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

UC San Diego Students' Racist 'Compton Cookout ' Is Not A Shocker For This Alum

I have to interrupt my black erotic series because of reported racial ignorance and foolishness connected to my alma mater, UC San Diego. Seems like some chapter members of the predominately white fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha tried to get their ghetto pass like John Mayer and have been accused of honoring Black History Month by allegedly hosting a "Compton Cookout" party. The fraternity denies involvement. Here's the dress code from the invitation:

For guys: I expect all males to be rockin Jersey's, stuntin' up in ya White T (XXXL smallest size acceptable), anything FUBU, Ecko, Rockawear, High/low top Jordans or Dunks, Chains, Jorts, stunner shades, 59 50 hats, Tats, etc.
For girls: For those of you who are unfamiliar with ghetto chicks-Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes - they consider Baby Phat to be high class and expensive couture. They also have short, nappy hair, and usually wear cheap weave, usually in bad colors, such as purple or bright red.
They look and act similar to Shenaynay, and speak very loudly, while rolling their neck, and waving their finger in your face.

My first thought when I read the Facebook invite was I hoped it wasn't true. However, I'm not surprised. I was one of the 200 black students who made up roughly 1-2% of the student population in the late 90's. And the numbers haven't changed much. Looking back on my experience, stuff like this offensive 'Compton Cookout' isn't new.

My girlfriend from college reminded me of the time another fraternity advertised a rush party and posted flyers on campus of a black man hanging from a noose. The flyer read something like "Don't leave us hanging." People complained and the posts were removed.
Then there was the incident my first year where a half-white, half-Indian guy who lived across the hall from my dorm harassed me for days about teaching him to speak Ebonics.
I didn't know what he was talking about at first. Did he mean the history of Ebonics or a definition of Ebonics? When he saw me in my suite he would say, "Yo, when you go be teaching me Ebonics?" I told him his remarks were offensive but he bugged me for days. I guess he assumed because I was a black girl from Oakland that I knew how to speak "jive." Eventually, I gave him a piece of mind and he stopped.

I got one more for you. Junior year, I took a creative writing class. A student in my critique group was upset with my short story about an interracial couple and wrote racist comments on a copy of my paper. I don't know what he wrote because neither the TA or professor would give me the copy but they said it was bad and had to meet with him.

UC San Diego is a great academic institution and I'm proud of the education I received there. But it can be a tough place for a student of color. The campus is not diverse nor is the city where it's located. La Jolla is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. It's not the best college town because it's very expensive for students to live. There's not a lot of partying going on in La Jolla because the residents aren't having it. If you see a black person in La Jolla, they're usually not a resident. The more diverse South San Diego is about 25 minutes away. Sucks for you if you don't have a car. There are very few professors of color and many of them don't stay because of the campus climate. I think the school invests so heavily in their math and science programs which is great. But they need to work better at encouraging social activities. The prospective black students who visit the campus often don't choose to attend in the fall because of the lack of diversity. If it weren't for support I received from UCSD's Summer Bridge program and Cross Cultural Center, I don't know if I would have graduated. It's hard being the only one in your classes and people judge your intelligence based of your skin color. Or students think you're collard greens are strange when they've never had them. And don't get me started about the times random white dudes pulled my braids because my hair was so "different" and they just had to touch it. And finding black hair products in La Jolla is like going on a treasure hunt. My mom shipped my hair care supplies from Oakland.

Of course there are positives. UCSD is a beautiful campus located right by the beach. I got a great education for a public school price and was blessed with a lot of grants. My experiences in college made me a stronger person. In a weird away I learned about diversity in a space that lacked it. I definitely have a deeper appreciation for diversity today. I developed friendships from various races, sexualities and economic backgrounds. Also my stellar education prepared me for graduate study and my journalism career.

