The “blaxploitation” films of the early seventies were not black films. They had nothing to do with being black for the most part, they looked inside the black community, found the lowest elements and emboldened them. Distorted them! The result of that distortion has been a confirmation in the minds of most whites that our people are thugs and exploiters — loveless, lustful and shallow as hell. - Maya Angelou
From the article:
Nina Simone - Her involvement in civil rights was spurred by an incident at her first classical piano recital at age 12. During the recital, her parents sat in seats in the front of the building to see her play, but were told to move to the back to make way for white guests. She wasn’t having that though. The young girl refused to perform until her parents were moved back to the front. Ahhh, to be young, gifted and black.
Grace Jones - Did you know that model Grace Jones was supposed to be an X-Men character? Not literally, but the character of Dazzler, a mutant able to convert sound vibrations into light and energy beams (what fun is that?) was initially supposed to be a disco singer. This character was to be made in the image of crazy (but cool) Grace Jones, with the bald fade and all by illustrator John Romita, Jr. However, those in charge wanted to promote model Bo Derek instead, and modeled the character after her. How dope would a singing superhero who looked like Grace be? “DO YOU THINK I’M SEXYYYYYY???”
Phylicia Rashad - After years of being Clair Huxtable, a role that garnered her Emmy nominations but no wins, Rashad took her talents to Broadway, where she finally won a much deserved award. In 2004, she was the first black woman to win a Tony Award for a dramatic lead on Broadway as loyal mother Lena Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun.”
Diahann Carroll - Before there were shows like Moesha, Girlfriends, and the likes (with black female leads), there was Julia. Diahann Carroll was the first black woman to be the star of an American television show in 1968 without having to play a maid or any other stereotypical role. Julia was a pretty big deal too, winning her a Golden Globe for best female TV star in 1969.
Maya Angelou - As a friend and coordinator for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, when Dr. King was killed on her birthday (April 4, 1968), she said she found herself unable to celebrate her birthday from then on. As a hero to her, she was very impacted by his death. Therefore, on her birthday, for many years, she instead decided to send flowers to Coretta Scott King every year until her death in 2006.
Condoleezza Rice - If you didn’t know, Condoleezza Rice is pretty awesome. Not only is she a talented and accomplished pianist who backed everyone from Aretha Franklin to Yo-Yo Ma, but on top of that, Rice is an exceptionally intelligent woman as well. She entered college at the age of 15, getting her Bachelor’s cum laude from the University of Denver at the age of 19. And after that success, she went on to be an assistant professor at Stanford by age 26. Yikes! I guess I should step my game up…
Octavia Butler - Science fiction writer Octavia Butler, author of the brilliant book Kindred, the Patternist series (which brought usWild Seed), and many other notable works was diagnosed as being dyslexic as a child. Despite all that, she tried her hand at writing as a young girl, and eventually solidified her love for science fiction as a pre-teen. What a blessing for her to be able to create such amazing works after all that, and despite her alleged disorder, she won numerous awards for her work.
Barbara Jordan - Known as the first black woman to serve on the Texas Senate, and later for being the first black woman from the “Deep South” to serve on the House of Representatives, Barbara Jordan was also a national champion debater. At Texas Southern University, which was all black at the time, in 1954, with Barbara Jordan at the helm, debate team defeated folks at Yale and even tied Harvard University in the battle of words–the latter was said to be one of her proudest moments in college. She later graduated magna cum laude from TSU.
Chaka Khan - Were you a fan of Reading Rainbow back in the day? I bet you 50 cents (that’s all I’ve got) that you probably didn’t know Chaka Khan was one of the lucky performers to sing the popular theme song to the show: “Butterfly in the skyyyyyyyy, I can go twice as hiiiiiiiiiiigh!” Though she wasn’t the first to sing the track, it’s pretty safe to say that she did it the funkiest! Love her, love the show, and I loved her rendition of the song. Chaka love the kids.
“I love wisdom. And you can never be great at anything unless you love it. Not be in love with it, but love the thing, admire the thing. And it seems that if you love the thing, and you don’t just want to possess it, it will find you. But if you’re in love with the thing, it may run like hell away from you…”
- Maya Angelou
Oprah: The big question I have for you is this: Where did your confidence come from? I’ve never seen anybody who exudes more confidence than you, and I don’t mean false, modest bravado, but from the inside out, you’ve got the stuff.
Maya: There are so many gifts, so many blessings, so many sources that I can’t say any one thing—unless that one thing is love. By love I don’t mean indulgence. I do not mean sentimentality. And in this instance, I don’t even mean romance. I mean that condition that allowed humans to dream of God. To make it. To imagine golden roads. That condition that allowed the “dumb” to write spirituals and Russian songs and Irish lilts. That is love, and it’s so much larger than anything I can conceive. It may be the element that keeps the stars in the firmament. And that love, and its many ways of coming into my life, has given me a great deal of confidence about life.
Oprah: So when you walk into a room and heads turn, it’s not just confidence in yourself that we see?
Maya: Oh, no. That’s why, though I was never pretty, I did command something—because of my reliance on life.
Oprah: When we see you, we’re seeing all of your history.
Maya: That’s right—all of my history as an African-American woman, as a Jewish woman, as a Muslim woman. I’m bringing everything I ever knew [and all the stories I’ve read]—everything good, strong, kind and powerful. I bring it all with me into every situation, and I will not allow my life to be minimized by anybody’s racism or sexism or ageism. I will not. So I will take the Scandinavian story of the little princess, I will take the story of Heidi in the Alpine mountains, I will take the story of O-Lan in Pearl S. Buck’s book The Good Earth, I will take them all. I take them, and I know them, and I am them. So when I walk into a room, people know that somebody has come in—they just don’t know it’s 2,000 people!
Oprah: How do you remain connected to those who came before you?
Maya: I have the blessing of seeing our connection and the courage to admit what I see. Timidity makes a person modest. It makes him or her say, “I’m not worthy of being written up in the record of deeds in heaven or on earth.” Timidity keeps people from their good. They are afraid to say, “Yes, I deserve it.”
Oprah: I know you don’t believe in modesty.
Maya: I hate it. It makes me wary. Modesty is a learned affectation. And as soon as life slams the modest person against the wall, that modesty drops.
Oprah: So when you hear someone being modest….
Maya: I run like hell. The minute you say to a singer, “Would you sing?” and they say, “Oh, no. I can’t sing here,” I say, “Oops! I wonder, where is that train to Bangkok?”
Maya: Because that person is not reliable. She may not know it, but modesty speaks volumes about falseness.
(credit: Oprah magazine, December 2000)
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
- Maya Angelou