Valued by God

Devotions for Women header 1

Luke 15:8-10

Just recently I watched the movie, “The Wedding” with Halle Berry.  There was a scene when she went to the beach for a swim.  She took off her engagement ring and put it in her blouse.  When she went back, she couldn’t find it.  Frantic, she felt around in the sand and when her fingers closed over, her face filled with joy and relief.  The ring was precious to her.

In this parable a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.  She could have easily have been happy that she still had nine coins but that one coin meant a lot to her.  She went to great lengths to find it.  She lit a lamp, swept the house and searched diligently for it.  She searched and searched until she found it.  When she found it, she was so happy that she had to tell her friends about it.  She wanted them to share in her joy.  She had lost and then found she valued.

It is the same with God.  He doesn’t stop caring for the person who is lost.  It is His will that that the lost person repents and returns to Him.  When this happens, He rejoices.  He welcomes the person joyfully and celebrates.  It should be the same for us.  We should be celebrating, not complaining when the lost is found and returns to the church.  We were once lost too and God sent someone to find us, a friend perhaps as in my case, or a loved one or neighbor or co-worker and there was celebration in heaven that day when we were found.  We are of great value to God.  We are precious in His sight.  Like the woman with the coin, He will not give up on us.  He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Do you know someone who has stopped attending church?  Have you reached out to that person?  Ask God to help you to demonstrate love, acceptance and genuine concern for this former church member.   Remember this person is valued by God.

Making History at the Emmys

The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is simply opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.

Viola Davis made history at the Emmys on Sunday night when she won the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role in How to Get Away With Murder.  The award show has been around for 67 years but this is the first time an African American actress has won for this category.  This was long overdue.

I was very disappointed when I read Nancy Lee Grahn’s tweets about Viola’s moving acceptance speech.  I was a fan of hers when she was on the soap opera Santa Barbara.  In her tweets, she belittled Viola. After mentioning that she has been an actress for 40 years, she wrote in a now deleted tweet, “None of us get respect or opportunity we deserve. Emmys not venue 4 racial opportunity. ALL women belittled.”

She even suggested that Viola hasn’t experienced discrimination in Hollywood.  She tweeted a fan,  “I think she’s the bees knees but she’s elite of TV performers.  Brilliant as she is.  She has never been discriminated against.”

It saddens me when women put each other down.  Nancy doesn’t know what it’s like for a person to be discriminated because of race. It took 50 years before Whoopi Goldberg became the second African American actress to win the second Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role since Hattie McDaniel won the first one in 1940. And the Oscars has been around for over 80 years and it was not that long ago when Halle Berry became the first African American actress to win for Best Actress.  The talent is there but the opportunities are not.  So, winning this award was a very big deal for Viola and for Nancy to put her down instead of supporting her was in poor taste.

Nancy has since issued an apology following a backlash on the Internet.   “I never mean to diminish her accomplishment. I wish I could get her roles. She is a goddess. I want equality 4 ALL women, not just actors,” she wrote. “I apologize 2 anyone who I offended. I’m women advocate since I became one. After reading responses, I hear u and my tweet was badly phrased.”  This apology was followed by another.

“I apologize for my earlier tweets and now realize I need to check my own privilege,” Grahn wrote. “My intention was not to take this historic and important moment from Viola Davis or other women of color but I realize that my intention doesn’t matter here because that is what I ended up doing. I learned a lot tonight and I admit that there are still some things I don’t understand but I am trying to and will let this be a learning experience for me.”

I hope that she has learned from this and will be careful not to use social media to tear another person down.  Some things are better kept to yourself.

Notes to Women congratulates Viola Davis on her historic win.

Source:  US Magazine

Lena Horne

In celebration of Black History Month, Notes to Women are going to celebrate a few notable women.  We begin with singer, actress, Lena Horne.

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born in Bedford-sTuyvesant, Brooklyn.  Her father, Edwin Fletcher Horne left the family when she was three years old.  Her mother was the daughter of inventor Samuel R. Scottron.  She was an actress with a black theatre troupe and travelled extensively.  Lena was raised by her grandparents.  When she was five, she was sent to Georgia to live.  For seeral years she travelled with her mother.  For two years, she lived with her uncle who would later serve as an adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

At the age of sixteen, Lena joined the chorus of the Cotton Club and became a nightclub performer before she moved to Hollywood.  In Hollywood she had small parts in movies, notably Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather.  She was never cast in a leading role because of her race and the films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theatres would not show films with black performers.  Interestingly enough, Lena was the first African American elected to serve on the Screen Actors Guild board of directors.

