Issue No.6 February 21, 2001

IGNITE ~ Can’t Take Your Wine When You Die
HOT GIRLZ ~ Mellody Hobson
ISM ~ Black, White & Jewish
ESOTERIC ~ Women of Color at Work
CHICA TO CHICA ~ I Am My Daughter’s Mother


intro and overview

So much of what celebrating Black History Month is about centers on remembering and honoring the legacy of African-American heroes. Today I am struck by my generation’s conscious efforts to ensure that we are remembered in a very specific way. I look at this month’s Hot Girl, Mellody Hobson, who at the age of 32 is not only President at her firm, but is reconstructing ways in which young Black and Latinos relate to money. She is not simply satisfied with being remembered for her status, but wants to be remembered for being an agent of change-- a Trailblazer. The other features in this month’s issue look at race and how two women struggle to redefine themselves. I love that we are coming to understand our lives as a series of choices and that we do not have to settle for status quo. We are seizing the day and enjoying every bit of Life’s rewards while we can. You can’t take your wine when you die and life is not promised for tomorrow. So the challenge is to wake up, ready and willing to carve out something new, something unforgettable. Today I feel particularly emotional when talking about legacy as I am in awe of the one Mfon Essien left behind in the wake of her death last week. Featured in our third issue, Mfon was the incredible photographer who has left an amazing body of work behind. Herstory reflects what Black History Month is all about—celebrating courage.

Nicole Moore, Editor


inspired, creative and groundbreaking


Mellody Hobson
by Kila Weaver

We’re kicking off this issue with an interview with Mellody Hobson, 32, President of Ariel Capital Management, Inc. In 1999, this Princeton grad was named one of Crain's Chicago Business magazine's "Top 40 Under 40". She is also on the board of directors at the Chicago Public Library, St. Ignatius College Preparatory School, and The Field Museum, among other institutions.

Ariel is an African American owned asset manager located in Chicago. Besides managing over $5 billion in assets, they offer a top performing family of mutual funds. Ariel Mutual Funds practices socially responsible investing, avoiding the traditional “sin” stocks, i.e., alcohol and tobacco. And Ariel takes social responsibility seriously. Their mission goes beyond the usual corporate goals of profits and growth. There is the Ariel Community Academy, located on the South Side of Chicago, with over 200 students. And under Mellody’s leadership, Ariel is aiming to transform the way African Americans think about money and investing.

theHotness: How is Ariel reaching potential clients in the African American community?

Mellody Hobson: We want to make the stock market the subject of dinner table conversation in African American households. We’ve sponsored educational seminars around the country on investing. We’ve also used traditional marketing, co-sponsoring events and working with Black Enterprise Magazine and the Chicago Bulls. We have a new, non-traditional marketing initiative, co-sponsored with Vibe Magazine. It’s a stock-picking contest featuring three hiphop stars. We started last fall (October 2000) with Jay-Z, the RZA and Eve. This time we’ve got Xzibit, Prodigy and Funkmaster Flex. On the website,, referring to the Wu Tang song C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me), you can see each player’s stock picks and their performance. Visitors to the site can enter a contest to win $10,000 in Ariel Mutual Funds. The interest level has been huge.

tH: A lot of young women of color feel overwhelmed by the avalanche of information about the market and slightly intimidated because equity investing has been so mystified. How can one get started?

MH: Because of the expanded coverage of the stock market in general media, a lot of the mystery has been cleared away. You can get started with your daily newspaper. Use it to get comfortable with reading information about companies. Above all, be disciplined. It’s like when a basketball player favors dribbling with the right hand, so the coach makes her dribble with the left. You have to double up your effort. Because, really, you can’t afford not to. Second, there are business magazines like Black Enterprise that offer articles on a wide range of people-- from Ken Chennault (CEO of American Express) to Master P-- that are of interest to our community. Lastly, find a broker or investment advisor to help you. And be disciplined about that, too. If you relocated, you wouldn’t pick your new dentist or doctor blindly from the phone book. In the same way, you should find an investment advisor whom you trust to discuss you personal finances. There are a lot of good people out there that can help you.

tH: Whom do you most admire?

