Actress-singer Diahann Carroll – who died last week at age 84 – will always have a special place in my heart.

When I was in first grade in 1969, my parents bought me my first lunchbox: a sturdy little metal container with Carroll’s beautiful face on it as her nurse character from the pioneering TV show “Julia,” which my family used to watch.

I don’t remember whether I picked it out myself or my older sister selected it for me, but I loved it.

I don’t remember ever being embarrassed about having a woman on my lunchbox. Other kids – who had lunchboxes featuring comic book or cartoon characters – never teased me about it either.

After Carroll’s death, I read many tributes about her in print and online. And the more I read about her social activism and efforts to help other African-American entertainers, the prouder I was to have owned that lunchbox.

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