Once in a while, the world experiences a persona so powerful and utterly refreshing and inspiring, the whole world falls in love with that person; sometimes, but not often, that person becomes an international symbol of humanitarianism and good will. The rarity of encountering such person in a single lifetime makes such a unique person stand out in your mind like a beacon.
In the year 1954, while right smack in the middle of rising racial tensions and imminent social change, Oprah Winfrey was born to a poor family in one of the poorest states of the union: Mississippi. When you consider Oprah’s beginnings, the odds of Oprah becoming Oprah, seems unfathomable: Born into poverty as the child of a single mother who worked as a housemaid, with the likely possibility of achieving anything great in her future appearing to be a far off shadow in the night.
I won’t trouble you to read the ending to this story since the world already knows Oprah and what she has become in life; what I will draw attention to, is the fact that Oprah is probably the most powerful woman in the world, Black or White, or of any other race. Oprah could easily forget her roots and her lowly beginnings and saunter off into her glamorous future and leave her past behind-but she didn’t. I greatly admire the fact that Oprah is still a Black woman, and obviously very proud of it; and Oprah remembers her past, and is also very proud of it.
I read the September, 2013 issue of Oprah magazine (the one with Oprah wearing a HUGE afro), and the article about Oprah’s role in the new movie, The Butler, had a paragraph from Oprah that moved me to tears. In this paragraph, Oprah recounted what the historical significance of The Butler meant to her personally. In essence, Oprah said she found herself thinking a lot about the history behind the movie and the many people that were affected by this history, including herself, the offspring of three generations of housemaids because “That was all they could be”(Oprah). The choices that are held before all of us today, for both our sons and daughters, are much better choices than those that existed during the early days of ‘The Butler’, in his real life. But what must not be forgotten is the fact that butlers and maids, and the many other hard working Americans of our pasts, are the ones who paved the way for those choices that we have today. We owe much of our hope for the future to those who lived in the past.
The need to recognize our pasts and where we come from is important, because “If you don’t know where you came from, how do you know where to go?” (Oprah, 2013)
Sara Niles Author of Torn From the Inside Out