For Rosie Perez, it's her cousin, Sixto Ramos. For Mahershala Ali, it's his wife, Amatus. And for Hari Kondabolu, it's been his mom, Uma Kondabolu.
Our recent live show in Brooklyn was all about times of big change in life and the family who keeps us grounded during those periods of transition. I've been thinking about this a lot as I prepare to move across the country and become a parent for the first time.
Rosie Perez didn't connect with her cousin, Sixto Ramos, until her 20s, when she almost got set up on a blind date with him after they acted together in Do the Right Thing. "I almost went on a date with my cousin!" Rosie laughed. "That's so sick!" Despite their awkward start, she and Sixto became close friends, bonding over their shared love of boxing. And they've stood by each other through times of loss, like when Rosie's mother passed away from AIDS in 1999. "He would call every day," Rosie said. "He would come over every day."
Actor Mahershala Ali and his wife, the musician Amatus, first dated when they were students together at NYU. But when they reconnected years later, after Amatus's brother was killed in a Chicago shooting, their relationship quickly became much more serious. "When you go through a tragedy that tears your crap up, you then...decide you're not gonna take anything for granted," Amatus said. "I was a thousand percent sure about what I truly wanted in my life." Now, as Mahershala's Hollywood presence continues to grow through his roles in House of Cards, The Hunger Games, and the upcoming Luke Cage series, they're figuring out together how to balance fame with their Muslim faith.
We also got to know comedian Hari Kondabolu's mother, Uma Kondabolu, who immigrated to the U.S. from India as a young woman. When Hari was born, she was still getting acclimated to her new home in Queens, and to the occasional racism that was directed her way. "I saw moments where people were trying to push my parents around, treat them poorly, and they wouldn't take it," Hari told me. Now that both Hari and his mother are older, he says he feels protective of his parents and sometimes guilty for choosing a career that doesn't bring in the big bucks. Although Uma acknowledged, "Occasional guilt is good," she added, "I tell them [Hari and his brother, Ashok] they don't need to feel that. I'm very proud of what they chose to do." And you'll hear: comedy runs in the family. Uma is one of the show's all-time funniest guests.
During the show, sex columnist Dan Savage also gave me a call to impart some parenting advice, we got to see some of your incredible dance moves, and I told a story about Sly and the Family Stone and pregnancy anxiety. It was all backed by the incredible music of singer Lisa Fischer and her band, Grand Baton. Hear their live performance of Eric Bibb's "Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down" and Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" below.
Lisa Fischer, Live at BAM
Looking for our Anthems of Change Dance Video? Find it here.
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