Students, faculty and members of the community filed into the Blue Cross Blue Shield Auditorium in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Wednesday hoping to catch a glimpse of Antwone Fisher during a panel discussion of black artists.
Students from FAMU DRS rumbled down the auditorium stairs to watch the panel from the front row to see the noted artist, screenwriter and inspirational speaker.
The discussion was a part of a series of events sponsored by the state to promote awareness of black issues during February and hosted by SGA President Virgil Miller.
In addition to Fisher, renowned painter Jonathan Green and children’s book author Dolores Neviles sat on the panel. Focused on the event’s theme, “Remembering the Past, Celebrating the Future,” Fisher recalled many of the trials of his youth, while publicly recognizing the successes he has achieved.
“All we are is the experiences that we have had,” Fisher said.
Born in prison to a delinquent mother, shuffled throughout orphanages and foster homes and sexually abused as a child, Fisher stressed the necessity of suffering through “emotional injuries” to appreciate triumphs.
Fisher said at the age of 10, he became forever driven by his foster mother’s confidence in his eventual failure.
Diagnosed with dyslexia and unable to connect with his biological family, he dedicated himself to overcoming the barriers life had posed for him.
Fisher has risen to become a well-known screenwriter in Hollywood.
His autobiography, Finding Fish, was a New York Times Bestseller.
The film adaptation, “Antwone Fisher,” which he wrote nine years before its 2001 release, received critical acclaim, launching him toward worldwide recognition.
He is the first black man to earn $1 million from a screenplay and is now working on a film based on the life story of Marvin Gaye.
“At 10, I realized that I had a lot of time to achieve and be successful,” Fisher said.
Green, widely considered one of the best artists of the American southeast, also spoke about how he used difficulties in his past as inspiration.
Green was not raised with a father in his household and that void deeply affected him as a young man.
He said he vowed to use this absence as motivation for his art.
At the age of 21, Green finally met his father and was able to close a dark chapter in his life.
“I told myself that if I was ever able to find my father, I would then give the rest of my life to my art,” Green said.
Nevile added a light sense of humor to the event when she described the joy she takes from knowing how far she has come since being raised in the South Carolina Gullah region.
“I’ve learned that you can come from nothing and become something. Sometimes I feel so good, I shake my own hand,” Nevile said.
Nevile was adamant about promoting her latest project, “Amedeus – The Leghorn Roster.”
She said that she hopes her book can inspire young people and promote pride in the black community.
Green mimicked this sentiment, encouragingly saying, “We should always be proud of who we are because we are the product of greatness.”
Fisher suggested that the audience realize the richness of the black legacy and take pride in the resilience of black people.
“I feel like there is no reason for me to change who I am,” Fisher said. “If I came this far being myself why should I change?”
Contact Steven Jumper at firstname.lastname@example.org