was something to be reckon with, a force, a mighty wind. Listening to her on this video, reminds of a poem by Alice Walker entitled “Women”, there is that last line, which says” they knew what we must know, without ever reading a page of it themselves”. Mother Beah, has moved me on this day, she and other women, keeps this brother on the right path.

  4. Renita Says:


    You’re right, the last line to Walker’s poem aptly applies to Beah Richards and women like her. Beah Richard moves me too this day. Now that I’ve found my dvd I can’t stop watching this film. I’m back in my hotel while conferencing all day, and I’m playing the clip here on the blog for the ninth time.


    Yeah, the whole documentary can be watched on YouTube. Hint. Hint.

  5. David Says:

    Please forgive me bloggers for responding but I must be open to you, I saw all five segments on you tube, I sat and just cried. I’m not sure why but I needed her today. Like Sixo said to Paul D, in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, “she gathers me, the broken pieces of mylife and gives them back to me, all in the right order”, I’m lost for words. Thank you Rev. Renita!!

  6. Ruby Sales Says:


    I love Beah Richards, too, She knew something like her parents did. I was spent watching and hearing her… Modesty aside, I like to think in my best moment, I have a grain of Beah in me…I have played my DVD five times. Now, I am going to watch June Jordan.


  7. Danielle Says:

    Dr. Weems,

    I don’t have words right now. I just know that more stories about strong women like Beah Richards need to be told.

  8. crt Says:

    Hello Everyone,

    I have been trying to find purchase information and have been having some trouble. Does anyone have any information on where I can buy the documentary? Thanks!

  9. Renita Says:


    Check out Women Make Movies, a clearinghouse for films by and about women: Click to view their catalogue of films, and you’ll find information on ordering a copy of BEAH.

  10. Woman in Transition Says:

    David, stop it! You’re going to make me cry!

    I absolutely love this documentary and I loved Beah even more in Beloved. I declare, if it wasn’t for her character (and the women ‘prayer warriors’ at the end of the movie), I probably would have never bothered to watch it all the way through.

    She is an absolutely lovely woman. Very lovely.

  11. June Says:

    Rev. Weems
    How you found time to write this before or after giving one of the most inspirational sermons I’ve ever heard at the National Black Women’s Imperative Conference - well - just proves to me you’ve got the power! I’m the practicing Buddhist who came up to you after the conference..and I too loved Beah

    and as my mother used to say - nothing in this universe is ever lost….

  12. Angela R. Says:

    Thank you for providing this. As a black studies major I learned to appreciate discovering hidden treasures.

  13. Travis Melson Says:

    Oh My God, I found her Rev Dr Weems, I was in search for my beloved Beah Richards….. Dr Weems you touched my heart and feed my soul for years. A good friend of mines shared with me tapes of you teaching and preaching and from the moment I heard your voice and listen to your well spoken words talking about Jesus and our God his Father my life has never been the same…. Thank You babygirl (Im only 40 and my words maybe out of place But you help change and still changing my life as I still listen to your powerful teaching and peaching words over and over again)……THANK YOU

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