Known widely for her appearances in the films Hoodlum and Barbershop 2: Back in Business. In 2015, she portrayed Olympia in Spike Lee's film Chi-Raq.
She graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 1973 with a degree in theater. She made her on-screen debut in 1975 in the film Cooley High.
She is the founder and co-artistic director of the Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago, Illinois, where she has produced over 100 new plays. In 1984, she earned a Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in A Raisin in the Sun at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, Illinois.
She was born and raised in the Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago, Illinois.
She considered fellow Chicagoan Roger Ebert to be a close friend of hers before his passing.