In our youth obsessed culture, Jewels: 50 Phenomenal Black Women Over 50 by photographer Micheal Cunningham and novelist Connie Briscoe is an inspiring treasure. This book of photo-essays contains portraits of celebrities andnon-celebrities alike, who overcame tremendous barriers to successfully raise children (some as single mothers) and have careers. These are warrior women who have fought for equal opportunities in education, business, and society as a whole.
With age comes wisdom, but it is much more than that that makes each one of these fifty women attractive. It’s the strength of character, the “I am my own me,” that gives each one their regal bearing. This differentiates between true beauty and petty prettiness that is sold by many media as the epitome of feminity.
I found myself personally drawn to Mütter Evans, the second black woman to purchase a radio station in the U.S., and the youngest at age 26. Ms. Evans speaks of the fear and challenge of coming up with the funds in the 1970’s, dealing with not just racism and sexism, but a whole host of other isms. However, she knew the impact the media would have on her community. Then there is Ruby Davis-Jett who started her own online travel agency as well as a real estate conglomerate, despite getting pregnant at the age of 16. A few other jewels are actresses Ruby Dee and S. Epatha Merkerson, singer/songwriter Nona Hendrix, television news executive and author (and the great-great granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker) A’Lelia Bundles, and Representative Alma Adams. You can judge a society by how it treats its’ women and mature members, as well as the feminine participation in said society. Like with many groups, America still has a ways to go; however, with Jewels one can see the many beautiful stitches in this great American tapestry.