Phylicia Rashad: Thinking Peace

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(Rashad thinks and works for peace).

The popularity of The Cosby Show guaranteed Phylicia Rashad’s celebrity and made her well known to the American public and even to citizens abroad. 

Having appeared in the soap operas One Life to Live and Santa Barbara, and a talented Broadway thespian and singer prior to NBCs “The Cosby Show,� it was her performance as Clair Huxtable that led to further opportunities on stage and screen.  Rashad also appeared in “Cosby,� “The Cosby Mysteries� and her voice is featured on the Cosby animated series “Little Bill.�

The daughter of a dentist, Phylicia Rashad was born Phylicia Ayers-Allen in Texas. She attended Howard University where she earned a Bachelors degree in Fine Art and joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. In 1972, she married dentist William Lancelot Bowles, Jr. The marriage spawned her one son, Billy. 

When that marriage ended, she wed Victor Willis of the popular group “Village People.� The marriage was short lived due to Willis’ cocaine habit. Rashad continued to work at her craft and made her first television appearance in “The Wiz�in1978.  In 1985, after being proposed to by former Minnesota Viking and sports announcer Ahmad Rashad during a nationally televised football game, Rashad once again married. In doing so, Phylicia became stepmother to Ahmad’s son, Ahmad, Jr., and his two daughters Keva and Maiysha. The couple later had a daughter together, Condola Phylea Rashad, who was born in 1986.

Rashad has been a big supporter of multiple charities, among them the Diabetes Association African American Program and the Educational Teacher’s Association. This year, Rashad attended the Presidential Round Table held in April. The African Presidential Archives and Research Center African Presidential Roundtable is comprised of a group of 12 former heads of state from democratic nations within Africa who together with a group of public and private sector leaders from around the world, discuss Africa’s image in the media, good governance, economics and peace and stability. Also, they discuss how Africa itself can benefit from Africa’s contributions to the global economy which heretofore has benefited the coffers of other countries more so than it has benefited the African continent.

“In 2005, the Presidential Round Table was held in Boston. There was a gala dinner held at the Kennedy Library,� said Rashad who attended. “As a result of that evening, I was invited to this year’s round table held in Johannesburg, South Africa to attend the renaming of the American Library. The American Library which was founded in 1976, has been renamed The Rosa Parks Library. The library provides young students with the opportunity to read and see books and films that were once banned in South Africa during Apartheid. Today, the library is providing internet access and has grown. So, if you understand the way the library began, you see its growth is a wonderful way to honor Rosa Parks. The library has collections on business, entrepreneurship, health, and outreach activities. I was honored to be asked to participate,� continued Rashad.

A person with a deep sense of integrity and a need to be involved in humane pursuits, Phylicia Rashad is also a spokesperson for The Prasad Project, an international charitable organization which got its start in India’s Tansa Valley where its villagers have little or no access to quality healthcare. “I have been working with this organization for at least ten years,� remarked Rashad.  “I am very pleased with the work being done in India and here in Sullivan County in the USA where we have established the mobile dental unit. Did you know that in America, most absenteeism from school is the result of dental problems?� inquired the beautiful performer.

“The word Prasad is a Sanskrit word meaning the gift that carries blessings. Prasad serves as an anagram for philanthropic relief, altruistic service, and development because that is what they do.  Their work in the Tansa Valley has been wonderful.  There is a mobile hospital, eye clinics where sight restoring surgeries have restored sight to over 1,300 people free of charge,� she explained.  “Unless you travel to a place where there are no services, you cannot imagine what its like for people in other countries where blindness devastates the entire family.  In poor economies, it’s essential every member of the family work.  A blind family member is a detriment to the income of the other family members as well since the blind person can’t work.  A family member must take care of the blind person thus causing two needed incomes to be preempted. So when we are able to restore sight this is a boon to these indigent families,� added the star of Broadway’s “Gem of the Ocean� and “Raisin in the Sun� which co-starred Sean P. Combs. 

The Prasad Project also provides education, scholarships, education regarding the prevention and treatment of AIDS, and the building and cleaning of wells that provide clean water.  Prior to Prasad implementing these programs, the death statistics were astounding. Prasad helps women start their own little businesses, it feeds people, and dispenses medicine. 

Rashad has appeared in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,� “Dreamgirls,� “Into the Woods,� “The Cherry Orchard,� “Weep Not For Me,� “Polly,� “Jailbirds,� “Hallelujah,� “David’s Mother,� “The Possession of Michael D.,� “The Babysitter’s Deduction.� “Free of Eden,� “The Old Settler,� and “Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored.�  She won best leading actress for “Raisin in the Sun.� She is the first African American woman to win that prize.

“I often meditate,� mused Rashad of her peaceful demeanor and calm tone.  “I like to encourage positive thought. I was in deep thought about the state of the world recently and I asked the question: ‘What can I do? The answer came to me ‘think peace.’ Think peaceful thoughts, speak peaceful words, and perform peaceful actions that promote peace.  I think those words are very powerful. Think peace. It starts there. It all starts right where we are. It starts with each of us.�

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