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.