An Open Letter to Oprah

Dear Ms. Oprah Winfrey,

I may never know if this ever reaches you, but I felt compelled to say Thank You for the Legends weekend you designed in 2005. After seeing the “Legends Ball” television special being aired on OWN this weekend as a part of the honor series to Dr. Maya Angelou, I felt that this was something I did not want to miss. When the Legends Ball came together in 2005, I was 14 and familiar with it through my admiration of you and avid watching of your talk show. At that time, I knew that weekend would be something of great impact. Now, as I am 22 years old and a recent college graduate about to travel into a new journey, the Legends Ball television special hit a deeper place in my heart with so much more significance. I take great care in educating and admiring those who came before me, especially African-American women, and as a young Black woman myself, they are the ones I have always emphasized most and praise on a daily basis. The women you chose to celebrate as Legends, I see in the same way. Diahann Carroll, Patti Labelle, Della Reese, Dr. Maya Angelou, Cicely Tyson, Nancy Wilson, Coretta Scott King, Ruby Dee: these are some of the names I have held in high regard because of their strength, grace, and talent that were able to knock down barriers that needed knocking. But it was when I saw the images of the Young’ins that I started to think if this would ever happen again? Because the same women that celebrated these Legends in 2005 have now transformed into Legends in their own right for women today. Halle Berry, Phylicia Rashad, Debbie Allen, Alicia Keys, Angela Bassett, Audra McDonald, First Lady Michelle Obama, Chaka Khan, Oprah Winfrey: those names are the ones my generation speaks along with the previously celebrated Legends because of their accomplishments within our lifetime. And as the circle spins, I see more Black women who are maintaining the upkeep and standards in arts, entertainment and civil rights that the Legends introduced first. Viola Davis, Ava DuVernay, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jill Scott, Nicole Beharie, Mara Brock Akil, Shonda Rhimes, Misty Copeland, Lupita Nyong’o, Kerry Washington: just a few of the ones that I see symbolizing a new group of “young’ins”. Although I believe that special weekend you put together 9 years ago was a “once in a lifetime moment”, I can also see it being a “once in a decade” special event. In times like these and with younger generations, we still do not find as much public appreciation for ones with such impactful careers, especially for women of color. So when I see events like this or the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, I want to see more of them because they ultimately become a celebration of love for these Black women and their tremendous work. Because this kind of celebration goes beyond the attendees and honorees, but also to the person like me watching in their bed floored by a scene of Audra McDonald following behind Alicia Keys off the trolley towards the landscape picture or Nancy Wilson and Phylicia Rashad exchanging laughs, knowing that they once sang together on an episode of “The Cosby Show” or Dr. Maya Angelou and Leontyne Price shedding tears of appreciation during the Young’ins’ reading of the moving “We Speak Your Names” poem by Pearl Cleage, twice. It brings together a group that although sometimes unnoticed, persist to make giant strides that showcase all our capabilities and strengths. It brings attention back to those who have set milestones and heights that we must continue to reach. Watching the special seemed to be divine intervention for myself and I just want to say thank you again for thinking beyond a missed guest to your birthday party to put on a necessary event. I hope to see, be a part, or even a fly on the wall of another Legends Ball in the future.

 

With great gratitude,

Stephanie


Pictured above: (From Left to Right) [Top Row] Tyra Banks, Missy Elliott, Ashanti, Brandy Norwood, Kathleen Battle, Kimberly Elise, Alfre Woodard, Gayle King, Patti Labelle*, Halle Berry, Phylicia Rashad, Judith Jamison, Anna Deavere Smith, Beverly Johnson [Middle Section] Melba Moore, Angela Bassett, Terry McMillian, Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Audra McDonald, Diahann Carroll*, Alicia Keys, Shirley Caesar*, Dr. Maya Angelou*, Roberta Flack*, Gladys Knight*, Oprah Winfrey, Naomi Simms*, Nancy Wilson*, Coretta Scott King*, Elizabth Catlett*, Pearl Cleage, Leontyne Price*, Pam Grier, Dr. Dorothy Height*, Susan L. Taylor, Debbie Allen, Yolanda Adams, Darnell Martin, Valerie Simpson, Naomi Campbell [Bottom Row] Iman, Michelle Obama, Chaka Khan, Suzan Lori-Parks, Suzanne de Passe, Della Reese*, Cicely Tyson*, Ruby Dee*, Tina Turner*, Diana Ross*, Dionne Warwick*, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson
(*Legends)

If you have not seen the special, thankfully I found it online:
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