On Tuesday, November 1 at the 2022 Women of the Year ceremony, Glamour honored Angela Bassett with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work on stage and screen.
Emmy-, Grammy-, and six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, who presented Bassett with her honor, said it best: “An actor, executive producer, a mother, a friend, and on, and on, and on…Were you surprised that she was cast as head of the Bad Bitch Support Group on Black Lady Sketch Show, and as Ramonda in Wakanda Forever, queen of the most powerful nation in the world? I wasn’t!”
“Think about the way she sits with strength, and truth, whether it is on the stage, screen, you cannot take her eyes off of her, can you?” McDonald continued. “I can think of no one more deserving of Glamour’s Lifetime Achievement Award than Angela Bassett, a woman who I deeply admire, revere and honor, for all the stories that she weaves, the barriers she has broken, and the inspiration and leadership that she provides in our industry and to the next generation of artists.”
When Bassett accepted her award, she bowed to McDonald with gratitude as she received a standing ovation. Read her powerful speech below in full:
Thank you to Samantha Barry and the entire Glamour team for honoring me with a beautiful Women of the Year cover story and for recognizing me in this way. It means so much to me that you’ve chosen to include me as an honoree amongst such an esteemed group of women. Congratulations to my fellow honorees. But I never view these awards as being just about me. It’s so important to celebrate us all as women.
It’s been an interesting time to be a woman. Sometimes it feels as though no matter how far we’ve come, we’ve still not come far enough. But what gives me great comfort and faith that we will prevail is remembering that when women come together, when we put our minds and our hearts together, we are unstoppable. Our contributions have made history, given birth to movements, brought about peace and justice, and transformed our lives for generations.
We are courageous like Mamie Till, whose life was forever changed in 1955 when her son, Emmett, just 14 years old, was brutally murdered while visiting their family in Mississippi. Her decision to open the casket to show the world what was done to her only child by lawless men in a Jim Crow South, who tortured her boy because of his Blackness, put Mamie on an unexpected path of being one of history’s most game-changing freedom fighters whose pain united a nation.
We are underestimated like Rosa Parks, who was presumed to meek and mild, voiceless, voiceless, someone who wouldn’t stand up for herself, let alone for others. But on one December evening in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks said that: “When that White driver stepped back toward us…I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.” Her refusal to give up her seat on the bus that day historically boosted the fight for civil rights for Black people in this country, and recognizing Rosa Parks as “the mother of the freedom movement.”
We are fearless like Bessie Coleman, a manicurist in a local Chicago barber shop who wanted to learn to fly but was turned down by flight schools in our country. She didn’t give up. She learned instead to speak French, attended a flight school in France, and in 1921, she went on to become the first Black and Native American woman pilot. Brave Bessie, as she became known, built a successful business doing aerial shows, in a plane she owned, around this country, a country that tried to deny her dream.
We are resilient like Tina Turner, who gave up everything she’d worked for, except her name, to gain freedom from abuse. She started over, reimagining her career as a Rock & Roll artist, a genre that no Black woman had successfully charted, Tina Turner went on to become one of the most admired and successful artists around the world, earning an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on her own merit.
We are persistent like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, herself a Glamour Woman of the Year in 2012, who was once told by the dean at the Harvard Law School, that she was taking up space that belonged to a man. There in a class of 500 men. But she wasn’t deterred. She answered that dean’s assertion by earning her seat on the Supreme Court of these United States of America.
We are resourceful like my mother, Betty Jane, who was a single mom raising her daughters to be women of purpose and pride who could stand on their own. She often struggled to make ends meet, making a way out of no way, like we women do from time to time, but she always made sure we had exactly what we needed.
The legacies of these women and so many more are what keep me going when the deck seems stacked against me—against us. And as I stand here tonight, I challenge us all to think about what our contributions to pushing humanity forward will be. What will you do to make sure that future generations of girls and women exist in a world that is one of equality and equity? And when you’re told that you can’t, or you won’t, that it’s impossible, when doubt or fear begins to take hold of your spirit, let determination cover your body like a quilt on a winter night. And press forward. The world needs you, quite possibly more than ever before. The world has always needed us.
I accept this tremendous honor, Women of the Year, for my daughter, Bronwyn, who I remind every day that she is beautiful, worthy, strong and that she is enough. Together, we stand. We all stand courageous, and fearless, we stand determined, resilient, persistent, and especially in the face of anyone who dares to underestimate us. I encourage you, and in the words of my character Queen Ramonda, to always show them who you are. Thank you.
Originally Appeared on Glamour