I am a black woman. I’m free. I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody…~Lena Horne.
On an usually restless night, I checked my Twitter feed and learned that Lena Horne passed away yesterday. She was 92 years old and has a legacy that made it acceptable to be black and beautiful in Hollywood, not to mention her very active role in the fight for racial equality. Even with all this, I was stunned by the news. In less than five years time, so many souls that exemplified the beauty, talent and grace of Black people have moved on to the spirit world: Ozzie Davis, James Brown, Eartha Kitt, just to name a few. Although all of these people were around an age where it is socially acceptable to die, these deaths are a reminder that we can’t continue to rest on the shoulders of those who have pushed us up. I think I always took for granted that there would be a Lena Horne that I can show to our children, to teach them about the time we were Negroes, and however unfair it was, we understood that the best or worse of us, as a people, would reflect on all of us.
Let’s be motivated by our legends, but as Ms. Horne put it so perfectly, let us be representatives for ourselves. Ms. Horne fought so that black people could be valued as individuals, and not as credits or deficits of our “race.” Be a credit to yourself today.
Below are some of my favorite videos featuring Lena Horne:
Ms. Horne teaches Grover how to overcome shyness
Ms. Horne serenades Cliff and Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show