By TARA ROBERTS
The story of first Standing O-Vation recipients Ashley Kicks and Toni Carey, founders of Black Girls RUN!, brought rows and rows of people to their feet in Atlanta. Lots of folks think black women don't exercise, let alone run. But BGR has inspired over 62,000 black women to join 68 running groups across the nation and to participate in races and live healthy lifestyles. Toyota gifted them with a $25K grant on stage to help fulfill their mission.
What exactly are Standing O-Vations? A first-hand account of 'Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend':
After two days with her fabulousness, Ms. Oprah Winfrey, and me, front and center, okay, six rows back and off to the right, I am pumped up to recharge my world.
I have always admired Oprah and found inspiration in her big and generous gestures, but this past weekend at Phillips Arena in Atlanta during her 'Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend,' I slipped, actually fell, head over heels into fandom. I became an Oprah love 'chile 'cause I saw in person – and I felt – her heart, her power, her beautiful spirit.
We all know her story...she was a little black girl from Mississippi who was molested and raped at a young age, who gave birth to a baby when she was 14, who got a TV show when talk show hosts just did not look like her and who struggled famously with her looks and her weight for years after.
But now, decades later, that same little black girl with all those issues packs a stadium with people of all ages, colors and genders, people who adore her and who are interested, no, hungry for her ideas about spirituality and life purpose.
As she reminded us with a laugh, she doesn't sing or dance – she ain't Bey – but, perhaps more importantly, she is standing for us all. She wants deep in her soul for this world, for its people, for you, for me, to be better, to live inside of our power, our strength, our grandest visions of ourselves. This little black girl with issues has moved millions to love her so completely that they (and now, me, too) will follow her to the depths of their own self-transformation.
With the help of Michigan-based pastor Rob Bell, Eat, Love, Pray author Elizabeth Gilbert, meditation guru Deepak Chopra and Iyanla: Fix Your Life host Iylana Vanzant, Oprah and her life trailblazers encouraged us to think of ourselves as the masters of our fates and the captains of our souls...to understand that we create our lives through the energy of our intentions.
And this wasn't just a positive thinking, kum-ba-yah weekend. We did work, sharing breakthroughs onstage, writing in journals and discussing our revelations with neighbors during breaks.
We also got powerful examples of what living fully and in power looks like, most notably seen through Amy Purdy. Amy was (and is) a snowboarding fanatic who lost both her legs after a bout with meningitis in 1995 at age 19. But Amy did not lose the sweet smile on her face. She also determined that she would not miss a season of snowboarding after her surgery, so she got to work learning how to move with new prosthetic legs. That determination paid off, and most recently, she won a 2014 Paralympic Bronze Medal for snowboarding and was a finalist on Dancing with the Stars this year. Amy, who will be attending each stop on the 8-city tour, is Toyota's Brand Ambassador. On behalf of Toyota, she will be giving Standing O-Vations to remarkable local women during each leg of the tour who are making the world a better place.
One such woman was Angela Davis, Soulcycle's charismatic fitness instructor, who led us in a soulful and worshipful exercise regime. Imagine 20,000 people with flashing green and red wristbands, and DJKiss on the turntables pumping out thumping baselines, and everyone marching in place and doing squats and arm lifts shouting: "I am great!" "I am powerful!"
Hmmmm....maybe it sounds a little corny in black and white. Maybe you just had to be there. Because somehow, as you listened to the inspiring stories back to back, engaged in the work and laughed with the life trailblazers, the energy of the weekend built up inside and opened you.
As I sat there, thinking about my own life, and how to live it more fully, more out loud, more on purpose, despite my fears, I felt nothing but thankfulness for Oprah. If Oprah, a little black girl with issues, can do it, so can I. And if I can do it, so can anyone else.
Like my favorite ride, I wish I could go again.
This post is part of a series from Toyota's Mothers of Invention who are attending Oprah's The Life You Want Weekend. Tara Roberts is the founder of girltank.org and a 2013 Toyota Mother of Invention recipient.
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