In 1951, Lena wanted to be considered for the role of Julie LaVerne in the MGM’s version of Show Boat but lost the part to her friend, Ava Gardner due to the Production Code’s ban on interracial relationships in films. Lena stated in the documentary, That’s Entertainment! III that MGM executives wanted Ava Gardner to practice her singing using Lena’s recordings. Both actresses were offended by this.

Not surprisingly, Lena was disenchanted with Hollywood and she began to focus more on her nightclub career.  She made two major appearances in MGM films in the 1950s, Duchess of Idaho and Meet Me in Las Vegas.  It was during this time that she was blacklisted for her political views.

After she left Hollywood, Lena made waves as one of the premier nightclub performers of the post-war era.  She headlined clubs and hotels throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.  In 1958, she was the first African American woman to be nominated for a Tony Award for “Best Actress in a Musical”.  She appeared in variety shows on TV such as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dean Martin Show and The Judy Garland Show and in 1969., she starred in her own television special, Monsanto Night Presents Lena Horne.

In 1970, she co-starred with Harry Belafonte in ABC’s show, Harry & Lena and in 1973 with Tony Bennett in Tony and Lena.  She toured the U.S. and U.K. with Bennett.  In 1981, she received a special Tony Award for her one-woman show, Lena Horne:  The Lady and Her Music.  In the 1990s she was active in the recording studio.

Lena was also a Civil Rights activist.  She was involved in the movement for years.  In 1941, she sang at Cafe Society and Paul Robeson, another blacklisted performer.  During World War II, Lena refused to perfom for segregated audiences or for groups where German POWS were sitting in front of African American servicemen.  The U.S. Army refused to have integrated audiences so Lena ended up putting on a show for a mixed audience of black U.S. soldiers and white German POWs.  When she saw that the black soldiers were forced to sit in the back seats, she walked off the stage to the first row where they were seated and performed with the German POWs behind her.  Way to go Lena!

She was a participant at an NAACP rally with Medgar Evers the weekend before he was assassinated and she met John F. Kennedy at the White House two days before he was assassinated.  She participated at the March on Washington where she spoke and performed on behalf of the NAACP, SNCC adn the National Council of Negro Women.  She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt, another champion of civil rights, to pass anti-lynching laws.  She received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in 1983.

On a more personal note, Lena was married to Louis Jordan Jones.  They had a daughter and a son.  Sadly, their son died of a kidney disease.  In 1940, Lena and her husband separated.  They divorced in 1944.  In 1947, she remarried.  Her second husband was Lennie Hayton, Music Director and one of the premier musical conductors and arrangers at MGM.  In the early 1960s they separated but never divorced.  Lennie died in 1971.  In her biography, Lena, she recalled the pressures they faced as an interracial couple.  She admitted that she married him to advance her career and cross the “color line” in show business but had learned to love him very much.

Fame runs in the family.  Lena’s daughter, Gail, a best-selling author, was married to director, Sidney Lumet.  Their daughter, Jenny Lumet, a screenwriter, is known for her award winning screenplay, Rachel Getting Married.

On May 9, 2010, Lena Horne died in New York city of heart failure.  Among those gathered to pay their respects at her funeral were Leontyne Price, Dionne Warwick, Liza Minnelli, Jessye Norman, Chita Rivera, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Leslie Uggams and Lauren Bacall.  At the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony held on February 27, 2011, actress Halle Berry presented a tribute to Lena.

Notes to Women salute this phenomenal woman who was not afraid to speak out against racism and was the first African-American actress to have a major studio contract with the stipulation that she would not have to play any demeaning, stereotypical roles.  In doing this, she paved the way for other African American actresses.

In my early days I was a sepia Hedy Lamarr. Now I’m black and a woman, singing my own way.

I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept. I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked.

Always be smarter than the people who hire you

It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.

My identity is very clear to me now, I am a black woman, I’m not alone, I’m free. I say I’m free because I no longer have to be a credit, I don’t have to be a symbol to anybody; I don’t have to be a first to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.

You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.

I never considered myself a movie star. Mostly, I just sang songs in other people’s movies.

