I navigate the Los Angeles freeways I keep hearing in my head, “make me
laugh . . . make me laugh.” I continue my drive through the hills
of the City of Angels until I end up in front of the home of the
actress who has kept me laughing for years.
knock on her door and my thoughts flash back to my senior year in high
school. “Don’t make me laugh,” I recalled many of my friends
blurting out after I told them I would attend the predominantly Black
college in Atlanta (the one dubbed Hillmen College on the Cosby
spin-off show A Different World). My friends would then
emphatically announce, “that’s not the real world ”
more than ten years and several degrees later I am laughing as I enter
a different world, the one of Cree Summer. As she pulled open her
door, Summer greeted me with a smile and open arms. She explains
that a Port of Harlem article that I had written about raising socially
conscious children convinced her to let me into her world.
walk outside. Surrounded by trees, a pool and humming birds,
Summer begins speaking; her voice is familiar. It is a
voice I hear daily. It is the voice of character Winifred ‘Freddie’
Brooks of the sit-com A Different World. In addition it is the voice of
PBS’s Cleo, the dog on Clifford the Big Red Dog, a ghost catching super
hero on Nickelodean’s Danny Phantom and Foxxy Love on Comedy Central’s
Drawn Together. The sounds of Summer seem to be everywhere.
Even Coca Cola’s bubbles burst with her refreshing voice in their
television ads. While her distinctive sound is familiar, her
journey as actress, singer, song-writer and comedian are less so.
Click here to read more of the cover story from the print issue.