Cumberbatch honored with Jackie Robinson Breaking Barriers Award
L-R, Police Chief Anthony Holloway, Cranstan Cumberbatch and Rev. Manuel Sykes
By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG –Cranstan Cumberbatch, one of St. Pete’s most well-loved and respected artists and lead actor and producer of “Art in The City,” received the Tampa Bay Rays’ 2018 Jackie Robinson Breaking Barriers Award for Determination April 15.
The Breaking Barrier awards were given during Jackie Robinson Day, commemorating the 71st anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947, and recognized nine community heroes and values.
Other awardees included Freddie Blue for Team Work, Gypsy Gallardo for Citizenship, Towan Rush for Courage, Robert Blount for Justice, Belinthia Berry for Integrity, Katrina House for Commitment, Jovan McNeil for Excellence and Mordecai Walker for Persistence.
Cumberbatch, who is currently in production on his latest film project, “Agent X,” was elated and moved by both the honor and the ceremony.
“It was truly a high honor; it was Jackie Robinson Day at the Trop, and it was given on the field in front of all of the people,” said Cumberbatch, who was elated to see his face on the jumbotron.
Since he and the “Agent X” film crew were shooting scenes that day, the cast was invited along as his guess. Jabaar Edmond, co-producer and director of the film, is also a documentarian and captured the day on film for a 909 Films story on Cumberbatch and his accomplishments.
And the Burg’s hardest working man in showbiz has a lot of them.
“From 2006 to 2013, I invested a lot of time nurturing talent in the community and nurturing my work in the community,” explained the multi-gifted artist.
In 2013, Cumberbatch became the first African-American male to write, direct, produce and star in his feature-length film and screen it in a movie theater here in St. Pete, “If You Only Knew.” He was also the first African American to screen a self-produced, self-written and self-directed movie at the Royal Theater — which historically was the only theater that black folks could go to at one time.
“Myself and Will Packer have been the only two St. Pete natives who got to screen a movie of theirs in that theater; Will from a producing perspective and having success in Hollywood — and me,” explained Cumberbatch. “And I was on both sides of the camera. There’s been no one else who has done that in the city. So that takes a lot of determination, to be that driven.”
Cumberbatch took a circular route back into being in front of the camera. From ages 10 to 13, he performed on a local Channel 10 morning kids show called “This Side Up” until he had an on-set accident when a backdrop fell on his head.
“That was it…my parents made me quit,” he stated, adding that he went on to play sports until going off to college at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.
College is where he joined a singing group, and after graduation, his path led him to California where he lived the recording artist’s life with his a capella gospel group called “Justified Acapella.”
Cumberbatch spent the next three years in California performing.
“Sometimes we’d sing on the beach, and I was always getting asked about acting. Casting directors would say, ‘You got a lot of personality, you should come try acting.’”
His newest project, “Agent X,” is again produced by Cumberbatch’s production company, AmznCran’s Creative Works and Edmond’s 909 Films. He promised the thriller would expose fans to a very different character than “Art in The City’s” homeless war vet Danny.
He also noted that St. Pete has been extremely welcoming and supportive of the new production.
“With the success of “Art in The City,” it’s been an easier process. We’ve been able to secure locations a lot easier, we’ve been able to cast a lot easier with the strides that we made with our previous film,” he said, adding that people are excited and motivated to be part of the project.
While Cumberbatch is clearly on a roll, he was thoughtful — and grateful — about the process.
“As a filmmaker, I have fallen even deeper in love with the art of storytelling, and to have the ability to do that and be respected for doing that is a high honor.”
He couldn’t stop praising business and filmmaking partner Edmond, saying that he is “passionate and talented and has a wide vid imagination.”
As a filmmaker, he has learned the power of teamwork and the power of not being afraid to bring to life on film what’s in his head.
“To be able to get it out of your head and express it through an art medium and platform is a reward itself.”
Another of Cumberbatch’s accomplishments is the work he does as a performing arts director and recreation specialist at Pinellas County Job Corps. There he gets to engage students through the arts, and the program provides him with supplies, props and costumes to help in their productions. All the material that he’s created with his students has been all original material.
Cumberbatch’s work with the students gives them the experience of the professional world. “I tell them: ‘The things that I’m teaching and showing you is the same stuff that I do in the real world; this is the way that it’s done.’”
Sharing that professionalism with the students also allows him to help shape the social skills, which is necessary for them to be able to sustain a job or maintain healthy relationships with people that they work with.
He works hard to help his students overcome fears that plague everyone. He tells the students that his process is so smooth that they won’t realize they’re being taught anything until they take their first bow.
Receiving the Breaking Barriers Award for Determination has clearly given Cumberbatch that much more fire to work even harder and accomplish more.
His words of encouragement for those who are en route to pursuing their goals?
“I’m inspired to continue pursuing what I love; I’m even more dedicated to inspiring more people to come out of the closet of their dreams to see how close to reality they are, rather than far-fetched. I’m on a political campaign to do just that — through actions more than words. And I hope the determination that people see in me will inspire them to take the courage to step out on faith…and live a happier life.”
To reach J.A. Jones, email firstname.lastname@example.org