10-28-2016  4:34 pm      •     

For centuries, African American women have been remaking the world, giving testament to the power of hope, courage and resilience. But it took the inspired generosity of Oprah Winfrey to honor fully the many gifts of sisterhood. For three days — May 13 to 15, 2005 — a distinguished group of women was invited to celebrate the enduring achievements of 25 of their mentors and role models and, in the process, pay tribute to the long, glorious tradition of African American accomplishment.

The centerpiece of the weekend was the reading aloud of Pearl Cleage's poem "We Speak Your Names," written especially for the occasion. The poem appears for the first time in print in a new keepsake volume, "We Speak Your Names" (One World/ Ballantine, $9.95). The poem names each of the women honored: Dr. Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, Diahann Carroll, Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Rosa Parks, Katherine Dunham, and other legends of the brightest magnitude.

Cleage (herself a luminary of the younger generation) celebrates her distinguished elders' strength, their magic, their sensuality, their loving kindness, their faith in themselves and the priceless example of their lives: "My sisters, here, there and everywhere, this poem is for you. Use it, adapt it, pass it on. …"

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