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

Sensual Encouragement from
Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou
Source: Wikimedia
author, Adria Richards
For the entire month of November I'm bringing you my Black Women & Sexual Empowerment series. Follow at #BlackWomenSexuality. 

When I think of someone who lived her life to the fullest, Dr. Maya Angelou comes to mind. Legendary writer, actress, filmmaker, dancer, Grammy award-winner, college professor, mother and probably other titles I’m missing—she did it all. Her sexual history was also interesting. Maya Angelou survived sexual abuse as a child. She became a teen mother not long after graduating high school. Angelou knew first-hand that pimping ain’t easy. She worked as a madame and a prostitute. She had a couple of ex-husbands, who happened to be white men, which she didn’t talk about much.  We love Angelou for the inspirational words she left us. Some of those wise words were about sex. Dr. Angelou saw value in sexuality and pleasure for women of color. These messages show up in some of her most beloved works.

Dr. Angelou wrote about her appeal to men in “Phenomenal Woman.” Sure the poem is a celebration of womanhood, but she acknowledges that part of her womanhood is her magnetic sensual energy that draws men.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

My favorite poem of hers is “Our Grandmothers.” The piece is a testament to the adversities black women have survived throughout history and how we must drop the racist, oppressive labels placed on our bodies, and define ourselves. We cannot be moved by others’ ignorance.

She heard the names,
swirling ribbons in the wind of history:
nigger, nigger bitch, heifer,
mammy, property, creature, ape, baboon,
whore, hot tail, thing, it.
She said, But my description cannot
fit your tongue, for
I have a certain way of being in this world,
and I shall not, I shall not be moved.

In her iconic piece “I Rise”she gives recognition to her vagina and sensuality in one stanza. She sees her punany as priceless and beautiful. This is threatening to the sexist and racist haters she’s speaking to in the poem. The stanza is contrary to the racist stereotypes about black women's bodies in “Our Grandmothers.”

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

 She rises above the hatred with self- love of her body and sexuality.

The other day I was going through a box of books at my mother’s house for research on black female sexuality when I stumbled on a signed copy Maya Angelou’s Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey.  She signed it with her name and “Joy!” I understand that’s how she signed all of books. I got a sense of the energy from her pen just looking at the swirls and curves of her handwriting.  I flipped through the book to see if she included any thoughts on sex. There’s a chapter called “Sensual Encouragement.” I wanted to be encouraged! 

Angelou reminisces about dancing with Alvin Ailey in her much younger days for elite black social clubs like the Elks, Masons and Eastern Stars.  Her costume consisted of a few feathers and sequins. Ailey wore a leopard g-string, but this was no g-rated show for that time. My favorite part about this story is that before going on stage Angelou said women would give her caressing touches and whisper, “That’s right honey. You’re pretty. Go out there and shake that thing.”  “When I was young. I used to shake it. I mean, shake it.”

Angelou saw the deeper meaning to their touches.

“Looking back, I realize that the women’s strokings were sensual rather than sexual,” she wrote. “Because they encouraged me, they participated with me in the dance. Because they had enjoyed themselves when they were younglings, they did not envy my youth.”

The moral of the story for me was to Express, Explore, LIVE out that sexual energy inside. Of course be safe doing it, but do it. Do it before it’s too late. Since elderly people still get it on, too late is your last breath. 

I imagine Maya Angelou would say, that we black women have a special swing to our waist. We have a certain way of being in this world. That beautiful, dynamic place between our legs is like fine diamonds. Sistas rise in your self-love and sensuality. We are beautiful. We are unique. We are all types of sexy. We are phenomenal.

I miss you Dr. Angelou. Thanks for the encouragement.