Nothing I could write could improve upon Jeni Hansen’s remarks about her remarkable grandmother, so I take the liberty to share them here:
“This past week, on the evening of her 103rd birthday, Vanilla Powell Beane received the 2022 Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honor. Thank you, Mayor [Muriel] Bowser, and thank you DC for showing up to honor the oldest small business owner in Washington!
“I’ve said this before but it stands true today — one of the things I remain most inspired by, is my grandmother’s desire to do something without being recognized.
The other day we were talking about becoming who you are — the dedication, determination, triumphs, and challenges. I am not surprised she did the damn thing without analytics, likes, and without a platform – her passion wasn’t built around the approval of others but a genuine love for her craft. She was inducted into the National Association of Fashion & Accessories Designers in 1975, has more than one day named after her in Washington, and hats are featured on a U.S. Postal Service stamp and in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“If it takes you 103 years to be recognized for your talents, work hard and enjoy every day. When you make it where you’re going, overcome the obstacles you and others put in your way, and become who you are destined to be — I hope you’ll look in the mirror and say exactly what my grandma said to me, ‘Well, I’m here aren’t I?’
“The life you lead, truly, is the legacy you leave.”
Photo by Salah Djimbananou and text courtesy of Jeni Hansen, via Sandy Alston, Mrs. Beane’s great-niece.