A MAN OF PERSEVERANCE
In honor of Black History Month, I want to recognize acclaimed actor Hill Harper, a man of perseverance. As an actress who uses her gift to inspire others, I truly admire his acting ability. I especially admire his dedication, determination and diligence. Because of his solid work ethic, he is not only an actor, but an author and motivational speaker, who has impacted many lives, particularly those of young African-American men.
Hill Harper was born Frank Harper on May 17, 1966, in Iowa City, Iowa. His father Harry Harper was a psychiatrist. His mother Marilyn Hill was one of the first black anesthesiologists in the country.
Harper began acting when he was only seven years old. Although he didn’t pursue a college degree in drama or theater, he still continued acting while he was in college. As a college student, he became a member of the Boston’s Black Folks Theater Company.
Harper has always been very intelligent, driven and hard working. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University. Later, he graduated cum laude from Harvard University. He also received a master’s degree in public administration from Kennedy School of Government, which is a part of Harvard University. In fact, while he was at Harvard, he met Barack Obama, who was also a college student at the time.
After Harper graduated from college, he decided to pursue acting as a career. He was fortunate to have his television debut on the hit TV sitcom Married…With Children.
When Harper was featured on Unsung Hollywood on TVOne, he admitted that he walked away from Married With Children to audition for a movie role he really wanted. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the role. So, at that point, he was out of a job.
Harper shared how horrible he felt when he found himself out of work. However, as I mentioned in the blog post “Young and Fearless: The Mae Faggs-Starr Story,” sometimes you have to take risks while pursuing your dreams. Harper really believed in that particular movie and wanted to be a part of it. So, he took a risk. Even though he found himself without an acting job, he dried his eyes and continued PERSEVERING. Harper understood that getting turned down for that particular role didn’t mean he wasn’t a good actor or that acting wasn’t his calling. It just wasn’t the role for him.
THE PROMISES OF GOD
As children of God, we have to have that same mindset. We must realize that sometimes people are going to say no. Nevertheless, being rejected by some people is no excuse to give up on the promises of God. II Corinthians 1:20 lets us know that all the promises of God are yes and amen. Moreover, because Harper continued PERSEVERING, he eventually landed a movie role that left a lasting impression. He was privileged to be in Spike Lee’s movie Get on the Bus.
In the movie, he portrays Xavier, a film student who does a documentary on the Million Man March.
One of THEE best films I have ever seen Hill Harper in is called The Visit. It stars Marla Gibbs, Phylicia Rashad and Billy Dee Williams.
When I saw this particular movie, I knew then that Harper was an actor to be admired. I had never seen him in a role like this before. He truly transformed into that character. In the movie, Harper portrays a prisoner who may have been convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. During the movie, we find out that he has AIDS and that he wants to reconnect with his family, especially his father, before he dies.
Harper did such an excellent job that he won the Audience Award at the Urbanworld Film Festival. He says that he chose that particular role because it was a RISK.
Being a risk-taker is one of the things I admire about Hill Harper. He likes to challenge himself. He doesn’t restrict himself to the same type of characters. And as far as I’m concerned, he is an underrated actor. After seeing several of his projects, I personally believe he can play any role he’s given.
In 2004, Harper joined the cast of CSI:NY. This television drama focuses on a group of forensic detectives and staff who work in a crime laboratory in New York. Harper portrays Dr. Sheldon Hawkes, a chief medical examiner.
Some of Hill Harper’s other projects include: Steel, The Nephew, Park Day, He Got Game, For Colored Girls and 1982. In addition to the Audience Award, Harper has also received the Emerging Artist Award from the Chicago International Film Festival and three Image Awards from the NAACP.
MANIFEST YOUR DESTINY
Besides being a successful actor, Hill Harper is a writer and motivational speaker. In 2006, he published a book entitled Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny. He wrote the book to inspire young African-American men. The book is a collection of inspirational messages on various topics. In addition to writing the book, Harper founded the MANifest Your Destiny Foundation. It is a nonprofit organization which helps fund programs for under-served youth. The foundation’s mission is “to provide under-served youth a path to empowerment and educational excellence through mentoring, academic enrichment programming, college access skills obtainment and the facilitation of psycho-social and physical development strategies.”
I share the story of Hill Harper because, for one, I admire his acting skills. Although I haven’t acted professionally, whenever I perform in a skit or community play, I want whatever character I portray to be real to the audience. So, I’m always gleaning from other actors, like Harper. I also admire his hard work, determination and willingness to take chances and try something new. As I mentioned previously, when Harper found himself without an acting gig, he didn’t give up on his dreams. He didn’t resort to doing something he didn’t really want to do when things got hard. I’m sure he felt discouraged—-he’s human! BUT, he didn’t yield to those negative emotions. He kept his eyes on the prize and kept pushing.
I want to encourage you to do the same! Just because you’ve been rejected and told no, doesn’t mean you should give up on the promises of God. It just means you have to work a little harder. You just have to be a little more patient. Philippians 3:13-14 are two scriptures that have encouraged me so many times.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
As a child of God, as a believer in Christ Jesus, there is nothing you can’t do! You just have to forget the past, forget your past mistakes, forget past rejection, have faith in God and MOVE FORWARD!!!
(“The Kimberly Joy Show: Honoring Hill Harper for Black History Month”)
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