clopedias in the hall floors. I was a good student, but I
was a constant discipline problem for my mom.
I was sent to Mississippi to live with my aunt. I was
a very willful child and was getting into a lot of political activity. I was told I couldn’t go to a demonstration,
but I would go anyway. My aunt was a teacher and they
thought she could straighten me out.
I would have graduated high school in 1971 but I left
and went to college after the 11th grade. I went to Boston
College, and racism in Boston was virulent. I went to a
restaurant with my grad-school colleagues and was told,
“We don’t serve negroes in here.” I was the only person of
color. We didn’t eat there.
There was a roughness in Boston then, but Cambridge
was different. I left Boston before I got my doctorate
and went to work on the Council of Economic Advisers
under Jimmy Carter. I worked at the Rockefeller Foundation, the New School for Social Research, and then
went back to San Francisco and ran for the county board
of supervisors. I didn’t win. I thought I wanted a career
in politics but I’m probably a little too blunt for politics.
I liked to talk about race and decided to try to get
paid for it. I started writing for USA Today and getting
into talk radio while teaching. And then I started doing
CNN and ended up coming to Washington, D.C., to do
a talk-radio show. I went into freelance mode. I enjoyed
what I was doing—raising issues, raising voices, being
active in leadership roles and civic organizations. I was
making a life and making a difference.
In 2005, I was asked to speak at Bennett College
for Women, and while I was there, they asked me if I
would be willing to be the diversity professor in residence. I fell in love with the place and the students.
Their insights on the world are so fresh. I left with a
long list of things Bennett should do.
And now I have the greatest challenge. We are a
small HBCU with a small endowment, and we need
money for scholarships to provide working-class students with access and to make campus improvements.
We’ve had no new building in 20 years.
My contract is a five-year contract, and I’m a year
and a half into it. I want to emphasize global studies,
entrepreneurship, communications and leadership.
We are building curricula transformation around those
things. These are the most important areas for young
There is a cultural shift. We are
infusing new things in the curriculum,
but people don’t like change.
People operate in silos,
and that has to change.
women to be trained in for the 21st century. With this
economy, whether you are working for GM or Bennett
College, you are working for yourself and you’ve got to
sell yourself and your ideas.
There is a cultural shift. We are infusing new things
in the curriculum, but people don’t like change. People
operate in silos, and that has to change.
We have 12-year-olds in the poorest part of D.C.
in a tennis program. We call them the junior Bennett
Belles. It’s a joy to me to be around these girls. Of-tentimes, when I think of how we want to grow and
mold students at Bennett, I have them in the center
of my mind. Those young women are literally my secret passion.
Television appearances on CNN,
PBS, ABC, FOX, MSNBC, CNBC,
C-SPAN and others
Editor of “Voices of Vision: African
American Women on the Issues”
and co-author of “Unfinished
Business: A Democrat and A
Republican Take on the 10 Most
Important Issues Women Face”
Served on faculties or visiting
faculties of New School for Social
Research, University of California,
Berkeley, Michigan State
University, Howard University and
Former president of National
Association of Negro Business
and Professional Women’s
Clubs. Serves on boards of the
Economic Policy Institute, The
Recreation Wish List Committee
of Washington, D.C., and the
Liberian Education Trust