“Living Legends,” an annual, community event to honor four African-American entertainers, was held at the El Segundo branch of the Los Angeles Public Library System during Black History Month. The women honored were leading actors Sheryl Lee Ralph, Angela Bassett, Della Reese, and Alfre Woodard, who was not in attendance.
Event coordinator, Yvonne Burke, Los Angeles Library System Second District’s supervisor, introduced the honorees. Among the guests were local notables, elected officials and other celebrities.
Before the ceremony, I spoke with Rev. Della Reese, who pastors a church in Los Angeles, about her famous inspirational television role and future plans.
“‘Touched By An Angel’ is in reruns, and we are expecting some interesting developments from that,” she said, adding that she is currently in negotiations to return to perform at one of the major hotels in Las Vegas.
Reese commented: “You know, for a long time, we had to walk alone. It’s wonderful to see young and old here at this ceremony. It makes my whole body feel wonderful. It turns me on. And today, you turned me on,” she said with a smile as she received her award.
Sheryl Lee Ralph attended with her husband, Sen. Vincent Hughes from Philadelphia, Pa., and talked with me about her faith.
“From day one, I was brought to the convent. I was passed through the small space, through the little hole, to the nuns. That was my foundation. Focus on yourself and God, not others, and share the Gospel. The Holy Spirit is the driving force in transforming people,” she said.
When receiving her award, Ralph told a part of her story, which was a full-circle moment for her, regarding Yvonne Burke.
Ralph acknowledged that it was seeing Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who was the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from California, on an Ebony magazine cover that spurred her on as young girl at time when Black, contemporary, female role models were not as prevalent.
“Daddy, she’s beautiful,” she recalled, and added, “I started dreaming about California.”
Ralph said that she was greatly honored to be receiving the award from Burke, who is recognized for her many political, civic and humanitarian accomplishments.
After the ceremony, I spoke with Angela Bassett, a truly talented, warm and giving person.
“God surprisingly empowered my conscience that points me in a …decent direction, every step of the way. God gives us our own free will. It’s up to us to be passionate about learning through His words. He knows our complete potential… man will be disruptive. It is the ‘I Am’ that gives us the power.”
Bassett paid homage to the library system and the power of books in her life “…I was able to travel, daydream and imagine,” she told the audience. “I know we have the Internet, but I’m a tactile person. I like to touch and hold a book.”
With a solemn pause, she added, “Being in the library also taught me how to sit down somewhere and be quiet.”
Here are some big stars from the event