THOMASVILLE — People look up to Emmanuel Lewis even though he stands only four feet, three inches tall.

Lewis is one of the most recognizable television stars of our time, a noted African-American actor and owner of a record company, people look up to him all the time. He will be a special guest at the first Black Heritage Festival of Southwest Georgia this weekend at the Frederick Douglass Alumni Complex.

Lewis, 35, is famous for his role on the 1980s TV show “Webster.” To this day, people of all ages and colors remember him as the wise-cracking kid he portrayed.

Lewis said he had many African-American heroes as a child, starting with one in his very own home.

“One of my heroes was my mom. She laid a very heavy foundation and through her tutelage and wanting us to experience more, I started learning more about Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong and George Washington Carver. We learned about Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass,” Lewis said. “I learned about an assortment of great African-American leaders, entrepreneurs, mentors, writers and poets. You learn so much from all of them, and with such a great history that we have, you can get an idea of who you want to be and what goals you want to strive for.”

Lewis said Colon Powell, Bill Cosby, publisher John Johnson, Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are current figures black youths can look up to. Lewis is also cognizant of his own role as a prominent black figure, but insists on just living his life.

“The first thing I tell anyone is that I aspire to do great things. There are so many things I want to accomplish. But I am human, I am not a robot,” Lewis said. “I try to do great things, not just for the people, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Lewis praised the organizers of the Black Heritage Festival — the first celebration of its kind in Southwest Georgia.

“I think this is a huge step in the right direction. I think these guys should be applauded for taking this gigantic step,” he said. “Earlier in life, in the ’50s and ’60s when things weren’t so great, there was a great deal of pride and understanding about black history and culture. But there has been a disconnect over the years. Now people are starting to realize that kids today don’t know our history and heritage as well as they should.

“Now, we’re starting to sound the alarm.”

As far as race relations go, Lewis said harmony can be reached.

“You have to keep trying, you have to keep progressing. We can make assessments all day, but I think what is most needed is that we keep pushing the envelope,” he said. “We need everybody opening their eyes and taking a stand, trying to make life better and easier for one another. We’ve got to stop overlooking people and start trying to work with each other.”

Lewis will make a guest appearance at “Thomasville Idol,” a talent showcase to be held during the Black Heritage Festival. The event is presented by the Jack Hadley Black History Museum and the Douglass High School Alumni Association.

The festival will begin Friday with a the talent showcase beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday's events will kick off at 9 a.m. with a car show that includes best custom, classic and tallest vehicle awards, a bass competition, and awards for best in show.

The talent showcase finals will begin at 7 p.m., followed by a fashion show by Niler's Fashion at 8 p.m.

Sunday's events will have a more spiritual and educational feel with Gospel Fest beginning at noon, featuring the Comforters. Hadley's museum will also be open Saturday and Sunday.

The Douglass Complex is located at 214 Alexander St.. Admission to the festival Friday will be $3 for adults, $1 for kids.

For more information, contact Hadley at 226-5029.

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