Yesterday when I first heard that Oprah had made the decision to end the Oprah Winfrey show, while everyone was talking about what the ABC affiliates were going to do to fill the huge void left by her absence and what publishing companies were going to do as she has the ability to produce bestsellers solely by suggesting her audience read a certain book, I was thinking of three things. I thought of Sofia, the character she played in the movie The Color Purple over 20 years ago. That is my favorite movie of all time. When I first saw that movie, I remember the audience was filled with, I had guessed, were women of the Pentecostal or Evangelical faith. I say that because there were pivotal scenes where quite a few women around me had stood up and had gotten in what we church folk calls, ‘ movin’ in the spirit and speaking in tongues’; when Shug Avery was headed to her father’s church, and towards the end when Celie had seen her kids for the first time since they were taken away when they were children at the beginning of the movie.
I can still see Oprah’s ‘Sofia’ character stomping through the fields to find Celie, the character played by Whoopi Goldberg, to say to her “you told Harpo to beat me!I love Harpo. God knows I do. But Ill kill him dead, 'fo I let him or anybody beat me! All my life I had to fight! I had to fight my daddy! I had to fight my brothers, my cousins, my uncles too! But I never, never, never, never, never, never thought I'd have to fight In my own house!”
I know it by heart! I have friends with whom we'd recite the lines from the movie..
I loved Oprah in that role because in that character I saw my mother, my sister, aunts, and every black woman I know. She was passionate about being treated with respect, dignity, and self-defense. I’ve loved Oprah ever since.
"I came from nothing," Winfrey wrote in the 1998 book "Journey to Beloved." "No power. No money. Not even my thoughts were my own. I had no free will. No voice. Now, I have the freedom, power, and will to speak to millions every day — having come from nowhere."
I also thought of a friend’s grandmother, Charlotte; she always said that her dying wish was to be in attendance on one of Oprah Winfrey’s shows. That was all she talked about. She used to spend her retirement days doing volunteer work, being a mentor-grandmother of sorts, to children whose grandmothers had passed away. She delivered food to shut-ins and she made quilts. No matter how busy she was during the day, no matter where she was from 4-5pm, she was in front of a television set somewhere, watching Oprah. She had been given a VCR two decades earlier and a DVR about 5 years ago, but she had to watch it when I came on. There was no way she would wait until a better time to see it. Her wish unfulfilled, she passed away 1 year ago, and never got the chance to be on the show.
I also thought about all the short stories I had sent her over the years. I’ve sent maybe a dozen, all by certified mail, reply-receipt required. I know they’ve all been received by someone at Harpo, as I have the signed receipts to confirm it, but that doesn’t mean that Oprah has read any of them. That’s my hope, in a way. I’d rather her not having read them than to have read them, didn’t like them and threw them away. I know I’m being crazy, but we have all crazy dreams sometimes. Mine is to be on one of her shows where she has a guest talk about their favorite passions or their favorite person, and unbeknownst to them, that favorite person has entered the stage behind them and the entire audience is erupting in applause, and that guest is wondering what’s going on. Then they turn around to see their idol standing before them. For me, in addition to dreaming about Halle Berry or Sallie Toussaint or Salli Richardson-Whitfield or Nicole Ari Parker (obviously), I have this dream where Oprah invites me to be on her show where she discusses one of my short stories in particular which is one of her favorites, and she’s asking me questions. I’m talking a mile a minute about how I would love to have Spike Lee or Lee Daniels or Antoine Fuqua make a movie of the story, and the audience is erupting in applause. I turn around, and the 3 directors are approaching me. I’m speechless, as they all shake my hands and sit on the sofa next to me. Their purpose on being there is to tell me they’re interested in three of my short stories and want to make movies out of them! And that Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Nicole Ari Parker, and Salli Richardson-Whitfield want to play the lead roles in those movies!
When I first heard that Oprah had made the decision to end the Oprah Winfrey show, I thought ‘I’d better hurry up or try harder to get her to read my stuff,’ but she’ll still be in the public eye. She’ll just be busy with other aspects of her huge empire.
Maybe then, she’ll find the time to read my short stories. I’m sending another one to her tomorrow. And if it's made into a movie some day, I'll dedicate it to Charlotte.