W. Kamau Bell comes through Cleveland to discuss – cleveland.com


PNC Fairfax Connection will present another entry in the Friends of the Director Speakers Series at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Drive.

The series was conceived to reach those of humble means and have them connect with folks who started the same way but have obtained a level of success.

W. Kamau Bell will try to do just that as the keynote speaker. Bell, a comedian and host of CNN’s “United Shades of America,” calls his brand of comedy both political satire and sociopolitical with a heavy focus on racism.

“America has a long history of comedians who talk about the world and what’s going on, like Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, even Kathy Griffin. The title of my show, ‘How to Solve Racism in About an Hour,’ will let people know what will be discussed before they walk in the door. I don’t want any confusion.

“I also want people to know that the talk will be funny. Although there’s homework involved, I’ll be using some PowerPoints, but it’s with humor.” According to Brian Williams, executive director of PNC Fairfax Connection for two years, the hope is that audience members leave knowing that their dreams aren’t dead but deferred.

The organization opened seven years ago on the East Side of Cleveland in hopes of bridging the gap between the community and the bank in Fairfax. It now includes all residents of Cleveland.

Programs start with pre-K and include healthy-cooking classes with kids; senior programs are also available. Fairfax Connection is at 8220 Carnegie Ave., Cleveland.

Bell’s self-described “racist” humor is part of his Nexflix stand-up special called “Private School Negro.” In that set, he jokes about Jeff Sessions being considered too racist to be a judge even in Alabama.

Those who are fans of “United Shades” can’t forget Bell’s visit to a KKK compound. It got interesting when the cameras stopped rolling.

“They would let their guard down and take their hoods off, because it was super hot there,” he said. “Some stayed away from me altogether. One woman in particular, who wore a red Klan outfit, with matching red nails, was especially hateful. Supposedly, if your family has been Klansmen for several generations, you are allowed to add color to your wardrobe. Her family had long been associated.

“When she took her hood off, it was total disdain. I could only think that her life experiences are so limited. You have been trained to think I’m the problem. I’d just feel like I should take her to L.A., set her up with auditions and help turn your whole life around. She could be the next Ariana Grande,” he said, chuckling.

CNN plans to start airing new episodes of “United Shades of America” this spring.

Tickets for Bell’s talk are free, but reservations are required. For more information, call 216-391-4677.

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