 

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Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lena_Horne; http://womenshistory.about.com/cs/quotes/a/qu_lena_horne.htm; http://www.qotd.org/quotes/Lena.Horne; http://www.blackclassicmovies.com/Artist_Profile/lena_horne.html; http://www.biography.com/#!/people/lena-horne-9344086; http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0395043/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

Hattie McDaniel

I never knew about Hattie McDaniel until I saw her in Gone With the Wind.  She made history when she won an Oscar for playing Mammy in the Academy award winner for best picture.  She was the first African American to do so.  In her acceptance speech, she said, “I sincerely hope that I shall always be a credit to my race, and to the motion picture industry.”  Well, Ms. McDaniel, you are and will always be a credit to your race because you have opened doors for stars like Sidney Poitier, Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Monique and most recently Octavia Spencer.

McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood: one for her contributions to radio at 6933 Hollywood Boulevard, and one for motion pictures at 1719 Vine Street. In 1975, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and in 2006 became the first black Oscar winner honored with a US postage stamp.

In addition to having acted in many films, McDaniel was a professional singer-songwriter, comedian, stage actress, radio performer, and television star. Hattie McDaniel was in fact the first black woman to sing on the radio in America. Over the course of her career, McDaniel appeared in over 300 films, although she received screen credits for only about 80. She gained the respect of the African American show business community with her generosity, elegance, and charm.

Hattie McDaniel was born June 10, 1895, in Wichita, Kansas, to former slaves. She was the youngest of 13 children. Her father, Henry McDaniel, fought in the Civil War with the 122nd USCT and her mother, Susan Holbert, was a singer of religious music. In 1900, the family moved to Colorado, living first in Fort Collins and then in Denver, where Hattie graduated from Denver East High School. Her brother, Sam McDaniel (1886–1962), played the butler in the 1948 Three Stooges’ short film Heavenly Daze. Another acting sibling of Hattie and Sam was actress Etta McDaniel.

In McDaniel’s time, America was segregated in virtually every respect in terms of race. In the South, blacks were barred by law from attending school with whites and subjected to segregation in all other public places Even outside the South, many restaurants and hotels refused to accept black customers. Job opportunities were limited. Custom or restrictive covenants kept blacks from living in “white” neighborhoods. Marriage between blacks and whites was illegal in most states of the United States. The United States military required blacks to serve in all-black regiments. Black Americans also faced the terrorism of lynch mobs without the assurance of federal or state protection. Indeed, in 2005, the U.S. Congress issued an apology for the federal government’s failure to enact lynching legislation to protect blacks in that era.  I will never forget the scene in the movie about Dorothy Dandridge, starring Halle Berry, where the pool at the hotel where she was staying was drained because she dipped her foot in the water.  And insult to injury, African American men were the ones cleaning the pool.  How hurtful that must have been for Dorothy.

The field of entertainment emerged as a profession in which blacks were allowed to reach white and black customers. Still, however, the success of black entertainers and their ability to rise into ownership and management was limited by racial restrictions. Often, many of the same places that allowed blacks to be on stage, did not allow them to sit in the audience as patrons.  State laws allowing discrimination and requiring segregation assured that black entertainers were not allowed the same benefits and opportunities as white ones. Black actors were cast repeatedly in menial roles and were consistently required to speak in contrived stereotypical “Negro dialects.” If black actors did not know how to speak that way, they had to learn to in order to succeed in Hollywood. Movie houses often hired white dialect coaches to teach the so-called “Negro dialect.” 

I hated the way the blacks talked in movies.  It degraded them and made them seem ignorant.  And they were always bowing and shuffling and their eyes wide open as if they were having a fright.  Here are a few examples of words considered “Negro dialect”: ah for I, poe for poor, hit for it, tuh for to, wuz for was, baid for bed, daid for dead, mah for my, ovah for over, wha for where, ifn for if, fiuh or fiah for fire, yo’ for you, cot for caught, kin’ for kind, cose for ’cause, and tho’t for thought.  What?!?

I learnt that the competition to play Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939) had been almost as stiff as that for Scarlett O’Hara. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to film producer David O. Selznick to ask that her own maid, Elizabeth McDuffie, be given the part.  McDaniel did not think she would be chosen, because she was known for being a comic actress. One source claims that Clark Gable recommended the role go to McDaniel; when she went to her audition dressed in an authentic maid’s uniform, she won the part.  Clark Gable and Hattie McDaniel became very good friends.   When the date of the Atlanta premiere approached, all the black actors were barred from attending and excluded from being in the souvenir program as well as southern advertising for the film. David Selznick had attempted to bring Hattie McDaniel, but MGM advised him not to because of Georgia’s segregationist laws. Clark Gable angrily threatened to boycott the Atlanta premiere unless McDaniel was allowed to attend, but McDaniel convinced him to attend anyway.  Hattie and her escort were seated at a segregated table for two, apart from her Gone with the Wind colleagues and her colleagues in the motion picture industry, a painful reminder of how far the industry and the country had yet to go in overcoming racism.