The Chancellor is reportedly organizing a teach-in but that's not enough. I say find the party planners and attendees. Put them on a bus to Compton since they "want to be down" and think all it takes is to Kool-Aid, Kentucky Fried Chicken and cheap weaves. Take away their cars, internet access and cable. Make them live and volunteer in one of the worst areas of Compton for 2 weeks. But also, expose them to the nice areas in Compton. Make them catch the bus so they can really learn about life in Compton. There are thugs in Compton and there are professionals in Compton. Just like any other city.

The black students I went to school with are now doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, educators, doctoral candidates at Ivy League schools, health advocates, engineers, entrepreneurs, writers and home owners. And most of us grew up in places just like Compton. But think about it. Those privileged kids who took fun in minstrelsy with their gangsters and "ghetto chicks" costumes are the future. They may be your congressman, doctor, or teacher years from now. Scary isn't it?


  1. Hi Cocoa Fly! It's something how black folks have been in the news so much and how white folks are actin' out against us! I say it's some deep seated anxiety/guilt that's being worked up and out of their subconscious minds. White folks have got it BAD! I refuse, though to get worked up by these incidents, because I'd be in perpetual anger mode. America seems to be in cultural meltdown and we black folks are the epicenter of it all. Is it because Obama is Prez? I'm just sayin'

  2. I think there's just a lot going on in our country. People are stressed from the economy and the war. You have some not comfortable about a black man as president. Some have lost confidence in the president. And I hate to say it, but some of these people who don't know anything about the ghetto are regurgitating what they see and hear in MAINSTREAM hip hop culture. But that doesn't make it right because they're still being racist. Minstrelsy has been around for more than a century. Now it's evolved to these "ghetto fab" parties. And I know not all white people are in support of this. Just like all black women from the ghetto don't act like Shanaynay.

  3. I'm not shocked either. Black people are so invisible on that campus that no one thinks about these kinds of things . . . but my thing has been until we stop reinforcing these stereotypes with media we support, we shouldn't be surprised at stuff like this . . . and i am very disappointed at ucsd's response. i'd be pissed and be taking to the streets!

  4. Thanks for writing this. Very insightful. I'm both shocked and saddened to learn this is the norm at San Diego.

    This would've started a near riot on my campus. That kind of old school racism is strange coming from younger whites, at least where I'm from where it's usually old lower class whites and the occasional lower class kid that engages in the old school stuff. Things are usually a hell of a lot more subtle here with the privileged whites on campus. Overall though I think this shows what's happening in the republican party where race is becoming so big they're ready to explode with it. The rich kids are acting out the racism they're seeing come out of their parents.

  5. Well there's a twist to this story. From what I've been reading in the San Diego newspapers, the person whose idea it was to throw this party was actually a black comedian and disc jockey named Jiggabboo Jones. The photo in my post was on the Facebook invitation. Google him and see.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I am disgusted by the racism portrayed by this fraternal organization, and it isn't the first time a fraternity had a rasist party:

  8. Hi! I am an African American woman who attends UCSD. am from Southeast San Diego. thank you so much for this article, it really has uplifted me and given me hope. I totally agree with finding hair products in La Jolla! I also agree with the punishment for the individuals who started this party. Its time for UCSD to change!!

  9. Hi Anonymous,
    Thanks for your comment. I'm sorry to hear what's happening at our school. I know how isolating that campus can be. Hang in there, fight the good fight and when you get frustrated with the bull just remember you're getting an excellent education and it's gonna pay off in the long run. That's what got me through. Oh, and I highly encourage you and other students, not just black, to do an exchange program or travel abroad. It's a great experience, good escape from campus plus you get units.

  10. Please use the "Name/URL" option when commenting. I don't care if it's a fake name.

    YOU DO NOT have to type in an URL.


  11. Yay for UCSD Summer Bridge :)

  12. How do you feel about the UCSD Black Alumni Association Event that was entitled "Chicken n' Kool-Aid" until these events unfolded? Was this in poor taste as well?

