Courtland Milloy's column yesterday incorrectly identified the donor of theater tickets to Eastern High School students and the sponsor of actor Avery Brooks's visit to the school. The Folger Shakespeare Library provided the tickets and arranged the visit. Also, in some editions, the column incorrectly identified Washington Post theater critic Lloyd Rose. Rose is a woman. (Published 12/12/90)

Hawk teaches.

Rushing from the Shakespeare Theater at the Folger, where he is starring in "Othello," Hawk made time last week for students at Eastern High School.

There is a lesson here.

"I do not visit schools because of charity," Hawk said. "The fact is, I exist only in the context of my community. To survive, we must renew discussions about the value of life."

Several students from Eastern, which is in Northeast Washington, had attended the play. It was the first time they had seen Hawk since his days as the hero of the television series "A Man Called Hawk."

"I came to let them know I live," Hawk said. "I think it is important that we meet. Most of what they see on television they can't meet. They can't meet Daffy Duck. How else can they know that I am real?"

Hawk is really Avery Brooks, 41, a professor of theater arts at Rutgers University. Yet, his persona will forever be Hawk, the Afrocentric creation that Brooks bred in rebellion to the stereotype that Hollywood script writers originally concocted.

"He told the students that the images of black people in the mass media are created by white men," said Audrey Hawkins, an Eastern High drama teacher whose class Hawk visited. "It was a poignant and urgent plea for them to seize control of their destiny through education."

"He said for us to work hard to keep our image of ourselves from being determined by others," said Cherie Green, 16, an Eastern High student. "Mr. Brooks is living proof that it can be done."

Despite the cancellation of "A Man Called Hawk," which was filmed in neighborhoods throughout Washington, Hawk flies -- from one "Othello" performance to the next. It is a grueling schedule of nine performances a week through January.

Yet, he still made time to teach.

"He has an exellent message," said Phillip C. Dixon, 16, a student at Eastern High. "He talked a lot about remembering our African heritage, our roots, and being aware that we are constantly programmed by ideas that are not always in our best interest."

As part of the Shakespeare Theater at the Folger's community education program, 25 Eastern High drama students were invited to see the play. Shortly afterward, Hawk visited the school.

He pointed out that his grandfather had been among the first baccalaureate candidates at Tougaloo College in Mississippi in 1901. The importance of education, dignity and integrity were impressed upon him at an early age, he said.

"I am on stage, in command of my image, because of what is in my head, not because of some handout," Hawk told the students. "If you don't continue to develop your mind, you will always be manipulated by the whims of others."

Hawk was accompained to Eastern by Andre Braugher, who played the role of Iago. Braugher's use of urban body language and contemporary intonation patterns as he plotted revenge against Othello thoroughly thrilled his young audience.

As a black actor, Braugher also added a surprise element to their interpretation of the play. Washington Post theater critic Lloyd Rose wrote that a black Iago "cuts 'Othello' loose from racial melodrama and reestablishes it as pure tragedy."

Hawk saw it differently.

"On the contrary," he said, "a black Iago deepens the issue of race."

No doubt, many of those who have seen the play appreciate what Rose meant when the critic wrote, "Iago's racial hostility toward {Othello}, inevitable with a white actor in the role, is removed as a motive, and we get to see his villainy in its sheer malignant egotism."

Nevertheless, the black teenagers from Eastern knew exactly what Hawk meant.

They understood that a black Othello when pitted against a black Iago made for a special kind of racial hostility, similar to what they see every day in real life black-on-black crime.

"It was one black man undercutting another," Dixon said. "A black Iago allowed me to update what was happening in Shakespeare's day with what is happening today on the streets."

"The lesson of a black Iago is profound for black people," Hawk said. "When you betray your brother, you plot your own death, the death of your people and the death of your culture. We must never forget that we need each other. We must learn to value life again."

As an actor, Hawk soars. As a teacher, he insists that others can too.