Campus Chronicle Online

© 1998 The Sun Herald.

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Richards now believes she can do anything


VICKSBURG - Academy Award-nominated actress Beah Richards did not believe her mother when being told she could do anything she wanted.

"All my life, I heard that ringing in my ears," said Richards, who was nominated for her role opposite Sidney Poitier in the film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."

"My mother told me I could do anything I wanted to do," she said Friday at Vicksburg's Legacy Luncheon, an event sponsored by a group of citizens to raise awareness of the Museum of African American Culture and The Marketplace.

The event honored Richards and fellow Vicksburg natives Gov. Kirk Fordice, moviemaker Charles Burnett and 97 seniors.

"I am so grateful at this moment to my family, friends and teachers," the 71-year-old actress said. "Words cannot tell you."

Richards said her mother encouraged her.

"That woman told me I could be anything I wanted, but I couldn't check a book out from the library or drink from the same water fountain," Richards said. "I was thinking, 'Here I can't do anything I want.'"

So when Richards moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting, she watched other actresses and made mental notes.

"I couldn't make any mistakes," she said.

Richards said her mother taught her how to beat the odds.

During segregation, she recalled, when her mother was not allowed to try on dresses at a department store, she turned the garments inside out to see how they were made, then went home, made a pattern out of newspaper and sewed the dress herself. ''You had to get up early in the morning to stop that woman,'' Richards said. Also honored at the luncheon were 97 senior citizens, whose biographies will be ensconced at the museum once it is open.

The Museum and The Marketplace, which will be an open-air market and a foundation to preserve African-American culture, could be operational next year in a downtown Vicksburg building.

The $720,000 complex will feature a variety of activities, including entertainment forums and workshops, after-school programs and a resource center. The market, a joint venture with Alcorn State University, will feature classrooms, as well as spaces and stalls for the sale of fresh produce and hand crafts.