    Google Cache:

    In response to a commenter above, I wouldn't say racist party themes are the norm at UCSD, it's misogonystic themes. Everything is "(something) and ho's"/"naughty school girls", etc. - that is where the red flags should have flown

  13. Please use the NAME/URL option when commenting so I don't have to respond to a bunch of Anonymous. It's confusing

    @ Anonymous above, thanks for your comment. I think non-black people need to realize that all black people don't support or enjoy some of the images of African Americans that black people create. Just b/c one black person does it, DOES NOT mean we all say it, do it, wear it, eat it, etc. For instance, I don't use the N-word. Some black people use it as a term of endearment but I don't like it and people who use it around me know not to call me the N-word. Jiggaboo Jones may have been a part of planning this Compton Cookoout but I find his style of entertainment degrading and don't support it. To answer your question about the Black Alumni event, it was in poor taste to name it "Kool-Aid & Chicken" If I lived near San Diego I would not have attended. And that's what some of these non-black people who listen to hip hop & watch BET don't understand. Just because other black people do it, don't assume we all do. All black people don't think alike.

    I agree that misogyny and sexism are found in a lot of college parties. In regards to this "Compton Cookout", there was racism and misogyny. Particular the misogyny was against black women. There you see racism and sexism intersect. But the red flag should have flown on both -isms, not just sexism.

  14. You real can't take these uneducated UCSD white trailer trash anywhere. This is what happens when more than one of these guys puts their minds together.

  15. Montana,
    I understand you're angry as am I. But using offensive terms like "trailer trash" is not tolerated on this blog. Please use other language to express your frustrations.

    More than likely these young men grew up in the suburbs since fraternities are usually expensive to join. And they probably went to good high schools. But they're still ignorant.

  16. I can't believe all you people who think that there should be some sort of punishment for those who attended the party. Ever heard of the first amendment? Sure, the party was offensive to some, funny to others, and just plain baffling to a lot of us. BUT, other than bad-taste and a poor sense of political correctness, what have these guys done?

    First off, all you people saying this was a racist frat party are just flat wrong. It was put on by a black comedian. Search on youtube: "jiggaboo jones", he breaks it down for all you idiots who want to construe everything as racist.

    Second off, why is it that people have white trash-themed parties all the time without any outcry from white people protesting that those stereotypes are harmful. Or ____ & Hoes parties and no one cries misogyny.

    I swear all you tight asses who can't take a joke and want to play the victim all the time need to fuck off.

  17. To Johnny Utah just because this comedian was involved does not make it right. Some people of color have played into racism as well. Just like women play into sexism. Your campus needs to do more for diversity. I attend San Diego Community College. I used to live in UTC near UCSD when I served in the Navy. I understood at that time this campus lacks something ,and its called diversity. A campus that lacks diversity is a campus in trouble. This whining from the white students about freedom of speech is crap. Get educated on why the African American Students are so upset about this. White students usually lack a good history lesson because they cannot handle the hardcore truth in their history. They usually don't sign up for black studies classes or a black history class. The white students who do take these classes usually are already informed. I think the punishment should be a research into the degrading history of minstrels. Spend some time in the real Compton, and talk with people be upstanding and show some integrity in yourselves. I agree with another poster these are future doctors and scientists ,and we as a community would be doing the human world a favor by educating these people on why this was extremely wrong. To Johnny Utah this is not a joke and we as a community need to say that the joke is on you when you deal with real people in the real world. Oh and white trashed theme parties are to be done away with as well. Come on... you guys are supposed to be getting a stellar education and you don't even understand that this is wrong. Take a class on why there are urban ghettos and trailer parks or better yet read a book about it. A good book to start would be.. Bell Hooks Where We Stand Class Matters.

  18. Thank you for this insightful article Cocoa Fly!

    TO ALL: Check out HUMAN WRITES, a UCSD Women's Center project that aims to spread awareness about social justice issues, promote involvement with social justice activism, and to provide a resource for activism of all kinds.

    Voice your opinion, contribute to Human Writes!

  19. Melissa, first off thanks for serving our country. I agree sending those kids to Compton would be a great learning lesson for them.

