For Naima Imani Lett (www.naimalett.com), whose name means “graceful faith,” faith was found on the kitchen floor. When her husband’s employer transferred him back to Dallas from New Jersey, the couple viewed the move as an opportunity for her to attend seminary. But God used it as a time to unfold a drama in the life of a woman whose acting debut began at the age of five as “Toto in the Wiz,” and whose career grew to include top honors from Howard University’s drama program and tenure at the Tony Award-winning Crossroads Theatre, the British American Drama Academy at Oxford, and the Fellowship for the Performing Arts.
Naima and her husband, Kevin, moved in April and by May the “opening act, scene one” starred cancer. Kevin had Hodgkin’s disease. Naima abandoned her plans for seminary, but Kevin insisted she forge ahead with seminary courses.
“I have no idea how I made it through that first semester,” Naima says. “During those first six months of Kevin’s chemo I was literally up every morning around two or three.” She says she would lie on her kitchen floor, crying out to God. “We were fighting for our lives.”
For Naima, who was twenty when her mother died of cancer, and who had once abandoned performing because she wanted to act in pieces that offered audiences more hope, her husband’s diagnosis raised the curtain on a life unscripted and with hope exiting stage left.
“I think the Holy Spirit just gave me enough faith to say, ‘God is. He’s here and He’ll get us through this,’” Naima says. “I don’t know that I could have begun to grasp or understand a lot of the Word of God had we not been in the situation we were in,” Naima says. “The Scriptures took on a whole different meaning and light for me. God’s Word was paramount. Having gone through that experience I have a lot more compassion for individuals who get to the breaking point who don’t come back.”
But Naima, the first graduate of Dallas Seminary’s new master of arts in media and communication (M.A./MC) program, is back on stage and touring the country performing her new drama, The King’s Family.
“We still live day-to-day dealing with the effects,” Naima says of the cancer that has been in remission for more than two years. “With everything that Kevin and I have been through, we know there’s not always a happy ending.” But for the woman who says she won’t miss cancer in heaven, a heaven-made dream on earth is realized each time she walks on stage.
“Once I’m actually on the platform and the drama begins, it’s a feeling of, ‘This is why I was born,’” she says. “For this I’m called. For this I’m created. I’m doing what God placed me on the earth to do.”
See Naima Lett perform.
This profile was originally published in the Fall 2005 issue of Dallas Seminary's Kindred Spirit magazine.
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