Akeelah and the Bee

Eleven-year-old Akeelah Anderson (Keke Palmer) has a way with words—a way to spell them, to be precise. With an obsession for Scrabble and complicated vocabulary words that was instilled in her by her now deceased father, Akeelah has a linguistic talent that’s pretty unique for a middle schooler in South Central Los Angeles. But being a “brainiac” is something kids in her school get bullied, not applauded, for. Her overworked and overstressed mother Tanya (Angela Bassett) has no patience for Akeelah’s extracurricular spelling activities. However, Akeelah’s school principal recognizes her potential and is determined to get her to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., with the help of a UCLA English professor—and former spelling bee competitor—named Dr. Joshua Larabee (Laurence Fishburne). After a slightly rocky start, Dr. Larabee agrees to be her coach, taking her from local to district to regional spelling bees, in pursuit of the ultimate national title (against some intense competition). The obstacles to that pinnacle of spelling success are numerous, but Akeelah’s fierce determination is a force powerful enough to transcend socioeconomic class and inspire an entire community. For Akeelah, the most important thing she must learn is not how to spell pulchritude or xanthosis but that the help she needs to fulfill her dream lies not just inside herself but all around her.

— Joanne Parsont

Co-presented by:
Hayward Unified School District
Oakland Unified School District
Our Family Coalition
San Francisco Unified School District

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