    Johnny, I'm not saying the party would erupt in violence. I'm telling you the history of these parties and one of the reasons why it's offensive. You're firm in your opinion and I'm firm in mine. So, we're gonna agree to disagree.

    @ Human Writes--thanks for stopping by Cocoa Fly. I used to work for the Women's Center when I was a student. :)

  20. So what exactly about liking fried chicken, forties, and fat white women makes me a racist? These are all things I've seen on BET or heard about on the top 40s played in campus dining halls.

    For fuck's sake, the university THIS YEAR brought both Keak da Sneak and The Game to UCSD to perform for students. Essentially, the administration and the BSU are coming down on students for their embracing of something they have tacitly approved for years.

    But then again, it is 2010 and We president now.

  21. @ Lolith w/ the link to Koala,

    Just like the publication you linked to, you're buying right into the stereotypes. Chuck D. from Public Enemy said in a documentary that not all black people are comfortable with images in hip hop. And I agree b/c a lot of mainstream hip hop today has degrading images, homophobia and misogyny. Keak da Sneak, the Game, Jay Z, Kanye, Lil' Wayne, Jiggaboo, etc DO NOT REPRESENT ALL BLACK PEOPLE. I grew up in the hood. I don't use the N-word, I don't gang bang, I don't have gold teeth in my mouth, etc. They don't speak for me, my family, my colleagues, my friends etc. Because of these images, others lump black people into this category and don't take us seriously. And a lot of these rappers pushing this garbage are studio gangsters, playing a role to make money and people like you think they're real. When those people at the party become managers and CEOs and some black person applies for a job at their firm what are they gonna think of them? Felon, welfare recipient, uneducated?

  22. It’s a plot by the fundamentalist rightwing party of tyranny called Republicans. They foment hate, they sneer, they make excuses for their behavior and blame everyone else. They advocate the supremacy of their America – a lily-white America. They are scared and frightened becuase (gasp) a black man has been elected to the White House. They are losing conrol and like cornered animals, they are lashing out. This is the national leadership from whom these studants take their cues.

  23. Carr
    I must say you hit the Nail on its Head. Your statement is absolutely on point.
    I am the only female African American woman in a small engineering firm and since the election attitudes have changed among my all republican co-workers.

  24. I will tell you what I have seen these last few days, I saw people from different backgrounds, my children, my brothers and sisters come together in solidarity, and got the message heard.

    This reminds me of a parable from the good book where a Levite and Priest come upon a man who fell among thieves and they both individually passed by and didn't stop to help him. Finally a man of another race came by, he got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy and got down with the injured man, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.

    You see, the Levite and the Priest were afraid, they asked themselves, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?"

    But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

    That's the question before us. The question is not, "If I stop to help my brother in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help my brother, what will happen to him or her?" That's the question.

    God bless all my brothers and sister that stood side by side with our brothers and sisters in need, when you saw a wrong you tried to correct it, you may argue the methods but not the reasons. I know God will not discriminate by country of origin, our sex, our orientation, color of our skin, or our religion as men do.

  25. There's no racism or sexism at UCSD, sorry. The students there are too apathetic to care.

  26. i have to say that this whole situation makes me really angry. As a graduate of the UC system and as a black man im saddened not just by the actual event but by the apathetic response of more then a few people.

    Although i did not attend UCSD i have many friends and family members that have so unfortunately im not surprised that something like this could happen on that campus. I went to UC Riverside which fortunately pretty diverse, so going to a school where you see so few faces that look like your own can be extremely disheartening.

    I will say that I am happy at the support the other UC's have been giving UCSD. All black ppl need to come together at times like this to support one another.

  27. @ Benito Juarez--Hmmm your name sure does sound familiar. Thank you so much for your comment. I liked how you put things in a perspective of Unity.

    @ Ozzie--I remembering visiting UCR and there was a more relaxed energy on the campus.

  28. I wrote a response to the campus climate for the Huffington Post. You can see it at the link below:

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