Debbie Allen - “You’ve got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying … in sweat.” Those old enough to remember can spot the quote as infamous words uttered by Allen’s character Lydia Grant on the television show “Fame” which ran from 1982 to 1987. For her work on the show, Allen was nominated four times for the Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series and also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Television Musical or Comedy. Debbie’s first love and foray into fame is dancing. Debbie’s dance credits include Broadway (Sweet Charity, Raisin, and A West Side Story) and television (Fame, So You Think You Can Dance, and the Academy Awards). She has three times won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography. In addition to being a leading choreographer, Allen has lent her talents to the world of directing, most famously for six seasons for “A Different World”. Since her early career Debbie Allen has inspired people, she continues to do so today. (Photo Credit: Moneta Sleet Jr)
Andrew Young - Considered Black America’s diplomat, Young started his career as Dr Martin Luther King’s right hand man. A graduate of Howard University, Young moved to Atlanta in 1961 to work as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As director, he spearheaded civil rights initiatives in Birmingham in 1963, St. Augustine in 1964, Selma in 1965, and Atlanta in 1966. His work is credited with helping the passing of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. In the Seventies, Young served three terms in the US Congress. For his support of President Jimmy Carter, Young was appointed as US Ambassador to the United Nations in 1977. After the expiration of his appointment, Young served two terms as Mayor of Atlanta in the Eighties. As mayor, Young was instrumental in securing the 1988 Democratic National Convention and the future 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. As a diplomat, Young has excelled and left a lasting legacy. (Photo Credit: Richard Avedon)
Sarah Vaughan - Sassy to her friends and The Divine One to most fans, Sarah was a singer for all to enjoy. Whether singing standards, psychedelic tunes, or even the Beatles her passion cut through you. Sarah started her career as a winner of Harlem’s Apollo Theatre’s famous amateur night. She was offered a chance to open a show for Ella Fitzgerald who would later become her jazz contemporary. Throughout her career, she was known to sing music by any composer crossing many genres. She became an interpreter of the songs of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Michel Legrand, and Stephen Sondheim. She also performed with many other notable jazz performers including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Dexter Gordon. (Photo Credit: Josef Breitenbach)
André Leon Talley - In 2010, shoe designer said “André doesn’t have fashion. André himself is fashion.” Such is how the fashion world and the world at large views the former Vogue Editor-At-Large. After thirty years at the magazine, Talley left the fashion staple to work in Russia. In his wake, he left behind a glittering legacy. A native of Durham, North Carolina, and a graduate of North Carolina Central University, Talley came to the attention of legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland through his work as an assistant to Andy Warhol. Throughout his years at Vogue, Talley could be seen in front rows of many fashion shows. He has also styled many for red carpet appearances including Jennifer Hudson, Kimora Simmons, Serena Williams, and Tyra Banks. Never one to shy away from the avant garde, Talley uses his larger than life persona to show the need for fearlessness in fashion. From his own words “Wearing clothes should be a personal narrative of emotion. I always respond to fashion in an emotional way.” Trendsetter. Tastemaker.
Barbara Jordan - Known for her oratory skills, Jordan was thrust into the nation’s consciousness with her rousing keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention held in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. In Jordan’s speech, she advocated that all citizens act as on community to ensure a positive future for our nation. From 1964 through 1979, Jordan worked in many capacities as a legislator. Upon her retirement due to failing health, Jordan was a faithful advisor to Presidents Bush and Clinton. Her list of firsts are numerous: the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, the first African-American female to serve as president pro tem of the Texas state senate ( in this capacity she served one day, June 10, 1972, as acting governor of Texas), the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives, and the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address at a Democratic National Convention. Had it not been for her failing health due to leukemia and multiple sclerosis, Jordan was set to be nominated as a Justice of the US Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton. Upon her death in 1996, Jordan was presented with her last first, she was the first African American woman buried in the Texas State Cemetery. From Jordan’s 1976 keynote speech we as Americans were given a challenge that many should try to complete, “Let there be no illusions about the difficulty of forming this kind of a national community. It’s tough, difficult, not easy. But a spirit of harmony will survive in America only if each of us remembers that we share a common destiny; if each of us remembers, when self-interest and bitterness seem to prevail, that we share a common destiny.” (Photo Credit: Richard Avedon)