Cosby — a controversial voice in the African American community since a 2004 speech calling for parents to take more responsibility for their children — has chosen perhaps the least assailable way to return to the spotlight: After speaking to high school students in one of the poorest areas of Alabama, he will walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The bridge, where civil rights marchers were beaten by police in 1965 on what’s known as “Bloody Sunday,” is sacred ground in the civil rights movement — and an integral part of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. — that was enshrined decades before the release of the Oscar-nominated film “Selma” last year.
Cosby will appear on behalf of the nonprofit Black Belt Community Foundation, which “works to leverage many region-wide improvement efforts toward a common goal of transforming the Black Belt” — a swath of counties cutting through the middle of the state that is home to the highest percentage of African Americans in the state and is also plagued by high rates of poverty and other challenges — as its Web site explained.
“These children that we’re going to visit tomorrow can be polished,” Cosby told ABC 8 in Montgomery. “They can be fixed.”
Though Cosby and his wife, Camille Cosby, have proven generous philanthropists, their relationships with the institutions they support have been complicated by the barrage of allegations against the comedian. Cosby resigned from the board of his alma mater, Philadelphia’s Temple University, last year — just one of many educational institutions that have distanced themselves from him.
The Black Belt Community Foundation, however, is excited about the opportunity.
“We are really grateful for the opportunity to shed light on the plight of our children,” foundation president Felecia Lucky said, according to the Associated Press. “We’re hoping that people will realize now more than anything is that Black Belt children matter.”
Cosby, though the target of lawsuits, has denied sexual assault allegations, some decades old, and has never been charged with a crime. He has performed live many times since the scandal heated up, and has occasionally been interrupted by hecklers. But his comments to reporters have been relatively rare, and his silence made headlines last year after an interview with NPR.
In November, Cosby did discuss his decision not to discuss the allegations.
“I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn’t have to answer to innuendos,” he told Florida Today. “People should fact check. People shouldn’t have to go through that and shouldn’t answer to innuendos.”
In December, he spoke to Wendy Williams of “The Wendy Williams Show.”
“I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism and when you do that you have to go in with a neutral mind,” he said.
He also spoke to Stacy Brown for the Washington Informer in December. Brown asked how Cosby’s wife found strength to fight the allegations.
“Love and the strength of womanhood,” Cosby said, according to Brown. “Let me say it again, love and the strength of womanhood. And, you could reverse it, the strength of womanhood and love.”
Some think the allegations are not relevant to Cosby’s charity work