MH: (After a long, thoughtful pause.) My mom, because she was nontraditional. She empowered us at a young age to do whatever we wanted and she instilled responsibility in us through trust. John (Rogers, Jr., CEO and founder of Ariel Capital Management) because of his vision. He’s also non-traditional. He’s unselfish and the type of leader who makes you a better person just by being around him. Rev. (Jesse) Jackson. I’m overwhelmed by him. He does the right thing and he’s non-elitist. He has pure motivation. I aspire to be that selfless and compassionate. And he works. I think I work hard, until I look at Rev. Jackson. He works hard for other people. Lastly, Martin Luther King, Jr. He changed the world, not just for African Americans but for all of us. I think he’s this country’s most significant political leader. The will he had was great-- his will, his discipline and his legacy.

tH: We know the statistics that say that African Americans and Hispanic
Americans lag behind the mainstream in savings, net assets and retirement benefits, because as a group we’re relative newcomers to the investment arena. What is your vision for the economic and financial future of the African American community?

MH: That each African American child at birth receives gifts of mutual funds and stocks that will follow them throughout his or her life. That we develop a strong sensitivity to, and comfort with, investing in the stock market. That as that child grows up he or she has a college fund, the capital to start a business after college, the money for a down payment on a home, ample resources for a comfortable retirement and money to leave to his or her children. That we become part of the economic mainstream, with the emotional and financial security that accompanies it.

On Mellody Hobson’s bookshelf:
The Making Of An American Capitalist, Roger Lowenstein. Excellent business biography of uber investor Warren Buffett.

The Money Masters, John Train. Interviews with famous investors (Benjamin Graham, Sir John Templeton, T. Rowe Price).

One Up On Wall Street, Peter Lynch. An investing classic, in plain English.

~ Kila Weaver, has been keeping track of her finances ever since she understood the power of lemonade stands and piggy banks.




music, books, film, tv and websites


Black, White & Jewish

Finishing Rebecca Walker’s autobiography produces this eerie sense of relief because it’s written on the edge of being ‘found out’ in a genre that’s all about letting it out in public. Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, is a memoir of Rebecca’s first eighteen years, filled with the anxiety and determination of an adolescent who constantly feels that someone more ‘authentic’, more real and reliable than she, will walk in and mess up her story. Summed up, the story reads like so: a child born to people committed to change—unconventional, political people with causes to fight and the determination to do so. When the world does actually change, Alice Walker and her Jewish lawyer husband, Mel Leventhal, find themselves polarized with Alice defining herself as Black and Mel returning to the world of white, Jewish liberals and daughter Rebecca torn between the two at home in neither world.

The chapters of Rebecca’s life are short and sewn together by a strong thread of uneasiness, worry and resentment for parents who seem less than interested in Rebecca’s motives, activities and relationships; less than understanding about the strain of commuting between coasts and even between cultures. In response, Rebecca’s own take on her parents, also becomes vague and distant. Alice in particular, remains inaccessible in this narrative, demonstrating, perhaps her coolness and the unnerving calm that makes her more a sister at the expense of motherhood.

For the biracial, bisexual founder of Third Wave Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes young women’s leadership, telling the truth has not always been enough or appropriate. Her campaign for truth telling in race, feminism and cultural experience is one that dismisses the ‘right’ or consistent story in favor of fuller descriptions and multiplicity that show how she’s attempted to master cultural codes and gestures. This all the while hiding desires that exceeded her circumstance, stifling contradictions that exposed what she calls “the cracker lurking in my laugh.” Throughout the book she is on guard for that comment that will compromise her efforts to fit in: from the boyfriend that says he forgets she is a ‘real’ sister to the ‘Jewish American Princess’ camp that refuses her rightfully elected role as a ‘song leader,’ there are all of these situations that rupture her desire of not wanting to be considered too black or too white.

One might approach this book as a therapeutic process of re-membering a self stretched and torn apart. From Danzy Senna to Lani Guinier, we are used to hearing biracial women tell their stories in the midst of crisis. Yet, this Mississippi born southern gal reminds us early on, “I am not tragic.” How is it then that these tense moments of feeling unloved and excluded lead us not to the usual despair-filled tragic mulatta story conclusion? Somehow Rebecca, now 31, has figured out a way.

It would seem that the last word in the new biracial narrative is not about assimilation or privileging one parent over the other, but it is about a movement between cultures that is finally visible, acceptable and no longer suspicious: a decidedly untragic coming of age story. Whether society, family and friends included, like it or not-- Rebecca is a Black Jewish White girl! This ‘like it or not’ attitude claims without waiting to be claimed. It is self-defining in a maelstrom of distortion and misperception.

