My Homage to Olivia Pope
For the past six years, I have been glued to my couch every Thursday watching Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal. Although the finale aired more than a week ago, I am still in mourning that one of my favorite shows ended. Why did the ending of this show bother me so much? Why was Olivia Pope so important? As I started reflecting, I thought about how this one character had an impact on society. Many of us were not just fascinated by her fashion, but her capacity to lead. In 2016, Jada Pinkett Smith prompted individuals to boycott the Oscars because of the lack of diversity in the nominations. It is two years later, and we still do not see enough women of color in leading roles on major television networks. This year’s Black Panther solidified the importance of black representation. In honor of the movie, people wore African attire and gave each other the Wakanda salute. This movie exposed African-American children to other possibilities, whereas historically, many only saw themselves as basketball and football players rather than superheroes, engineers, or members of royalty. These positive depictions are not just needed for us, but for whites too. The overrepresentation of negative images often distorts their views of us.
Olivia was smart, beautiful, and in charge, which was a contrast to the subservient roles of yesteryear. With every episode I became mesmerized by the eloquence of Papa Pope’s monologues, especially when directed to Olivia. He reminded me of the importance of black fathers and how they are instrumental in the shaping of their daughters. Papa Pope constantly reminded her to aim high, not to become blinded by the falsehood of worthiness, and that mediocrity was unacceptable. Throughout their exchanges, he often made her recite, “I have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have”.
These are the daily battles we encounter as black women. Although progression is continuously happening, positioning does not guarantee our permanency. We have often dimmed our own light in order for “them” with their assumed power to stay illuminated. Yes, we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams, and it is now time for us to honor them. Although there are many of us that are physically free, there are many that are enslaved by their minds. Knowledge is power and so let us start in allowing the morphing of greatness to form through simply turning a page.
Let us not forget that our ancestors were instrumental in building this country. As former First Lady Michelle Obama said during the National Democratic Convention, “That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the string of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn”.
It is the strength of the past that breeds your existence into the future. Knowing who you are is essential to prosperity. The blood that is running through your veins should provide you armor against adversity.
During the end of the finale, Papa Pope said, “I wake up every morning and I make America great. That is my legacy…I want my face on Mt. Rushmore. I want a statue that would dwarf the Washington Monument. I want my name on the lips and hearts of every patriot, every American citizen, from sea to shining sea”.
What is going to be your legacy? Quincy Jones once told Oprah Winfrey that “Your future’s so bright it burns my eyes”. He said this to Oprah after filming The Color Purple, which was more than thirty years ago, and now she is one of the most influential women in the world. Do not continue to allow the past to predetermine your fate. Make this the year of you and do not allow any forms of adversity to impede your success.
The final scene of Scandal brought me to tears when I saw the two African-American girls awestruck by the Olivia Pope portrait. That scene reminded me of the picture of two-year-old Parker Curry’s reaction to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s portrait at the National Portrait Gallery.
Although “We The People” pertained to a selective group, it is important for us to proclaim our relevance to the world. We must “collectively” understand our worth and reclaim the power that we already have bestowed on us, and let us not forget that success is not guaranteed by the actions of one person. Black women, we are warriors and it is time for us assemble our gladiators to claim our thrones. We must begin to silence the chatter and show everyone the true destiny of our hopes.
This is a call to action for all women. Get ready to grab your white hats and let’s start taking over the world.
(Also will be featured in the Black Girl in the CLE)