'We Are the Table': I Attended the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon for the First Time and It Was Magic

(L-R): Honoree Lashana Lynch poses onstage during and Honoree Hailie Sahar, Honoree Janet Mock, Honoree Angelica Ross, Billy Porter, and Honoree Mj Rodriguez attends the 2020 13th Annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon on February 06, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California.
(L-R): Honoree Lashana Lynch poses onstage during and Honoree Hailie Sahar, Honoree Janet Mock, Honoree Angelica Ross, Billy Porter, and Honoree Mj Rodriguez attends the 2020 13th Annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon on February 06, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo: Rich Polk (Getty Images for ESSENCE)

Sisterhood is unmatched. And for black women, it isn’t just a concept, it is actually lifesaving.

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The Essence Black Women in Hollywood (BWIH) luncheon is one of the most anticipated events during Oscar week, arguably the most anticipated event for black women, specifically.

Guess the hell what? I got to go...as a guest.

The honorees of the evening were Lashana Lynch, Melina Matsoukas, Niecy Nash and the co-producer and cast of FX’s Pose (Janet Mock, MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Angelica Ross and Hailie Sahar).

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Before I get to the nitty and gritty of one of the best examples of sisterhood I’ve ever experienced, I have to start with the beginning. In short, I manifested this shit.

For years, I had watched BWIH from afar, coveting a seat at the table. And every year, I would tweet, wistfully, that I’d be at the next one. My friends would even manifest it for me. Last year, in 2019, I covered the red carpet, but I didn’t get a seat inside! This year, 2020, I got to head on over to the “guest check-in” side and sit down at Ford Motor Company’s table.

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When I received that invitation from Ford (more on them in the near future!), I sat in an awe-inducing silence for what seemed like twenty years. It was likely more like twenty seconds, but I squealed to myself and immediately informed my own personal sisterhood squad.

On Thursday afternoon, I rolled up to The Beverly Wilshire (a Four Seasons Hotel), took a deep breath, and moseyed on over to the check-in table. As my eyes scanned the cocktail service area, I thought about the homie Steve Jones and the advice he gave me, as a prior attendee. In short, he told me to “breathe deep and stay present” throughout the event. I kept that mantra with me as the easily overwhelmed feeling of being in the room with just about every black heavy-hitter in the game started to envelop me. And to be honest, it wasn’t even that. I had been in major rooms before. Hell, I’ve been to Oprah’s house. It was more so the fact that this was something I had actively dreamed (big) for. And here I was, actually awake and living it.

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To call the experience “surreal” would be as if I didn’t realize there were far more words in our lexicon. Perhaps magic, transcendent, awe-inspiring, remarkable, transformative, stunning, or enchanting would capture it all more effectively. Perhaps there are no words to fully explain what could truly only be deduced to a personal feeling. Regardless, I’ve been processing this moment ever since and the best possible way I could relay it to you was to corral a bunch of memorable and inspirational one-liners I heard throughout the evening.

“We are the table.” - Lashana Lynch

“There was never a ceiling.” - Melina Matsoukas

“The world is better because of me and American black women.” - Kerry Washington

“They are the heroes that I’ve always been waiting for.” - Janet Mock, regarding the cast of Pose.

“I want my daughters to wake up and choose themselves.” - Niecy Nash

The night, which concluded with a rumbling performance from the insanely talented Brittany Howard, was filled with laughter, tears, love, beauty (both inside and out) and support, which is especially timely during a week where we feel forgotten in this industry we call Hollyweird. I got to shake the hands of people I admire such as boss-ass entertainment attorney Nina Shaw, the fabulous Aisha Hinds, Lip Bar founder Melissa Butler and more. Plus, Angelica Ross complimented my jumpsuit (there was a lot of that going around on all sides, by the way...no one hypes you up like black women).

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Thank you, Essence. Thank, you Ford. But, most of all, thank you, black women for continuing to restore and fill me in a way only you can. I love you.

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Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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