When Gina Belafonte, Suzanne Kay, Hasna Muhammad and Dominique Sharpton stepped onstage the Schomburg Center recently, few imagined the daughters of four iconic personalities would relate the personal and insider stories of their privileged upbringing.
Afterall the public held and maintained a perception that the children of three movie stars and a prominent Civil Rights activist could be nothing other than a worry-free carousel of glam, fervor and no-limit spending.
However, during a presentation billed “The Moth and Daughters of the Movement” community engagement showcase in Harlem, ‘Inspiration, Impact & Legacy’ defined the topics chosen by each descendant.
Without interjecting commentaries regarding the luxuries of living large each daughter of an icon offered identifiably humbling stories .
As a matter of fact, the sold-out crowd seemed to be all ears listening to Kay, Diahann Carroll’s 61-year-old daughter who engaged them discussing her perilous journey through pregnancy.
The essayist, screenwriter, filmmaker, producer, author, journalist and only child of a renowned diva and Monte Kay took less than the allotted 10 minutes to detail her growth from being the jealous child of a glamorous movie star mother who yearned for private moments to share — away from publicists, detractors and fans — to become the person she is renowned.
Kay used her limited time to talk about the dilemma she faced as an adult enduring miscarriages during pregnancy. How at age 48, living in South Africa she was blessed with a successful pregnancy and ultimately a double-digit weighted baby boy. That son is now six feet tall.
The details are astounding but it is her storytelling method that engaged the crowd.
Her second child, a girl was equally solid weighing in at 11 pounds.
Needless to say, her tale was inspirational.
Belafonte’s girl child didn’t have to say much perhaps because of her bequeathed status as Harry’s daughter.
The activist, offspring darling of a beloved icon, Gina received a welcoming standing ovation for her appearance.
Focusing on the tribulations she suffered as a child who maneuvered between defining her role as the daughter of an admired mother whose image was defined by traversing an image of keeping up appearances and defending the behavior of an on-demand father, actor, singer, Civil Rights activist Gina’s story seemed worthy of an entire hour.
According to the benefactor due to her father’s consistent absence, her mother often felt abandoned and lonely. Those feelings she said led to alcoholism.
Gina said she adored her mother, emulated her, wanted to dress like her, apply perfect makeup the way she did but could not contend with constant criticisms about her father. Her nostalgia brought her to the brink of tears. Her voice broke.
Yet she managed to compose herself and greatly impacted the audience by the time she finished talking about the fascinating 93-year woman who reared her and is now committed.
Temple University embraced the academic aspirations of a teenaged student named Dominique Sharpton. The daughter of Al and Kathy Sharpton she said throughout her first year there she maintained a 4.0 average, studied hard and joined many cultural activities. She said her goal was majoring in psychology and musical theater.
From early on the latter idea was debunked by a professor and critical students who discouraged her ambitions.
Some claimed she lacked a cookie-cutter body type.
She said she had to come to terms with the reality she was ‘big.’
Dominique’s confidence in her singing ability persevered.
While her glamorous, fashion-forward mother Kathy had instilled virtues to guide her through the hazards, it was the wise utterances of her father Al that kept her focussed.
“You can’t be big and small at the same time” he said.
Muhammad, daughter of actress Ruby Dee and actorvist Ossie Davis offered her account of living while Black in Westchester County.
Discrimination in the NYC suburb inspired a story about encounters at a swimming pool. Perhaps she can retell her predictable tale to many more audiences.
“Have a good swim” Muhammad said before disappearing into the dark.
Following the story telling sessions, Kisha Sutton joined the women for a question and answer with the audience.
The granddaughter of former Manhattan borough president, broadcasting mogul operator of WBLS-FM and WLIB-AM radio stations as well as CEO of the Apollo Theater Percy Sutton briefly explained how fearful she was when a 30-year-long friend asked her to head his political campaign.
Despite her many multifaceted work experiences she said the idea seemed a daunting proposition.
She said she embraced her fears to now boast success with helping Alvin Bragg become the very first Black elected district attorney in New York City.
One of the things that influenced Kisha’s daring decision she said is attributed to a conversation she had with former Mayor David N. Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City.
“Your grandfather was not fearless – he saw fear and walked into greatness.”
According to one of the storytellers, the daughters grouped during the critical coronavirus pandemic to form a network of women whose legacy extends past those of their iconic parents.
Together they formed an association with Stacy Lynch, daughter of political powerbroker Bill Lynch and Ilyassah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz.
Catch you on the Inside!