A closer look at a controversial legacy

Stepin Fetchit, whose portrayals of lazy, stereotypical black characters in numerous films made him one of the most controversial actors in Hollywood for three decades, will be examined this weekend with panel discussions, a one-man show and other events.

Sandra Evers-Manley, head of the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center -- the historical group sponsoring the events -- said the program would examine the career of Fetchit, whose real name was Lincoln Perry, as well as serve as a platform to examine current black images. "Many people saw only one side of Lincoln Perry, and we want to look at the whole man," Evers-Manley said. "We want to understand his life. He wasn't just a character."

The program, "Stepin Fetchit: Reexamining the Black Image in Mass Media," will be highlighted by three evening performances at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, on Friday through Sunday, of Matt Robinson's "The Confessions of Stepin Fetchit," performed by Roscoe Orman, who plays Gordon on "Sesame Street."

Mel Watkins, author of the new biography "Stepin Fetchit: The Life and Times of Lincoln Perry," will discuss his book Friday at UCLA's Ralph Bunche Center and again Sunday at the Nate Holden Center. Watkins also will sign the book 7 p.m. Monday at Esowan Books.

Fetchit appeared in more than 40 films. He was initially scorned by blacks for his style of performance, which was considered "minstrel." But he was later applauded for being a pioneer for black actors, was given an Image Award by the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People and, in 1978, was elected into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.


-- Greg Braxton

"Stepin Fetchit: Reexamining the Black Image in Mass Media": "An Afternoon With Mel Watkins," UCLA Ralph Bunche Center, noon Friday; free. "The Confessions of Stepin Fetchit," Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday; $10 to $20, available at (310) 671-6400. Panel discussion with Mel Watkins and others, Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 2 p.m. Sunday; free. Book signing; Esowan Books, 3655 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., 7 p.m. Monday; free. Info: (310) 284-3170.

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