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Ever since being born premature and weighing only two pounds, stage and screen actress MARGARET AVERY (Mamma Jenkins), has been a fighter and a survivor.

As a young woman, she fought to train for and get experience in an industry that provided little opportunity for aspiring black actresses. After studying and learning her craft, she fought for quality roles during a time when movie executives were quick to assign black women to parts as maids, cooks, servants and other stereotypical roles. Determined and undaunted, she became inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s messages of equal opportunity for all, and fought for—and won—vital roles in such films as Which Way is Up?, Magnum Force, Hell Up in Harlem, The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, Blueberry Hill and White Man’s Burden.

In 1985, Avery’s faith and persistence paid off when she was nominated for an Academy Award® for her unforgettable role as the sultry and spirited blues singer, Shug Avery, in The Color Purple, Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of Alice Walker’s prizewinning novel.

In 1998, she and award-winning actor Blair Underwood co-hosted and presented the critically acclaimed docudrama, Sister, I’m Sorry: An Apology to our African American Queens.

Avery recently completed filming Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, which stars Angela Bassett.

Today, while she continues to act, Ms. Avery also finds joy and fulfillment in working with at-risk teenagers and battered women in greater Los Angeles. “That work is especially rewarding,” she said, “because it has the capacity to change lives. It just takes one person to reach out, with a kind word or deed or with a smile, to change someone’s entire world...and I don’t mean, to give money all the time, because sometimes that’s the easy part. I mean…to care enough to give another person the most precious gift of all—the gift of hope.”

She also recently toured the slave dungeons of Ghana, the Mother Land. This spiritual experience gave her an insight and understanding of her heritage and origin of her survived roots.

Ms. Avery, an Oklahoma native who now lives in Los Angeles, has won numerous awards for her acting and her activism, including a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for her role in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? and an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award.

A former schoolteacher, Ms. Avery holds a bachelor of arts degree in education from the University of San Francisco, and a master’s degree in marriage, family and child therapy. She lectures across the country and abroad on issues involving women of color and her passion in life: seeking to empower, enlighten and inspire.

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