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

‘The Black Woman Is God’ is a Beautiful, Spiritual Experience

Sistas I met at the exhibit posing in front of
Karen Seneferu's work. 
Black women, we need to celebrate ourselves as much as possible. Black women, we need to celebrate ourselves as much as possible. Black women, we need to celebrate ourselves as much as possible.

I NEEDED to take BART, then then walk 20 minutes to the SOMARts gallery for The Black Woman isGod exhibit. I made it there on the last day. Karen Seneferu and Melorra Green curated this vivid, glorious, woman-made heaven of artwork by more than 60 Black female artists.

I NEEDED to be there because of the Black community’s silence after the killing of Korryn Gaines and so many other Black female victims of police brutality. I needed to be in a space free of cultural appropriation. I needed to be in a space where Black women of ALL shades and sizes are the stars because Black women are so often invisibilized. I need to be in a space of love while dealing with my own heart. With Black women athletes shining in the Olympics and Black Girl Magic all around me, I wanted to celebrate the beauty, strength, magic, color, vulnerability and power of Black women. 

Honoring ourselves in this way is a spiritual experience.  I felt it in the main hall. I felt energy. I felt the ancestors. I felt the Black women who were enslaved, maids, scientists, artists cooks and writers. I felt the spirits of women who were ignored, brutalized or not able to live their potential. I felt the spirits of women who had pride in their culture and womanhood. I felt the spirits of women who wanted the Black women there to know there is so much more to us than our struggle. I felt peace. I felt a sense of refuge. That’s the power of art.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces.

"Zeluma" by Shona McDaniels
photo by Jenee Darden

 If I were a rich woman, this painting would be coming home with me. Zeluma by Shona McDaniels captured me. I love the colors the woman’s rich, dark brown skin and hairstyle reminded me of myself and some of my dear sista friends. I have friends who look like this woman. I see the beauty in them just as I see it in this extraordinary piece.

"Ancestral Womb Portal" by Sage Stargate
Photo by Jenee Darden

 Sage Stargate’s Ancestral Womb Portal Mural shook my soul. I believe the Sage Stargate is only 21. This chalk mural is so powerful. Humankind came to Earth through that womb portal. The mural conveys the Black woman is the galaxy, Goddess and the beginning.  Stargate honors the Black vagina and menstruation – the flow of life and our own creation.  And that glorious, cosmic pink Afro of energy gives off more energy. I see womanism. I see the Black woman as the past, the present, the future and the original. I looked at this work the longest. I feel blessed to be able to see something like that. Seriously. It was a blessing to behold something that magnificent.

"Mammy, Mammy" by Yetunde Olagbaju
Photo by Jenee Darden

This was the display I’ve been waiting to see since I realized Black women suffer from oppression inside and outside our community.  Yetunde Olagbaju’s Mammy. Mammy portraits are DEEP.  Zora Neale Hurston once said that Black woman is the mule of the world. Patriarchy on all levels sucks the life out of us. I see a woman who puts others before herself.  I see a woman who has to put others before herself. Black women are expected to solve and save everyone. Even in 2016 folks are still suckling off us.

 Some of us voluntarily whip out our breasts. How many sistas out there are still supporting and allowing grown men to suckle from them—financially, emotionally and spiritually? She’s providing so much to these “men” who rely on her, but they weigh her down. DEEEEEEPPPPP.

"Mission Accomplished" by Latisha Baker
photo by Jenee Darden

Black Girl Magic came to life through so many textures in the exhibit. Latisha Baker created Mission Accomplished on wood. I’m amazed at how artists are able to turn something simple as wood, into a complex and dynamic art piece. I love images of little Black girls because there’s something special about Black girlhood. I was blessed to have a good childhood and I loved being a girl. Little Black girls have their own style and energy in the world. Her innocence in picking flowers with her doll is so girly. I’m all about Black women celebrating the feminine. If you look close, notice the girl’s hair is braided. Amazing!  I would buy this one too. It reminds me of one of my favorite pieces by Brenda Joysmith called Barefoot Dreams.

I met co-curator Karen Seneferu and she said the exhibit will return next year. I’ll keep you posted. Until then, let’s continue to celebrate ourselves.