Cosby Challenges The Ville

Allan Appel Photo“Lemme smell your breath. Do you drink?” Bill Cosby asked Newhalville’st Lillian Morrison, as the comedian and an entourage waded into R2 turf with a message.

Not only does she not drink, Morrison told the iconic funny man. She’s a great grandmother who runs a food pantry. She has survived cancer for 16 years. And Tuesday just happened to be her birthday. She turned 70.

True to form, Cosby embraced her and then mixed streetwise humor with a streetwise message: “We want our 70-year-olds to be able to walk at night without worrying about being hit in the head; so she has the money to pay for her medication. She’s a 16-year cancer survivor but she may not survive here. Let’s build pride.”

The tour was the culmination of a day that began early with a Cosby lecture at Southern Connecticut State University, then a pep talk to wildly enthusiastic kids and staff at the King-Robinson School Interdistrict Magnet School.

Cosby brought the house down mimicking kids’ styles of laughter and schoolwork excuses. (“I was robbed and the robber stole my homework!”)

Southern’s new president, Stanley Battle (at left in above photo with Newhalville Alderman Charles Blango), invited Cosby to New Haven. Public schools chief Reggie Mayo said Battle wanted to focus on the aspect of the New Haven Promise campaign devoted to helping reduce the high school dropout rate. Cosby, with whom Battle worked in Maryland and North Carolina, wanted to take a message about parents’ role in stopping truancy right to the heart of it in New Haven.

Which was how they ended up on Read Street, where the recently busted R2 gang has been flaunting a different kind of campaign, of terror.

“So much stuff happens at the park on Basset [and Shelton] I’m afraid to let my kids and grandkids go there, they’re bullets flying,” Lillian Morrison told Cosby.

On the stoop of one house, Cosby talked to two boys, one of whom had been expelled from Basset Street School. “Fifteen years old and out of school already,” Cosby quipped. “Must be a genius.”

The humor was a portal to a gently chiding, take-responsibility sermon about staying in school: “Look at me. You’re looking at a person who has a GED. Come over to Adult Ed and be successful so you can buy that house. This is the way America works. It’s there for you, but it won’t come to you.”

State Rep. Toni Walker (pictured) followed with a call for anyone in hearing distance to register at Adult Ed, where she serves as assistant principal.

Reverend John Henry Scott III of the Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church of Christ then took the boys’ phone numbers and urged them to come to his church for its enrichment programs.

Local mentors will be following Cosby’s footsteps, knocking on doors, through the city’s new Promise program. The aim:  to reorient at-risk kids and their parents to the city’s new college opportunities.

As Cosby visited the next house and then another, someone called out, “Buy it for the Huxtables!” That was a reference to the fictional family in which Cosby was paterfamilias and doctor, The Bill Cosby Show.

“I’ve just bought this house,” Cosby responded from the balcony. “Theo [the show’s son] will be arriving at 7 tonight.”

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 23, 2010  6:25pm

Another Photo op for the politician.Also has Bill cosby clean his act up?,,20059561,00.html

posted by: Gary Doyens on November 24, 2010  12:19am

This is a great message by Cosby and one I’ve heard him give many times over the years. Where are the African American preachers/leaders in this city and why aren’t they consistently saying the same thing?

posted by: Cedarhillresident on November 24, 2010  10:08am

Gary I am with you. Cosby is an amazing man with a life turning message. And I believe some people fear real change because it hurt their bottom line…but there are some great leaders in this community, and I am hoping that this was the boost they needed to help the real fight they have been working on for year. And remembering the real revolution does start in the home. And with your community. So many good people in this area to look up to.

posted by: LOL on November 26, 2010  8:57am

Here is a glimpse of how things work at NHPS:

Our principal told our staff that “four days” is an acceptable number for teachers to be absent from school.

Yet, this same principal took a full school week off to go on a honeymoon, two more days to attend Obama’s innauguration and yet another to go see Cosby.

The principal also constantly reiterates the district’s creed that paraprofessionals are not highly qualified educators and, as such, should not run any whole-group lessons, even though the teacher is providing 1:1 or small-group instruction to needy students.

Yet, because the district doesn’t want to pay for substitutes, paras are pulled from their regular classrooms to cover for absent teachers.  Funny how the paras suddenly are qualified enough to cover entire classes then, isn’t it?

Naturally, this principal then uses staff meetings to pontificate about how teachers should not be absent. ...

Not sure if such shenanigans are pulled district wide or if it’s confined to my school, but I thought people should know what’s going on.