I recently attended the AT&T “28 Days” event hosted by Actor/Rapper Common, with guest speaker Desiree Rogers. As you may know Desiree is a very powerful woman in the business world. She is currently, the CEO of Johnson Publications which owns Ebony & Jet Magazines and Fashion Fair Cosmetics. Most people know of Desiree from her stint at The White House.
She was thee ‘Social Secretary‘ from that controversial ‘party crashing – Salihi’s blow’
…. Anywhoo, Gumbumper had the opportunity to bump gums on something more than that. We chose to go with a light hearted approach.
So that YOU our viewers would get a better look into the woman everyone’s talking about. I was able to catch up with her and ask her a few questions. She’s a really pretty, down to earth woman who by the way—even helped ‘little ole’ me pick up my change off the floor when it fell out of my coat pocket!! (priceless.)
– Alyssa K
About the event: AT&T recently held its 28 Days speaker series event in Chicago, III at the Park West Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 23. Now in its fourth year, the AT&T 28 Days campaign celebrates Black History Month and aims to motivate consumers to use their voice, share their vision and move into action this February and throughout the year. The Chicago event was hosted by award-winning hip hop artist, actor, author and activist Common and featured an inspirational message from innovative leader and bold visionary, Desiree Rogers. The 28 Days speaker series consists of a seven city tour that showcases some of today’s influential and respected leaders offering their own unique perspectives on how consumers can shape their own future. To see the full schedule of speakers and AT&T 28 Days speaker series tour stops, visit: 28 Days!
Gumbumpers check out the interview and pics below.
Alyssa: So how did you get your start in politics?
Well I’m not really a politician, but I ran the Illinois Lottery when I was about 30.
So, the governor of at the time asked me to run the lottery. That was really my first real introduction into the political arena. Prior to that, I’ve worked on campaigns. You know, just people I knew. People I liked. Like Mayor Daley, I worked on his campaign. Toni Preckwinkle, I worked on her campaign. Carol Moseley Braun. You know, all these people that you run into or that you meet, and as a young person you say, “Well how can I help out?” And so I wouldn’t call myself a politician.
I’m more of a business woman.
Alyssa: Well OK!
But, I know a lot of politicians.
Alyssa:(laughs) So I read somewhere that you grew up in New Orleans.
Alyssa: When you were growing up, what were your aspirations? What did you aspire to be?
In charge. (laughs)
Alyssa: (laughs) Me too!
Which is the case with a lot of girls. They want to be in charge. So, starting there I really knew I had to be prepared. And so one of my big focuses, in fact they used to just call me “The Librarian” because I was always studying, reading, and preparing. You know, as I got older I certainly knew how to party too. Coming from New Orleans we like to work hard and-
So that’s always been a theme in my life. If I’m going to work hard, I want to party hard too. But I would say very early on both of my parents were educators. So education is really important to me, and it was important to focus on that and do well. That was my job as a child.
Alyssa: What advice do you have for young females coming up who become uninspired or just can’t decide which road they want to take in life? What words of motivation or encouragement would you give them?
What moves you? You don’t have to make a big decision. Everyone is so, “I got to decide exactly what I want to be, who I’m going to be, how I’m going to get there. You know, I’ve got to plot out my whole life.” Live your life! I mean, that doesn’t mean you’re crazy, and you have no aspirations, but sometimes we miss those opportunities that are right in front of us because we’re so busy planning for next year. Or planning for the next thing, and so you miss all the opportunity that’s right around you. And most of all, you miss the experience and teachings.
Everyday I learn something new. So partly, that’s because I allow myself to be opened to what’s happening around me, and not rushed through every thought, everyday trying to get to that next place. Sometimes it’s just good to be where you are.
Alyssa: So what do you think about the 28 Days with AT&T? What does this event mean to you being African American?
What I really like about it is this whole idea of people using their own voice, and their own spirit to really create change, to create the kind of life they want to have, to create a life for others. And so that’s really what I like about it. It’s not status quo, it’s what can you do? How can you be involved? Because so many times people kind of flow through, and wait for other people to do things for them. They say things like, “I’m just one person. I can’t make any change in anybody’s life. Nobody cares really what I have to say, they only care about celebrities. Or big companies, rappers, and actors. Or whatever.” I think everyone can make a change.
I mean, you just brought me a book that’s written by a seven year old (“Not Fat Because I Wanna Be” written by: LaNiyah Bailey). And I think other little seven year olds, and maybe even ten year olds, or twelve year olds will pay attention to this and want to hear from her. So it’s all about, particularly for women, being confident, making certain that you’re heard, and understanding that it’s important that you’re heard. If you don’t think you should be heard, no one is going to listen to you.
Alyssa: Who was your inspiration growing up? Your number one inspiration?
Well I don’t know if I have a number one. I can say probably from the earliest days my inspiration was my grandmother. My grandmother had an eighth grade education, and she was a domestic. And then I can remember her saying to me, “I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m going to start a business.” And I was a little kid, probably like five years old when she started a business.
She opened up a couple of daycare centers because she saw that women were going out to work. So she opened these daycare centers in New Orleans. You know, she was very ahead of her time. Everyone was buying Cadillac’s, she wanted a Mercedes.
Alyssa: OK! (laughs)
Everyone was baking apple pies, she was making a quiche. She didn’t let the fact that she had only gone through eight grade limit her in anyway, and she wasn’t a follower. She didn’t say, “Well I have to fit in with everybody. I can’t have this or I can’t have that. Another piece of her that was really great is that she brought women in the neighborhood along. First, by taking care of their children, and sometimes they couldn’t pay. So she’d let them go along like, “We’ll see you next week.”
Then she bought property, and she would help people find apartments to rent. So she was very involved, particularly with women. It wasn’t about her. It was about let’s just help these women get ahead because it’s going to be important for them to have more preparation than she had.
Gumbumper, I truly hope that you guys enjoy this interview that I had the honor of doing with the illustrious Ms. Desiree Rogers. She has now opened my eyes on who she really is. Leave your comments and thoughts about this interview below!! You never know who might be reading. (wink, wink)
She is the WO-MAN!!! ……My Shero!
– Alyssa K.
Personal Pics Taken By: Christine Campbell
More pics from the event courtesy: Errol Dunlap Photography