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Publication Date

January 2007


INTRODUCTION I had just finished reading The Legends Who Lunch: A Weekend of Glory at Promised Land, an article in Oprah Winfrey's magazine.' The article gave an account of a weekend at Oprah's place in California-a weekend in which Oprah honored the black women who paved the way for her success.2 The weekend was devoted to those courageous black women who allowed for the possibility of realizing potential and who simply opened fans to the possibility of allowing ourselves to believe, if only for a second, that we could do anything. This article resonated with me. I sat crying on the steps of my deck, my children playing loudly in their new inflatable pool, all of us oblivious to the 100-degree August heat. I looked over and over again at the centerfold of fifty-four gorgeous black women of every shape, color, and size, thinking, "this is the most beautiful image I have ever seen." I resolved to take this image to my office, to tape it up so that I could draw strength from it when I felt like I was drowning in a sea of whiteness, maleness, or both.3 I would draw strength from those powerful women including Diahann Carroll, Roberta Flack, Coretta Scott King, Della Reese, Cicely Tyson, Ruby Dee, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross, Kathleen Battle, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Judith Jamison, Anna Deavere Smith, Angela Bassett, Melba Moore, Suzan-Lori Parks, Patti LaBelle, and Maya Angelou,4 after whom we named our daughter. These women achieved so much, seemingly unscathed. I acknowledge, however, the impossibility of their not having some wounds-invisible damage affecting the mind and spirit. In fact, it was likely those battle scars that connected them to each other on some level and which also connected me to them, if only through admiration of their survival from afar. Their glorious images resonated with me, transfixed and transported me so that I too basked in their celebration and felt that anything was possible. I read and reread the article; I was especially moved by Pearl Cleage's poem We Speak Your Names, which Oprah commissioned.

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