~ Ebony E.A. Chatman is a doctoral candidate at Stanford University whose self-defining experiences with race and culture often lead to Africa.




media bits and news bytes


Women of Color in Corporate Management:
A Statistical Picture

All women are under-represented in management, but women of color are less well-represented than white women. The 57.8 million women in the US workforce are distributed as follows:

White 77% African-American 7%
Hispanic 7% Asian/Other 4%

The 2.9 million women who hold managerial and administrative positions in the private sector:

White 86% African-American 7%
Hispanic 5% Asian/Other 3%




expressing ourselves


I Am My Daughter’s Mother
by Leslie Hinkson

As a mother of a biracial child, there are many issues I’ve had to deal with that I’m sure many other mothers do not. Two years ago when my “husband,” whose background is Scotch-Irish, and I decided we were ready to be parents, I thought it was my duty to try and prepare him for the challenges he would face being a father to a biracial child. Especially the hurt he might experience when people did not immediately recognize the child as his. Ironically though, it was I that was unprepared.

My daughter Olivia is extremely fair with blonde hair and gray eyes. In short, she looks just like her father. The first experience I had with someone questioning her maternity was in the hospital. The doctor on call asked me three times whether I was sure the baby I wanted to sign out of the hospital was actually mine. She even checked my I.D. bracelet to make sure. Since then, it has been part of the normal course of a week to be questioned at least once on this point.

In the beginning, I thought it was funny. The way people craned their necks to see her when her father and I set out on our daily stroll, how their eyes would pop out of their heads when they realized that I was breastfeeding this child. They probably thought I was some crazy Black woman straight out of a Toni Morrison novel. But after about 3 months, I began to get angry. My husband told me that I was blowing it all out of proportion, that Olivia knew I was her mother and she was the only one that counted. What did he know about the humiliation I felt each time I had to correct a stranger or assure my friends and family (and myself) that she’d darken over time? I would walk around the City and see White women with their biracial babies who looked so much more like me than my own did. Did anyone question their claim to their children? And didn’t I carry Olivia around for 10 months, suffer through heartburn, gain 50 pounds and do all the pushing in that hospital bed? Why would no one let me claim Olivia as mine? This question forced me to face some unsettling truths about my own racial perceptions and those of society at large. It also made me think more about women who raise other women’s children.

I too have been guilty of assuming that every fair child I see with a woman of color is someone else’s. It’s hard not to when in the playgrounds of Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights and along the streets of Manhattan little White children are being walked and rocked and held and scolded by women of color, mainly immigrants from islands like the one my family is from. Black women in this country have been taking care of other people’s children for centuries. Some of these women, due to financial hardship, must leave their own children behind in their native countries in order to do so. I often wondered what it must be like to watch a child take his or her first steps, speak his or her first word and yet not be entitled to claim any of that progress for yourself. Now, in some way, I think I know what that feels like.

When I first realized that people assumed I was my daughter’s nanny, I was shocked, angry, then mortified. I tried as hard as I could to think of ways to separate myself from them. After all, I didn’t spend 4 years at an elite college and then graduate school for nothing. But that was just nonsense. There is not much that separates me from these women. We are Black, many of us are West Indian. And although I gave birth to Olivia, they are in many respects as much mothers to the children in their care as I am to her. The caregivers that I meet, with Olivia in tow, have offered me invaluable advice on topics ranging from child rearing to how not to kill your man when he sleeps through every 4am feeding. We meet in the library, the park, the museum and our children do not seem to care at all about the class lines that separate us or the racial ones that separate them from Olivia. They just want to play.

I also realized I wasn’t the only one building up barriers. Some of the nannies I meet seem almost condemning when they realize that Olivia is mine. Some may even want to distance themselves because if they are live-ins, they know the fine line they must walk in establishing both intimacy with and distance from the families they are a part of--particularly in terms of being aware of the territorial limits that we women as a rule mark off in protecting our homes, our children, and (yes) our men. It is not an easy job to say the least. Especially considering that for many, salary and benefits are not reflective of the boom economy we have been experiencing thus far. Being a mother has forced me to think of all these things much more than ever before. And I’ve learned that trying to separate myself from my sisters only served to increase my own insecurities about my daughter. It was a practice in self-hatred that I never thought myself capable of. I hope that I can raise my daughter well enough so that she never has to fall into such a horrible trap. And I hope that the other mothers like me out there who have learned to turn their heads when they see caregivers or my daughter and I enter the library or the playground, also learn this lesson before it is too late for their children.






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© theHotness 2002