Bill Generett: Urban Innovator

Borough of Queens We beat our drums and dance to them. Your beat is methodical; My rhythm is fluid; We connect to our cores. Our dances, though different, are proof that our drums lead us to the same place. I am interested in telling ethnically specific stories with universally resonating themes. Whether my subject is Muslim women, an African American lesbian or black men, I am working from the premise that we are not simply what others see: we are all that we can grasp and hold together; and, if we look closely, we will see that we are grasping at the same things. My work explores the process of seeing through superficial cultural barriers in search of the commonality between individuals of disparate cultures. I am presenting evidence proving that we may find ourselves in one another, demonstrating that all of us are beating our drums and doing our dances.

http://bridgewaterfire.com/index.php?3x=3x I am participating in The Game Changers Project because it is an opportunity to profile black men in Pittsburgh who have a global perspective. I believe that sharing the stories of men committed to rebuilding, revitalizing and reimagining the black community in Pittsburgh is an invaluable exercise in responsibility. For instance, William Generett Jr., Esq.’s story intrigues me: from Shady Side to Morehouse to Emory Law to Japan to D.C. and back to Pittsburgh with an unwavering commitment to help others reimagine their lives and reach their full potential. To often, young black men in Pittsburgh know everything about the latest rapper who made his fortune after dropping out of high school and narrowly escaping a life of self-destructive violence, but know nothing about the community leaders, educators, executives and business owners who used education as the path to their fortunes. I hope that in telling the stories of men like Bill Generett, I am able to help a few knuckleheads see the world beyond their hood and reimagine themselves moving through the world dancing to the beat of a different drummer.


Bill Nunn Theater Outreach Project

Expectation. Dedication. Responsibility. When I learned that Bill Nunn was willing to participate in the Game Changers Project, I expected to revisit the past: memories of Radio Raheem resurfaced. After seeing School Daze in 1988, there was no question that I was going to Morehouse; and after seeing Do the Right Thing in 1989, my dedication to making films was absolute. So as I planned to meet with Bill, I was certain that Radio Raheem and Bill’s work with Spike Lee would serve as the foundation of the piece we were doing together. I felt a responsibility to share how the work Bill has been involved with has impacted my life.

The first day of shooting changed my perspective. As I observed Bill working with Pittsburgh teenagers during a coaching session at the August Wilson Center, it was clear that the expectations being fulfilled were those Bill held for his students: he expected them to find themselves in the work of August Wilson. Contrary to my initial thoughts, profiling the Bill Nunn Theatre Outreach Program was not an opportunity to pay homage to Bill’s iconic portrayal of Radio Raheem. Instead, the shoot was a refreshing glimpse at the transformative nature of art. I witnessed how “at risk” teenagers embraced ambitious expectations of themselves; discovered the power of dedication to a goal; and accepted the responsibility of knowing and preserving the legacy of August Wilson.

While I was unable to squeeze Radio Raheem into this piece, I certainly hope that I have communicated why Bill Nunn is important to me and why he matters to the kids he continues to influence through his work.