Follow @MaryMitchellCSTHaving Dwyane Wade come home to Chicago to play for the Bulls was the answer to a fan’s prayer.
And Wade’s wife, Gabrielle Union, the star of BET’s “Being Mary Jane,” brings a level of celebrity style we haven’t seen since Oprah left.
But both will arrive bearing some heavy burdens.
Wade’s homecoming has been largely overshadowed by the shooting death of his cousin, Nykea Aldridge, 32. The mother of four was caught in crossfire on the street a week ago, as she pushed her infant in a baby stroller.
In an interview that aired on Friday morning, Wade talked to ABC News about the toll his cousin’s murder has taken on his extended family.
Like the other 471 homicides that have occurred in this city as of Sept. 1, Aldridge’s murder changed the lives of everyone who knew her.
“My purpose for being back in the city is bigger than basketball. Basketball is a big part of it, of course. It’s what I do for a living. But I think my purpose at the end of the day is hopefully to come to Chicago and be a part and be the voice that can help bring people together,” he said.
Follow @MaryMitchellCSTMeanwhile, Union appears ready to tackle some tough issues as well.
Union, who previously revealed she was raped when she was 19, plays a voiceless rape victim in Parker’s highly acclaimed “The Birth of a Nation.”
The film, about Nat Turner’s 1831 slave revolt, will open in theaters on October 7.
Parker was expected to take home an armload of top awards for his historical film, but has faced condemnation every since it was revealed he was accused of sexual assault while a student at Penn State 17 years ago.
Although Parker was acquitted of the crime, he is being slammed for how he responded when the accusation recently became public.
Parker’s college friend, Jean McGianni Celestin, who shares screenwriting credit for “The Birth of a Nation,” was convicted of the rape.
But Celestin’s sentence was overturned when the court ruled that the defense attorney provided ineffective counsel.
The public outcry grew louder after the accuser’s brother revealed she committed suicide four years ago.
“As important and ground-breaking as this film is, I cannot take these allegations lightly,” Union explained in an Op-Ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
“I took this part in this film to talk about sexual violence. . .It is my hope that we can use this as an opportunity to look within. To open up the conversation to reach out to organizations which are working hard to prevent these kinds of crimes. And to support its victims. To donate time or money. . .,” she said.
Increasingly, black celebrities are responding to the crisis within African-American communities with more than sports camps and public appearances.
San Francisco 49ers star Colin Kaepernick has been both booed and praised for refusing to stand during the National Anthem to protest police-involved shootings.
“To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” Kaepernick told NFL media.
Kaepernick did more than sit down.
He pledged $1 million to community groups that help combat racial inequality and police brutality.
“I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and be able to make the kind of money I do, and I have to help these people,” Kaepernick told ESPN.
“I have to help these communities. It’s not right that they’re not put in the position to succeed or given those opportunities to succeed,” he said.
The people of Ghana have a word for this: “Sankofa,” which means “Go back and get it.”
Black people have waited a long time for this kind of homecoming.
Although it looked like Wade was coming to Chicago to change the Bulls’ fortunes, he may be answering a much higher call.