Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Our First Lady

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Doesn't it feel good to say it? I gotta type it one more time--United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

I'm excited about our first African-American president. But like many sistas I'm thrilled about Michelle Obama. She looked stunning in her gold suit as she strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Inaugural Parade. I melted when she and President Obama danced to Beyonce's rendition of "At Last" at the Neighborhood Ball. I loved how Barack caught Michelle off guard and said to the crowd, "How good looking is my wife?" That's what I'm talking about! Finally a black woman, who is not an entertainer, is upheld as beautiful and graceful throughout the world. She's not a singer or model. She's just Michelle, a sista from Chicago's South Side with an Ivy League education.

I think we're fascinated with how Barack caters to Michelle because we don't always see that type of affection toward black women in the home or the public sphere. Like many black children in America, I was rasied by a single mother. The single black mother has to be the man and woman of the house. If something breaks in the home she has to fix it. When it's time to eat, she cooks. And if there's a creepy noise in the middle of night, she has to make sure the family is safe. The black woman raises her daughters to be women and teaches her boys to men. When she's struggling with her roles at home and on the job or jobs--there's no man to tell her "baby it's go be all right." There's no man to run her bath water and hold her when she needs comfort. I don't care how "strong" of a black woman she may be, every woman wants to be treated like a lady. But it's important for black girls to see loving interaction between man and woman so she can know how a man should treat her. And it's critical for black boys to have an example of how to treat a woman. But many of us children of single mothers don't see our mothers being kissed, hugged and treated delicately by men. With 65 percent of black households headed by single parents that's too many sistas not getting the love they deserve. Then when you look at the media, these images are affixed to all black women. If all we see in media of a black momma is a cook, cleaner, hard worker, and maternal figure who can't get a man-- then when is she ever perceived as a lady? Sojourner Truth put it best, " Ain't I a woman?" That's why Michelle Obama is a breath of fresh air. She's a mother, leader, fashion icon, intelligent, loved, sexy black woman. I know sistas like her exist. But it's nice for the world to know women like her exist.

I watched with pride yesterday as this chocolate colored sista from the hood (just like me) entered First Ladyhood. I couldn't help but think about our ancestors who toiled in the fields and the big house against their will. I thought of the pregnant enslaved women who layed their bellies in small holes when the slave masters whipped their exposed, tired backs. I remembered how historians tried to deny President Thomas Jefferson's affair with his slave Sally Hemmings, and just write her down as a dark secret in American history. I thought about the women who marched and took beatings during the Civil Rights Movement. I thought about the black women and girls who are told they're not good enough, smart enough. I thought about the time my high school crush told me dark skinned girls weren't that pretty. I thought about all the black women in our diaspora from Brooklyn to Brazil who probably ooohed and awwed when they saw Mrs. Obama look elegant in her suit and gown. Then I imagined Sojurner Truth looking down from heaven with teary eyes. She's watching our First Lady dance with her husband on a replica of the Presidential Seal and says to herself, "Now ain't that a real woman."

First photo from AP. Second photo from Vogue magazine. Third photo from AFP.