Dyana Williams 65, Broadcaster Celebrity Strategist + Co-creator Black Music Month
My mother, Dr. Nancy Neuman, was a college professor for the majority of her adult life. She just turned 85 last week, and she was my first inspiration as a woman. And because my mother is a proud Afro-Rican woman, she was very conscious and mindful of the fact that our roots are in Africa. My mother instilled in me from a very early age, great pride in being a Black Puerto-Rican woman. She gave me such a rich foundation in terms of books and exposure. My mother enrolled me in classes. mean, she just did so much for me to cultivate my consciousness, so I credit her first and foremost.
The next woman that had a big impact: my grandmother. While my mother was in school getting all these degrees and advancing in academia my grandmother was a homemaker. We don’t give credit to women who made a decision to stay in the home, raise children , clean , cook and take care. We just don’t. She was my rock and foundation.
In 1973, I met the next woman that would just blow me away, Cathy Hughes. We met in the beginning of her radio career, we met at WHUR, which is owned by Howard University 96.3. She was in the sales department and I was on air, but I was 19. She was a little bit older than me and she had a child, Alfred Liggins who is now the CEO of Urban1. We bonded and we have been best friends since 1973. That’s a long time and it’s not lost on us. It’s not lost on me. She says that I inspire her, that I’ve been her motivator, that I’ve been her critic, her champion, all of those things but she is that and then some for me. She’s a sister, she’s definitely my siStar.
The siStar relationship is critical to the growth of a woman. If you’re not a confident person then those things are going to trouble you, if you see somebody come along that may be smarter, more accomplished, prettier, then instead of looking at them saying now, “How can I manifest those characteristics?” You engage in the lower part of the human personality. You will be down there with jealousy, envy, all of those negative things that are going to undermine your growth.
Cathy and I were interested in evolving as women and so, have we had moments? You better believe it. We have had fights and arguments that led us to not talk for extended periods of time but we always come back together. When we do, we came back stronger and with a greater admiration for each other. It’s important that we do that, particularly women of color, because we are shown constantly negating one another or fighting each other.
When you look at television you see a lot of that. You see a lot of the crabs in a barrel as it pertains to how white people push the agenda of negativism, not just with Black women but with Latina women as well. But with Cathy and I, we are interested in empowering one another. I think it’s critical for us to identify women that motivate us, that inspire us, that nurture us so that we can get accomplish our visions, personally and professionally. So, everybody should have a Cathy Hughes. Everybody.
She will call me out. She calls me out on everything from my hairstyle to clothing to things I may have said but conversely, she’s constantly lifting me up and supporting me and praising me. She’s just such a huge fan of mine and that encouraging because you need nurturing. You need it everywhere you can get it.
We're now coming up on the 40th anniversary of Black Music Month.
In the ‘70s, my husband, at the time, [Kenny Gamble] and I worked to establish Black Music Month. President Jimmy Carter [recognized] June as Black Music Month, but he omitted signing a proclamation that would have made it official. They said that if we could, get legislation from Congress and we can [solidify it]. It took me a couple of years. I knew nothing about lobbying, I just knew that I had a passion. I knocked on doors, wrote letters and made phone calls.
They called me to say it's coming up on the floor to vote today. For me, it was years of all this energy
She called me and said it passed. June is now officially Black Music Month. There's a resolution and I wrote the language about why it was important to recognize this multi-billion dollar economic force that is a global influencer.
I'm a girl from Bronx and Harlem and to achieve something like that..and I did it with my ex. Even though we're no longer together, we're partners in life.
Black music resonates with other cultures because it is so passionate. It's full of joie de vivre, of life, of love, of emotion. Until my last breath I want to make people aware of our contributions. I want to celebrate the ones who have come before us, the ones doing it now and the ones who are paving the way for the generation that is coming.
Knowing these women that I cited has empowered me and reminded me of my obligation to pay it forward and to nurture young men and women. You must give what you have gotten and I have received a lot.
I’m 65! I’m skipping, I’m hopping, I’m playing with my dolls, I’m doing karaoke, I’m in touch with the little girl in me but I’m embracing the good and grown woman that I’m becoming at 65. I’m in the fourth quarter, I’m being blessed up.
My mother is 85 but she will out party you, she will out drink you, she will out anything you. My mother is, she’s very young. She’s got it. I’ve inherited from my mom.
When I think about our history, Black women don’t have the luxury that other women had. We didn’t get to take a break.
I was on an airplane one time, I was combing the hair of my Latina Bratz doll on the plane and the flight attendant stops at my seat and looks at me like, “Are you ok?” and I looked at her like, “Yeah, I am quite fine.” And I’m very relaxed and I’m having a good time combing my doll’s hair and changing my doll’s clothes and playing with my dolls. And I’m not going to stop. In fact, I collect dolls. You got to stay in touch with the little child in you because it makes you a better and stronger adult. Never lose the little girl in you.
Dyana’s Revolutionary Picks:
“In 1973, I met the next woman that would just blow me away, Cathy Hughes. We met in the beginning of her radio career, we met at WHUR, which is owned by Howard University 96.3. She was in the sales department and I was on air, but I was 19. She was a little bit older than me and she had a child, Alfred Liggins who is now the CEO of Urban1. We bonded and we have been best friends since 1973. That’s a long time and it’s not lost on us. It’s not lost on me. She says that I inspire her, that I’ve been her motivator, that I’ve been her critic, her champion, all of those things but she is that and then some for me. She’s a sister, she’s definitely my siStar.”