Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Monday, February 8, 2010

Talkin' `bout fire doesn't boil the pot. (US Black Communities)

1986 - Oprah Winfrey became first Black woman to host nationally syndicated television talk show.

Oprah's talk has certainly kept a lot of fires burning and pots boiling!

On this date, 24 years ago, that she syndicated her programme. She started out at age 19 as a news anchor and moved on to a talk show. When she proved what she could do and moved that talk show to the top of the ratings, she left it behind. She plunged right, set up her own company, and went not just national but international as well. She used talk to create a talk show format that was tabloid, and then to recreate the format into something upscale, spiritual, uplifting.

She introduced media persons to the possibility of showing emotion and being the news as distinct from reporting the news. She makes news because she is an example of a success story. Here is someone who was born to a teenage mother in a country area of Mississippi, one of the poorest states. Father is absent, and for a while mother is absent too, and grandmother raises Oprah. So far the story is typical for a lot of people. Perhaps too many people I can think of in Jamaica where I live. She is sexually abused as a child, and too many women can identify with that as well. Just when it seems the story can’t get sadder or more typical, she gets pregnant when she is 14 years old. For some, all these circumstances indicate a sure downward slide. But not for Oprah.

Her seeming imperfections add to her popularity. She shared her struggles (and occasional victories) with her weight. She admitted that an author, whose book she promoted, misled her when his memoir turned out to be fiction. When the school she set up in South Africa had a scandal, she used that as an opportunity to address broader issues of abuse of women.

Talk helped Oprah to become America’s richest Black woman of the twentieth century. She used her wealth and her influence to support social causes such as education in South Africa and relief for survivors in New Orleans after the drowning of their city. The high point for most authors is Oprah's choosing their book for her Book Club. She has launched the media careers of persons such as Dr Phil and Dr Oz.

Next year, on the 25th anniversary of her show, she plans to leave it behind and invent herself again. To me, she is a prime example of having the courage and the vision to take charge of God-given talents. And having the wisdom to move on when the time is right.

She certainly proves that talkn' and actin' keep the fires burnin' and the pots boilin'.

Also on this date in:

1899 - Alonzo "Lonnie" Johnson, jazz singer/guitarist who pioneered the role of jazz guitar and is recognized as the first to play single-string guitar solos, was born.

1944: Harry S. McAlpin was the first African-American journalist admitted to a White House press conference.

1995 - Bernard Harris became the first African-American to walk in space

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When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at