From Fresh Prince To Author: How Karyn Parsons Is Bringing Little Known Stories Of African American History To Children

"I ended up having kids. And then I started Sweet Blackberry, which is also like having another baby."

Photo credit:Karyn Parsons/Blavity

| July 09 2019,

01:33 am

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

"We do it through animated films and picture books," Walker told Blavity, as part of our "Regarding" video series.

AfterThe Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended, Parsons co-wrote, co-produced and co-starred in the sitcom Lush Life . She eventually relocated to New York where she studied filmmaking and met her husband. 

"I ended up having kids. And then I started Sweet Blackberry, which is also like having another baby," Parsons joked.

Sweet Blackberry was one of those ideas, she said, that was percolating for a long time.

"My mother was a librarian, and she shared the story of Henry Box Brown with me," Parsons told Blavity, referring to the 19th-century Virginia slave who escaped to freedom by mailing himself in a wooden crate across state lines. "I was so fascinated by the story, and the fact that I've never heard the story...and nobody I knew had heard it, that I thought, well, this needs to be a book for kids."

Since then, the non-profit has produced other classic animated shorts, including Garrett's Gift, the story of an inventor who created the traffic signal, and Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story, about the first African-American prima ballerina.

They just completed a short on Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to become a pilot.

"I wanted to make something really engaging and fun, kind of like a fairy tale story," she told Blavity. "The way we know fairy tales like the backs of our hands, like, why not take real people that have amazing stories and make these...just as engaging for kids?"

The actress recently finished writing her first novel: How High The Moon, about a 12-year-old girl named Ella who grows up in the Jim Crow era in South Carolina -- a time when racial segregation was enforced in the Southern United States.

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"My mother grew up in the 1940's, just outside of Charleston in the Jim Crow south, and she always talked about her childhood like it was so happy and positive," Parsons told Blavity. "Finally one day I was like, 'I got to ask you some questions about your childhood. Tell me more about it -- how were you so happy?'"

So Parsons decided to step into her mother's shoes, so to speak. She blended elements of her mother's childhood with 12-year-old Ella, to depict the narrative of a story about a young girl finding herself during tumultuous times. 

How High The Moon is now available on Amazon. Sweet Blackberry's animated shorts are available on their website, Amazon, Netflix, and AfroLife.TV.

Watch our full interview with Parsons below! 

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