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A Party from the Heart

05/19/2005 at 12:00 PM EDT

A Party from the Heart
Oprah Winfrey
Albert Ferreira/Reuters/Landov
For Winfrey, the truly defining moment occurred during the lunch, when the young 'uns saluted the legends with the poem We Speak Your Name, by Pearl Cleage. "It was spoken by Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Halle Berry," says Winfrey. "And the chorus was – listen to this! – Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Ashanti, Missy Elliott and Janet Jackson. In the poem they call the name of each woman out loud, and it was the most powerful thing we ever experienced. We were in tears from the deeply rooted, primal emotion connecting one generation to the next."

Of course, by the time she left the ball at 3 a.m., Oprah had herself basked in the glow of her own recognized role as a black pioneer. "I have to say something to her tonight," said singer-actress Brandy, 26. "I have to say thank you. Without her I would not be here."

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