What Oprah didn’t do

Ashley J.H.
Jan 9, 2018 · 3 min read

She didn’t hang around jobs that didn’t want her.

She didn’t fold into herself when told she would fail.

She didn’t gather her success to herself and sit at the head of an empty table.

She didn’t concede when her network struggled to find its rhythm its first year.

She didn’t accept less than the highest vision for her life.

She didn’t give her platform over to vanity and the temporal thing.

She didn’t wait.


Oprah Winfrey has been a quiet staple in my family since I was a child like tandem photos of Jesus and Martin Luther King in so many Black homes fifty years ago. Growing up, at least a few times per month, she was the topic of conversation. Everything from the guests on her show, to her faith views, to her titanic rise in television at a time when it just was unfathomable for a Black woman.

I didn’t fully recognize her quiet effect on the nuances of my life until I watched her accept the Cecil B. Demille Award as the first Black woman to do so. At every oratorically impeccable turn of her speech the only words I could think were,

“That is the objective.”

That is the objective. Not just what she has become symbolically but how she has co-created with God, a life void of the refuse of waiting and begging and hoping and wishing. She didn’t ‘bloom where she was planted.’ She moved and evolved and stretched and struggled and attained and blossomed anywhere, everywhere she felt called. That kind of realization is titanic for Black girls and women in the Now time.

Can you imagine if Oprah had stayed where she was not wanted?

If ever there was a living, breathing testament to the meaning of “unbought and unbossed” in my lifetime, Oprah is it. Oprah has become a definition.

This is not yet another attempt to deify a Black woman for a single charismatic moment. This is a reflection on what a single, determined female life can accomplish.

We do not have to make do with what has been thrown at or onto us. Our ancestors who lived that story have gone on. We can bless the roads they walked and the life they lived but we are here, now. We have options. We can weigh them and choose to become she who defies and fulfills and builds up and blossoms anywhere, everywhere.

Where there is vision, there is room. We can leave what does not call forth the best of who we are. We can create what has only ever been imagined. We can become architects of the kind of life that commands a room of thousands to listen to us tell the story of vindication from oppression, because we kowtow to no one. We can live lives that do more than turn heads. We can live lives that turn this world upside down with change. We can create space for those who are willing to do the work. We, with a whole lot of faith and grit, can blossom wherever we are called. We are planted nowhere that does not serve us.

Women whose names and faces have brightened the pages of history books the world over did not wait. They did not give themselves over to the mundane or mediocre.

Neither must we.

Ashley J.H.

Written by

Writer + producer at the crash site of inspiration + culture. Writing and living the years that answer.

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