Oprah Winfrey’s Speech Spoke

Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech hit a nerve for a lot of people, and I admit I’m one of them.

Oprah Winfrey Golden Globes speech

Full disclosure: I am not one of this people hankering to see Oprah Winfrey run for President, nor am I seduced by her celebrity status, cult of personality or Super Soul-ery.   I once worked for Ms. Winfrey (I was Senior Producer and writer for her Oxygen website, Oprah Goes Online) and have been featured in her O Magazine, and both experiences were beyond wonderful. But with a few exceptions (say, if your last name were Springsteen, Stanwyck, Goodall, Obama, Twain, or maybe Christ) I’m just not awed by celebrity. (OK, maybe Wanda Sykes, but that’s less about celebrity and more about pure radiant love.)

But Oprah Winfrey’s speech moved me because this moment in time moves me. It moves me to tears, it moves me to action. I’m one of this little girls who watched TV, read books, learned history, and found no soil where I might grow. Being a girl who didn’t seem to fit in with Playboy Bunnies, housewives, or men who actually did stuff, I grew up pinballing between being not-enough or too-much.  Born a product of rape, I was adopted and then, like my birth mother, Oprah, and legions of other heretofore voiceless girls, I lived with, then through, sexual assaults. As little girl, I knew of no stories like mine. I saw no lives like one I lived or could live. (Except for dames in old movies — hence this blog.)

So Oprah’s speech — about little girls sitting open-mouthed in front of their TV sets; the muted ordeals of women like Recy Taylor; the new #metoo army speaking truth to power — speaks to me. It resonates with the little girl, the silenced survivor, the impatient #metoo warrior in me.

Oprah Winfrey, I really hope “their time is up.” Either way, what I do know, sister Winfrey, your speech tells me OUR time is now.

In its entirety, Oprah Winfrey’s January 2018 Golden Globes speech:

In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier.”

Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remembered his tie was white, and of course his skin was black, and I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in “Lilies of the Field”: “Amen, amen. Amen, amen.”

In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award.

It is an honor — it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible. Dennis Swanson, who took a chance on me for “AM Chicago.” Quincy Jones, who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg, “Yes, she is Sofia in ‘The Color Purple.’” Gayle, who’s been the definition of what a friend is, and Stedman, who’s been my rock.

I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, because we all know the press is under siege these days. But we also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice, to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this.

What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story. But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics or workplace.

So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farmworkers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine and science. They’re part of the world of tech and in politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.

And there’s someone else: Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too. In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and a mother. She was just walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP, where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case, and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted.

Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived — too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared speak their truth to the power of those men.

But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up.

And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’s heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man, every man who chooses to listen.

In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. And I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.

So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, are fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “me too” again. Thank you.

 

Oprah Winfrey, thank you.

Dixie Laite - Dame Town Writer

Author: Dixie Laite

I'm Dixie Laite -- a writer, speaker, and branding consultant in New York City. For over 40 years I've been a bullshit-slaying, classic movies-obsessing, animal-loving dame. For over 40 years I have been working on figuring out how to be a woman. Some of it I nailed, a lot of it I'm still trying to get a handle on. Let's figure this shit out together!

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