When Dr. Linda Holloway shared with me that she was referring some Dope Black Women for me to interview I was so excited. When I found out that one of those women would be Dr. Tommie "Tonea" Stewart, I nearly lost my mind. Y'all I went straight into fangirl mode and had at least two anxiety attacks leading up to our truly amazing interview. You see it's because this beautiful, melanin filled, Mississippi raised, JSU alum, was one of the faces that I saw regularly growing up.
Actress and Professor, Dr. Tommie "Tonea" Stewart, a native of Greenwood, Mississippi, has lived in Montgomery Alabama since 1990. She is a professional actress, play director, national museum exhibit director, tenured Professor and retired Dean of the College of Visual & Performing Arts at Alabama State University.
She was the first African American female to receive a doctorate from the Florida State University School of Theater and the First McKnight Doctoral Fellow in Theater received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. As an actress, Tonea is perhaps best known for her recurring role of "Miss Etta Kibbee" on in "The Heat of the Night". She earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for her role in the film adaptation of John Grisham's A Time to Kill and a New York World Festival Gold Medal Award for the narration of Public Radio International's series "Remembering Slavery."
Tonea began her acting career in 1969 and became the first African American to direct and star in a leading role on stage at New Stage Theatre, the most prestigious equity theater in Mississippi. Since then, she has directed major museum exhibitions such as the Rosa Parks Museum, African American Museum of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and The International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, N.C. Stewart has performed in Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Scotland, Turkey and throughout the United States, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. Her screen and television credits include: A Time To Kill, The Rosa Parks Story, Mississippi Burning, Invasion of the Body Snatchers III, Living Large, My Stepson/ My Lover, "Walker, Texas Ranger," "Memphis Beat" "Matlock," "Leave of Absence," "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," "ER", "Touched by an Angel", "Mississippi Damned" and several Lifetime Movies, the latest being " The Wronged Man."
Tonea has served as spokesperson for "One Church, One Child" of Alabama and for NOSAP, a Texas based organization aimed at youth development. She was inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame and holds honorary doctorates from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama and Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. Tonea is a member of the Order of The Golden Circle, a life member of the NAACP, SCLC, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and a dedicated member of Hutchinson Missionary Baptist church. She is married to Dr. Allen Stewart. They have three children and five grandchildren.
As a retired university professor Tonea is spending her time working on a dynamic project which will help other budding Black performers by sharing, inspiring, and motivating others "The Way Is Already Made" because we "Exist in a complete and perfect state, lacking no essential characteristics" which are the words of Frank Silvera.
It truly was a spiritual awakening interviewing Dr. Stewart. As a young girl who wanted so badly to become an actress, be on stage, and grace the big screen, Tonea Stewart is someone that I deeply admire. She was and is living breathing proof that a little girl from Mississippi could become a star! Little did I know that she would be everything I imagined and more. Check out our time together and get to know the Dope Black Woman behind the screen.
Stay tuned for part two of this amazing interview!
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