The Twelfth Academy Awards took place at the Cocoanut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. It was preceded by a banquet in the same room. Louella Parsons, an American gossip columnist, wrote about Oscar night, February 29, 1940:

“Hattie McDaniel earned that gold Oscar, by her fine performance of “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind. If you had seen her face when she walked up to the platform and took the gold trophy, you would have had the choke in your voice that all of us had when Hattie, hair trimmed with gardenias, face alight, and dress up to the queen’s taste, accepted the honor in one of the finest speeches ever given on the Academy floor. …

Hattie did look wonderful and she was deeply humbled.  She said, “Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, fellow members of the motion picture industry and honored guests: This is one of the happiest moments of my life, and I want to thank each one of you who had a part in selecting me for one of their awards, for your kindness. It has made me feel very, very humble; and I shall always hold it as a beacon for anything that I may be able to do in the future. ”

Hattie was also known for her community service work.  During World War II. She was appointed the Chair of the “Negro Division” of the Hollywood Victory Committee, providing entertainment for soldiers stationed at military bases. (The military was segregated and black entertainers were not allowed to serve on white entertainment committees.) She asked her friend actor Leigh Whipper and other well known black entertainers to join her Negro Division Victory committee. She also put in numerous personal appearances to hospitals, threw parties, performed at United Service Organizations (USO) shows and war bond rallies, to raise funds to support the war, on behalf of the Victory Committee.  Bette Davis also performed for black regiments as the only white member of an acting troupe formed by Hattie McDaniel, that also included Lena Horne and Ethel Waters.  She was also a member of American Women’s Voluntary Services.

She joined actor Clarence Muse, one of the earliest black members of the Screen Actors Guild, for an NBC radio broadcast to raise funds for Red Cross relief programs for Americans, who had been displaced by devastating floods. She gained a reputation for generous giving, often feeding and lending money to friends and stranger alike.

Hattie was married four times.  When she was married to James Lloyd Crawford, she happily informed gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in 1945 that she was pregnant. McDaniel began buying baby clothes and setting up a nursery. Her plans were shattered when the doctor informed her she had a false pregnancy; McDaniel fell into a depression. She never had any children. She divorced Crawford in 1945, after four and a half years of marriage. She said he was jealous of her career and once threatened to kill her.  Hattie  befriended several of Hollywood’s most popular stars, including Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, Shirley Temple, Henry Fonda, Ronald Reagan, Olivia de Havilland and Clark Gable (as I mentioned earlier).

Hattie died at age 57 from breast cancer, in the hospital on the grounds of the Motion Picture House in Woodland Hills, on October 26, 1952. She was childless and was divorced from her fourth husband. She was survived by her brother, Sam McDaniel. Thousands of mourners turned out to remember her life and accomplishments. In her will, McDaniel wrote: “I desire a white casket and a white shroud; white gardenias in my hair and in my hands, together with a white gardenia blanket and a pillow of red roses. I also wish to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery”. The Hollywood Cemetery on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood was the resting place of movie stars such as Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, and others. Hollywood Cemetery refused to allow her to be buried there, because it, too, practiced racial segregation. It did not accept the bodies of black people. Her second choice was Rosedale Cemetery, where she lies today. 

Notes to Women celebrate and remembers this resilient woman, gifted actress and beacon of hope for other African Americans.  She left behind two legacies–her contributions to radio and the movie industry.   She was not opposed to playing menial roles.  She reportedly said,”Why should I complain about making $700 a week playing a maid? If I didn’t, I’d be making $7 a week being one.”  We thought it fitting to end Black History Month by celebrating the life and acchievements of this model of offscreen courage and great, show-stealing onscreen performances. 

A woman’s gifts will make room for her.

Faith is the black person’s federal reserve system.

I did my best, and God did the rest.

I don’t belong on this earth. I always feel out of place – like a visitor.

