ABOUT CRYSTAL R. EMERY
Crystal R. Emery is a dynamic producer, author and filmmaker known for producing socially-conscious storytelling on a variety of platforms that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, a cause close to her heart as a quadriplegic who works to ensure that physical limitations don’t define her potential. She is also the founder and CEO of URU The Right To Be, Inc., a non-profit content production company that tackles social issues via film, theater, publishing, educational media and other arts-based initiatives. She is a member of the Producers’ Guild of America, New York Women in Film and Television and she sits on the committee of 100Kin10’s Increasing Women’s Visibility in STEM.
After receiving her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Connecticut, Crystal R. Emery began her professional career in theater and film, with an apprenticeship with renowned theater director Lloyd Richards (The Piano Lesson) and polished her craft under the tutelage of film industry giant Bill Duke (A Rage in Harlem). She went on to attain her Masters in Media Studies from The New School for Public Engagement and has received numerous awards and accolades. In May 2018, she will be the commencement speaker and receive an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Connecticut.
Emery is a sought-after author and motivational speaker. She was hailed as “inspiring,” by the Los Angeles Times and a “leader in science and technology” in Good Housekeeping’s “50 over 50; Women Who are Changing the World.” Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including TIME and HuffPost. To date, her published works include the first two volumes of the Little Man children’s book series, Against All Odds: Black Women in Medicine and the forthcoming Master Builders of the Modern World: Reimagining the Face of STEM. Her groundbreaking feature-length documentary, Black Women in Medicine, has now been seen by over 12 million viewers globally and screened in American embassies around the world from Ethiopia to Germany.
At the age of 10, Emery began experiencing early-onset symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a rare neuromuscular disease. Undaunted by her illness, which was not properly diagnosed until she was 19, Emery met playwright Ntozake Shange at Yale’s Afro-American Cultural Center. Shange gave Emery, only 16 at the time, permission to produce a performance of her hit play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf at a festival for high school students. Emery’s production won numerous state and regional awards, catapulting her into the spotlight as a rising young actress and director.
While touring with The Piano Lesson in Los Angeles, the famed director Lloyd Richards introduced Emery to renowned actor and filmmaker, Bill Duke. Duke offered Emery her first feature film position as a production assistant for his 1991 film, A Rage in Harlem. While shooting with Duke on set in Cincinnati, Ohio, she gained a formative understanding of the film world. Struck with the inspiration to try her own hand at filmmaking, Emery wrote her first screenplay in 1992, Sweet Nez, which was optioned by entertainment executive Suzanne DePasse.
In 1992, Emery attended the Olympic Games in Barcelona where she met the legendary USA Olympic basketball “Dream Team”: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Charles Barkley along with track and field gold medalist Carl Lewis and a few others. She realized every person in the room that night had come from truly humble beginnings, as did she. And the realization came to her: “I can become anything I want to be.” From that point on, whenever she spoke to young people, she always used that story in a speech she called, “Think Big.”
Emery returned to her hometown of New Haven, Connecticut in 1993 and established her nonprofit organization, URU: The Right To Be, Inc. Not long after that, Emery’s Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease took a dramatic turn for the worse. Over the next six years, her hands and legs became increasingly paralyzed, forcing her to navigate the world – and the production of her work – in new and challenging ways. While those challenges tested her mobility, they also strengthened her resolve and creative energy.
Most recently, Emery conceived, designed and launched the innovative Changing the Face of STEM national educational initiative in 2015 which culminated in a Congressional forum in Washington attended by more than 300 STEM professionals, policy makers, educators, students and members of the press. Due to the huge success of Emery’s 2016 Diversity in STEM summit, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine w
ill host the second annual Changing the Face of STEM national forum on June 12, 2018 at the National Academy of Sciences. In October 2018, she will be the keynote speaker for the National Security Agency in Washington.
Triumphing over two chronic diseases as a quadriplegic, Emery continues to shape a successful personal and professional life. She attributes her breakthrough as a producer and writer, and growth as a human being, to her participation in the classes taught by Guru Madeleine at The New School of Learning in New Rochelle, New York. Emery believes that faith and trust in a power greater than ourselves and perseverance is the road to success.
Emery attributes her ability to persevere in times of challenge to a strong belief in God and the teachings of Guru Madeleine. Crystal says she is learning the understanding of being “energy in motion.”