Sunday, May 28, 2006

Oprah's Legends Ball-Toya

I watched the Oprah's Legends Ball last week with a group of eleven pretty diverse women, taking Oprah's cue to invite some of your girlfriends over for dinner and experience the program together. Some were married, some were single; two were Hispanic and one was Asian. Some got there late and so we had to watch it twice. Personally, I could watch it every week and I hope that they decide to put it on DVD.

I fear that our generation often forgets the strides and sacrifices made of those before us. I include myself in making that mistake. While watching this, I became more conscious of my purpose in this world. I became more conscious of how downright lazy I can be in setting foundations for future generations. I started to think, "God, I don't want to embarrass Cicely Tyson!". What I mean is, while viewing The Legends Ball, the following question repeatedly came to mind:

"What are YOU going to do NOW?"

The Legends (See for a full list of those honored) accomplished so much more with much fewer privileges than I have today. Privileges that I have because of their sacrifices. I felt like the last thing I would want to happen is for their work to be discredited, their overcoming their obstacles to be discounted by what I don't or won't do. Oprah said "I stand on the shoulders of these women" and she is so right! How can I strive to be any less than my best when I come from such a strong heritage of mighty women?

I also was challenged in how I love, encourage and sometimes judge other black women. One thing I noticed and appreciated was how the Legends embraced the Young'ns who paid tribute to them. The room seemed to be filled with so much love and admiration. It didn't seem as if Patti Labelle looked at Mariah and said "Why are you constantly becoming more and more naked in your videos" or like anyone shunned Janet over the whole "wardrobe malfunction" thing. While the world thinks we are only as good as our last mistake, I noticed that in black culture, we usually stick by our own. For instance, say all you want about Diana Ross' recent run ins with the law but you cannot deny her Legend or Dionne Warwick's or Janet Jackson's. These are all women who have paved the way for so many but it seems that the only time they get wide recognition as of late is when they have done something wrong.

And then there is the way we treat one another. So many times us "bourgeois" (translation "boojy") sistas look down on those females that we feel embarrass us. I am just being real. Instead we need to love on these women because a lot of women regardless of race act out out of self hatred and a lack of identity. Some just don't know any better. For instance, I was at an open mic recently and there was a beautiful black woman very scantily clad. I saw guys walk up to her and as she flirted with them I thought "Does she even realize that they are not the least bit concerned with what is coming out of her mouth?" I mean the sista was bad and a lot of times we as women see women like this and start hatin'. We get embarrassed and we look down at women that act like she did to get attention. The thing is when we do that, we influence that type of mentality because the only way to combat that behavior is through loving kindness and affirmation. We can't give that to each other hatin'.

I made up my mind that I was not going to put another black woman on blast on this site without REALLY giving it some thought and doing it in a constructive manner (which is why Toni Braxton came away unscathed after her ridiculous performance on American Idol last week. Trust me, she got a away with murder cause I was PISSED). The reason being is that it is an amazingly frightening, rewarding, burdensome, delightful thing to be a black woman. We are so loved, desired, and detested all at the same time. Being a black woman is particularly hard because it only takes a few people to perpetuate a stereotype to the masses for the majority to think that every black woman is a certain way. Case in point, I remember working as a receptionist and a coworker commented that I "just speak so well". They way she said this you would have thought that I walked around casually speaking in the Queen's english instead of just everyday proper english. She seemed to be very impressed and surprised. This is because most people don't look immediately look at a black woman my age and expect her to act like Maya Angelou or have the poise of Phylicia Rashad. Now I am not saying that I act like either however I one day aspired to have at least a fourth of their class and poise. It's just these are not the standards that a lot of people are quick to compare black women too. No, they expect us to act like what the media has made us out to be:uneducated, loud, sex crazed and greedy. We owe it to the ones before us, our peers and future generations to overcome these expectations by living up to our full potentials and encouraging one another in love to live up to theirs.

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