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A celebration of the life of Hazel Medina-Matz

MISANI Special to the AmNews | 6/27/2012, 6:14 p.m.
A celebration of the life of Hazel Medina-Matz

Some of Medina-Matz's other off-Broadway credits included "The Crucible" (the Roundabout Theatre), "Nanny" (the Women's Project), "Time Out of Time" (New Federal Theatre), "The Brixton Recovery" (South Street Theatre), "The Beautiful La Salles" (Wonderhouse Theatre), "Street Sounds" (Theatre for Forgotten) and "William Five," for which she received an AUDELCO nomination for Outstanding Performance.

Amongst Medina-Matz's daytime television credits are "Loving," "As the World Turns" and "Guiding Light." Film credits include "I Think I Love My Wife," "Ten Hundred Kings," "Music of the Heart," "Shattered Trust," "Malcolm X," "Longtime Companion," "The Luckiest Man in the World," "Limbo," "Tuskegee (626)" and "The Last Tycoon."

In the early 1990s, Medina-Matz decided to pursue a second career and began working on her master's in social work from New York University.

Her decision to expand her horizon beyond the acting industry stemmed from her frustration over the lack of variety in roles for mature women of color.

As fate would have it, her position in the social work milieu--first as a part-time caseworker, then as a home care manager of the Isabella Geriatric Center until she retired in 2007--afforded Medina-Matz the opportunity to accept acting jobs, including TV roles on "Third Watch," "The Bill Cosby Show" and several appearances on "Law & Order" and "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit," as well as a recurring role on the soap opera "One Life to Live." She was also the narrator of the PBS special "From Mambo to Hip-Hop."

Medina-Matz always gave back to her community. She served as a volunteer with the Actors Fund Aids Initiative Program and the New York City Medical Reserve Corps and completed the 2004 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

Coming full circle, Medina-Matz returned to Panama in 2004 for the first time since her childhood. She was so moved by the experience that she planned to produce a documentary about what she described as "a wonderful, splendiferous and joyful experience"--a phrase that her family, friends and everyone who were blessed to know this great, generous, gorgeous, gifted giant of a woman would say described Hazel J. Medina-Matz.

The "Caribbean Lingo" column pays tribute to the brilliant Caribbean professional talent of stage and screen and art forms of the highest caliber.