From the New York Post:
Tough act to follow
October 13, 2009
by Leonard Greene
The young people Jamal Joseph mentors are rarely impressed when he tells them he's a Columbia University film professor.
"The kids kind of yawn and roll their eyes," Joseph, 56, says with a laugh. "But when I tell them I was in the Black Panthers and I was in prison and did a biography of Tupac Shakur, then they straighten up and listen to what I have to say."
And Joseph says plenty as he travels around speaking to kids about choosing the right path in life and developing self-confidence and striving for self-fulfillment. Whether he's reminiscing about the 1960s, recounting his years in prison or reaching out through dramatic works, he always manages to get across his message: Believe in yourself.
Joseph spent five years in federal prison, where he earned two degrees and wrote his first play. He decided that instead of serving the time, he would let the time serve him, a philosophy he passes on to young people. Joseph founded Harlem's IMPACT Repertory Theatre, which stresses youth empowerment and leadership through the arts, and has helped scores of students graduate from college. The group sponsors an after-school program in which Joseph mentors the children.
IMPACT performers took part in the song "Raise It Up" in the 2007 film "August Rush," for which Joseph was nominated for a Best Song Oscar. He has been nominated by the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce for a New York Post Liberty Medal in the Leadership category.