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Friday, May 24, 2024

Commonwealth Conversations: BK Fulton Talks Inspiration and Overcoming Fears

Cliff Fleet interviews BK Fulton of Soulidifly Productions for The Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce speaker series Commonwealth Conversations on Jan. 10 (Christopher Six/WYDaily)

WILLIAMSBURG — Colonial Williamsburg Foundation President Cliff Fleet sat down with award-winning filmmaker, author and entrepreneur BK Fulton for the latest installment of The Greater Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce’s “Commonwealth Conversations” Wednesday morning at Williamsburg Lodge.

Fulton, a Hampton native, is a retired corporate executive who launched a second career and in 2017, founded Soulidifly Productions — a film, stage and TV investment company designed to promote a more inclusive narrative in media, according to the Chamber.

The company has produced 18 feature films, 16 books and two No. 1 shows on Broadway. Projects include the recent Samuel L. Jackson/Uma Thurman film “The Kill Room” and “Freedom’s Path.”

Fulton discussed his remarkable career and interest in promoting positive messages for society, particularly given the lack of civility in today’s politics.

“What I’m hoping to do with my work is to impact that, to help people to empathize more with others, to encourage people to step outside of their fears and step into the light of love. And the magic happens when each of us brings the best version of ourselves. It resolves in what I call the supreme law. And then we cure cancer, and we cure ALS, and we fix the things that are broken,” he said. “But if we operate from fear and we start to do things that might be described as selfish, or inconsiderate, not consistent with the values that we want for our homes, our children, our world. And so, for me, getting the opportunity to do this is a blessing. It’s a gift and what I do with it is my gift back.”

Fulton said he started down that path in the library as a student at Virginia Tech. The distractions of college life had left him in a position where the registrar was telling him to improve or leave, and he went to the library to, as he put it, “plan my escape.”

Little did he know that moment would change his life. In a five-story library with 2 million volumes, he picked up a book on Norfolk’s Lewis Howard Latimer, a black inventor who had made important contributions to the light bulb and the telephone, among others.

“I’m now on a board with some of his family members because I owe him a debt. Because when I read that book and others in that section, I went from the probations list, to the Dean’s List, to the board of directors at Virginia Tech, where they were literally flying me in a jet to help govern the school,” he explained. “And two decades later, I realized that if reading — simply reading — about the contributions of diverse people could put my life on rocket boosters, what would happen if I put it on the big screen? What would happen if I could add great actors and great music? I might be able to change everybody’s life.”

Fulton hopes his work can help people to find the courage to overcome their doubts, worries and fears, and be their best.

“I hope that my films and Broadway shows and the books provide sufficient escape velocity for us to look beyond our individual failings, and towards our collective humanity,” he said.

Fulton, and his wife, are also playing a role in the preparations for the 250th Anniversary of the American Revolution.

“The Virginia 250 journey is one that both my wife and I are intimately involved in,” he said. “We’re trying to inform it from the varying perspectives that have made up our democracy. Virginia history as Americans. So a lot of amazing things have happened here and we need to make sure that people appreciate how we got here. What I want to make sure of is that in appreciating that, the important stories don’t get left out.”

Fulton, a spiritual man, is clearly aware of his blessings. His greatest inspiration, however, is his sister Shauna, who was born with Rett’s Syndrome. Unable to speak or walk on her own, the example Shauna, now 51 years old, set for his life brings him to tears. His book, “Shauna,” is an adaptation of a poem about her he wrote when he was 16 years old.

“If you woke up this morning you’re on the hook,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re white or black, old or young, Jew or gentile. If you woke up, you’ve been given a great gift. What you do with it is your gift back.”

The next conversation is slated for March 6 with Tom Barkin of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The May 1 guest has yet to be announced.

Single tickets for upcoming Commonwealth Conversations are $55 for chamber members and $80 for nonmembers and include breakfast. Tables of eight reserved seats with a company logo are $500 for chamber members and $700 for nonmembers, and tickets for the entire series are also available.

For more information, visit the Commonwealth Conversations webpage.

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