Friday, May 24, 2024

Peace: Honoring Alice Key

November 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Highlights, Peace

Last month, Alice Key, one of our longtime Las Vegas pioneers, was called home.
Equal parts brilliance and beauty, Alice lived nearly a century, bringing joy to all who came into her life. As a journalist, entertainer, activist, civil rights leader, teacher, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, she was an icon whose inspirational spirit will remain forever in my heart.
Raised in Riverside, Calif., Alice’s influence extended well beyond the relative anonymity of her beginnings. With the simple act of entering a room, she exuded strength and commanded attention. “She was so beautiful and so smart,” a friend once observed, “everyone loved to be in her company.” My mother, Anna Bailey, told me that when she traveled to New York City in the 1940s and ’50s, it would create palpable excitement. Word would quickly spread through all the Harlem hot spots that “Alice Key is in town!” It is no wonder, then, that historic figures such as Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday — her one-time roommate — considered Alice among their closest friends.
Still, Alice did not reserve the best parts of herself for the glamorous circles she navigated with such ease; she also expressed her power in smaller moments. I can recall as far back as age 7, wading in the pool at the home of my godmother, Dottie West, as “Aunt Alice” taught me to swim. Her simple, but effective lesson: Keep trying and never give up. Soon, her prediction that I could become a world-class swimmer came to pass: By my late teens, I swam all the way to Caesars Palace, becoming the hotel’s first African-American lifeguard. I never ceased to marvel at Alice’s quiet power and the strength and confidence it instilled in those blessed to count her as a mentor.
The favors were returned throughout her life, even as it approached the final chapter. I will be forever grateful to her closest Las Vegas girlfriends — Katherine Joseph, Sarann Knight Preddy, Glenda Coleman and Anna Bailey — for never forgetting about Alice as she lived out her final days in a care facility.
For giving so much to Nevada and the world, she deserved nothing less. As a lifelong recipient of her spiritual largesse, both in business and in life, it gives me peace to say that Alice will always be the key to my inspiration.

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