I am loathe to get married again. I’ve been married enough; I just prefer to forget it.What is the thing that Hollywood demands most? Sincerity. No place in the world will pay such a high price for this admirable trait.Hattie McDaniel
 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hattie_McDanielhttp://www.imdb.com/name/nm0567408/biohttp://www.popmatters.com/tv/reviews/b/beyond-tara.htmlhttp://www.mahoganycafe.com/hattiemcdaniel.html; http://voices.washingtonpost.com/postpartisan/2010/01/harry_reid_could_use_a_lesson.html

Mom’s Advice Leads to Oscar Wins

Last night I watched the Academy Awards show–all of it.  I paid for that this morning when I had to drag myself out of bed, my eyes still heavy with sleep.  There were many oscar moments–Halle Berry’s tribute to Lena Horne, Melissa Leo’s win and her dropping of the “F” bomb, Kirk Douglas keeping the Best Supporting Actress nominees in suspense, Natalie Portman thanking everyone, including the makeup people and cameramen.  However, the highlight for me was when Tom Hooper made gave his acceptance speech after he won for Best Director.

Hooper thanked his mother who was in the audience for attending a reading of an unproduced play in 2007. “She cme home, she rang me up, and said, ‘I think I found your next film.’ … The moral of the story is: Listen to your mother.”

Thanks to his mother’s advice, the movie also earned a best actor oscar for Colin Firth, Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay for 73 year old David Seidler.

And the best advice oscar goes to–Mrs. Hooper.

Oscar History Makers

In light of the Academy Awards which are happening this Sunday, I thought I should salute two women who made Oscar history.  The first is Halle Berry.   Her gutwrenching portrayal in Monster’s Ball of a hard-working waitress struggling to raise an obese son while her husband sat on death row earned her the Best Actress Oscar, making her the first African American woman to accomplish this. 

The emotional scenes in the movie were raw.  In the nude scene with Billy Bob Thornton, Halle seemed to be comfortable with baring it all.  In an interview, she was asked about this.  “But with Monster’s Ball, without this scene, I think it would be a very different movie. I think it’s a pivotal moment and from that moment on, you understand why these two people get together.”  What helped Halle to really let herself go was, the fact that “Billy [Bob Thornton] went to the same place I went to.  He was as naked, as nude, as exposed, as I was. You saw everything on him as you did me. Men don’t have breasts so we didn’t get that thrill.  But he was just as vulnerable.(http://www.beatboxbetty.com/celebetty/halleberry/halleberry/halleberry.htm).

In another interview, she admitted that “it was tough, but like I said, not tougher than when I had to abuse my overweight son. No tougher than that. That was probably tougher than the love scene.”

Halle was not director Marc Foster’s choice for the role of Leticia but Halle pushed until she won him over.  She explains how she managed to convince that she was right for the part and why she was so determined to get it.  “I just know that I was relentless in my approach. I just wanted a chance to sit in the room and tell him who I thought she was. My take on the movie. How I thought I could breathe life into her. I wanted a chance to tell him all these things that were brewing inside of me and I finally got that chance. And then I met with him a couple of times, and then the producer, and then Billy Bob, until they just gave in.

“It’s a wonderful character for a woman to play and we don’t see them that often. I think they are becoming more available but not that often. I think I related to her right away when I read the movie screenplay. I was riveted. I wanted to know what would happen to her. Things kept happening, the unthinkable, twists and turns and I started to care about these people (http://www.iofilm.co.uk/feats/interviews/h/halle_berry.shtml). 

Her persistence paid off.  On 24 March 2002, Halle Berry made oscar history.  “I am so honoured, I’m so honoured, and I thank the Academy for choosing me to be the vessel for which this blessing might flow. (http://www.cinema.com/news/item/5850/halle-berry-makes-history-with-oscar-win.phtml).

Eight years later another woman makes oscar history.  Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker

“This really is… There’s no other way to describe it, it’s the moment of a lifetime. First of all, this is so extraordinary to be in the company of such powerful, my fellow nominees, such powerful filmmakers who have inspired me and I have admired for, some of whom, for decades. And thank you to every member of the Academy. This is, again, the moment of a lifetime”  (http://www.altfg.com/blog/awards/kathryn-bigelow-oscar-acceptance-speech-494/).

Bigelow was once married to fellow director James Cameron.  Bothwere both nominated for Best Director at the 2010, 82nd Academy Awards.

In April 2010, Bigelow was named to the Time 100 list of most influential people of the year (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathryn_Bigelow).

Kudos to these two remarkable women who used their talents to make waves in the movie business.  They prove that anything is possible once you set your mind to it.  Each of us can have our “moment of a lifetime”.