Continuing the AA Legacy Series for (Black) Women’s History Month, I want to highlight the actress and singer we know as Della Reese (clink the link for a video tribute). I was conducting research online and found the Della Reese dot com address but it’s not something she’s running. It’s more than a little creepy that someone other than Della Reese seems to own that domain name (they have it listed as a shell website) but at least they posted two videos of her.
I’m loathe to tout the 1st black to do x,y, z but in the case of these women trailblazers, the distinction is notable. I’m not going to do an entire career retrospective either. There’s a nice YouTube Channel that has her extensive archives. See the Della Reese Channel for video performances and clips that span her career. She has an autobiography, Angels Along The Way worth the read. In fact, I recommend everyone read all of the various career retrospectives, biographies and autobiographies of every black woman over the age of 45. There is much to learn.
In the 1950’s and onward she had established herself as a popular singer and actress.
In 1970, Reese became the first black woman to guest host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. She has appeared in various roles on episodic television.
In the 1990’s Reese portrayed the angel Tess on the CBS drama Touched By An Angel which is probably what most of us may immediately recall.
Her career as an entertainer has been well-established. What many probably don’t know is that she has been an ordained New Thought minister for decades. Since 1987 Della Reese has led the UP Church (Understanding Principles for Better Living) in Los Angeles. This was why I wanted to feature her. Many readers who may be more familiar with a typical Black Church interpretation of Christianity might dismiss her practice as suspect.
Religious Science, also known as Science of Mind, was founded in 1927 by Ernest Holmes (1887–1960) and is a spiritual, philosophical and metaphysical religious movement within the New Thought movement. In general, the term “Science of Mind” applies to the teachings, while the term “Religious Science” applies to the organizations. However, adherents often use the terms interchangeably. Ernest Holmes stated “Religious Science is a correlation of laws of science, opinions of philosophy, and revelations of religion applied to human needs and the aspirations of man.” He also stated that Religious Science/Science of Mind (RS/SOM) is not based on any “authority” of established beliefs, but rather on “what it can accomplish” for the people who practice it.
You might also be interested in researching:
- New Thought
- Metaphysics/Metaphysical Christianity
I’m mentioning this as something many black women who may not consider themselves religious, burned (or burned out by) religion, fake religiosity and the subjugation of women may want to explore this as an alternative or addition. There are many women leaders part of the New Thought practice. I also appreciate the emphasis on self-reflection and working on thought patterns.
There was a time I would have (and did) outright reject any such philosophies as (some form of) heresy, but now I think it was the long arm of indoctrination that influenced my refusal to even look into it. It’s something else to consider….
The Rev Dr. is also very good friends with Dr. Maya Angelou. I really wanted to share this particular podcast from her ministry radio show Hello, Reverend Della Speaking on Unity FM.
#5 Faith with Dr. Maya Angelou — The first 20 minutes are a goldmine!!
She discusses her early career, touring with Mahalia Jackson, wanting to advise the “young singers of today” and them rejecting it, her reciprocal and abiding friendship with Maya defined and other tidbits that had me at hello…
If the good Rev. Dr. Reese-Lett wants to impart some wisdom at this forum, especially given she’s lived a full life, has had many experiences and at 81 years old is still energetic and vibrant, please do!
I WILL LISTEN!!!
~~~Before commenting I seriously urge all of the readers to listen to the podcast. It was amazing.
You might be interested in: