Today is a VERY special day! If the title of this blog post has not given it away, it is International Women’s Day and I thought I should definitely have my own little input on it, as inspiring and assisting women is what I do with a passion! Nothing is more rewarding than making someone feel beautiful and having their genuine thanks. Honestly, it’s what keeps Maxine and I going. But I thought I would take this moment to honour the women who have had not only a significant impact on the world, but in my personal life and are a testament to the fact that when God made women, he did so with magic.
Here are a few of the women who have inspired me over the years:
#1 Billie Holiday
Eleanora Fagan (That’s her real name), was a force to be reckoned with and her passion for spoken word and jazz were channels for her effortless talent. An activist and singer, Billie was not one that was shy to cut against the grain. This refers to the time she performed her song, “Strange Fruit”, which spoke about slavery and the mass lynching that occurred in the South during the peak of slavery in the USA. Other mentions of my own are “God Blessed The Child”, “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “Sunday”.
Billie often drew mixed feelings from many people, but love her or hate her, she drew attention when she stepped on stage. There were, of course, other jazz singers with equal talent, but Billie had a voice that captured the attention of her audience. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, created a new way to manipulate phrasing, meaning she was able to rhyme words that don’t usually rhyme by changing the way the words were spoken. Genius!
However, even though she was a success during the 1950s with two sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall, her bad health, coupled with a string of abusive relationships and ongoing drug and alcohol abuse, caused her voice to wither. But it never stopped her from singing. It is amazing that even though she is long gone, her voice still moves many who listen.
#2 Miriam Makeba
There is no way that I could not mention Miss Pata-Pata herself aka Mama Africa. The absolute QUEEN of South African jazz! There are few performers that could match Miriam for style. Usually seen decked out in traditional attire, accented by hints of modern fashion, she quickly caught the attention of the world and got everyone moving, even if you were off-beat. A woman who was proud of her South African heritage, she was born during a time of great unrest. She did not enjoy an easy life. Married at 17 and allegedly in an abusive relationship, she was eventually exiled to the United States of America. It is here that the seeds of her destiny took root and birthed what would become a musical icon. Mama Africa was not only a singer, but actor, UN goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist.
Her acting career landed her a spot in the movie “Sarafina!” which went on to win the world over with it’s vivid and brutal depiction of the Sharpeville Massacre, catapulting South Africa into the world’s view once more. Time magazine called her ” the most exciting new singing talent to appear in many years,” and Newsweek compared her voice to “the smoky tones and delicate phrasing” of Ella Fitzgerald and the “intimate warmth” of Frank Sinatra. Now that is HIGH praise! But get this, she performed at U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s birthday at Madison Square Garden. What a badass!
Miriam has since passed, in 2008, married to Hugh Masekela (another icon), but has left a legacy for all women who seek inspiration in times of adversity. Rest in Peace, Mama.
#3 Maya Angelo
It is quite evident that from my choices that I am indeed a big fan of music and poetry, and Maya Angelo ranks as the Supreme Ruler of all that is strong and beautiful all at once. To this day, I read her poems to myself, and I hear her voice in my head. I never could read her poems out loud. It is one thing to read and understand, but Maya could make you FEEL. She could empower you, and make you feel like you could tackle anything life could throw at you, with style baby, with style!
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
I first came across her work when my mother would pick them off the shelf at the library and wondered just who in the world is this lady? You know that pose she always used at the back of her books. The one where she looks like that grandmother who looks at you and appears to know every bad little thing you did and could force a confession out of you with a cough? Yep, that’s the one. I just thought she looked interesting and wise… I was right. Few can complete a poem written by her and not feel those words softly soak into your heart like soft falling rain and settle deep inside your soul and warm you.
There is hardly much that one can say about her without sounding like a crazy fan, I am guilty and I feel I am not doing her justice. But please, if you have not read her work, please do. Maya was not “deep”. In fact she was so simplistic and plain-spoken that almost anyone could pick her up and draw the message she was delivering.
And finally, to the strongest woman I know, I wish to honour my mother. To this day she still continues to keep me grounded always tries to impart new knowledge on me. I would never be who I am if it were not for her. She not only made me, but molded my identity and showed me the rewards of hard work. She’s an old school kinda girl, and I’m and old school kinda guy. And in truth, all 3 of these women I have mentioned in this post were influenced by her. I appreciate strength in all its forms. But most importantly, I appreciate strong women. You ladies don’t know how magical you truly are. Never forget that as much as man can aid in creating life, women are the only thing that can give it. The only other being who can do that, is God himself.
Other honourable mentions would be Thuli Madonsela, Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama, Serena and Venus Williams, Ida B. Wells, Phuti Malabie and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
Happy Women’s Day and thank you for reading!