By Alicia Frank and Mary Gajda
“Freedom, therefore, is the ultimate practice, rather than a possession or state of being.”
Cameo King, this month’s Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine cover woman, said this quote from Bettina L. Love, author of “We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Education Freedom,” speaks to her.
“To want freedom is to welcome struggle and at the core of the Black experience in America has always been the fight for freedom; freedom on our jobs, in our communities, and in our schools,” said King.
“It is the quintessential struggle as a Black woman to know, embrace and live in a freedom that my existence as a human matters – our lives matter from the water we drink, to protecting the innocence of Black girls, to believing the experiences of Black women, to the right to equitable pay and education, to safe communities and to a fair trial,” she continued. “And within that struggle for freedom, there also lies the struggle to exist fully and wholly as a Black woman – a woman who is whole because she is strong and fragile, perfect and flawed, right and wrong. This woman also can wear her natural coils or 16-inch weave, use ‘proper’ English or the diction and cadence with a Southern flair.”
King explained that it is in these varying degrees of existing as a Black woman that often create struggle.
“The practicing of freedom to live freely and without concern of repercussions. To live freely and have our thoughts, emotions and lives still matter,” she said. “This freedom we have practiced through the enslavement of an estimated 10 to 15 million people, to state-sanctioned violence against the lives of Black folx*, to embedded practices and policies that attempt to erode the God vlessed humanity of Black people.”
King said that the practice and struggle for freedom are evident in American culture. “The spirit, culture and souls of Black people is part of the very fabric of which America is made.”
A longtime follower of her passions, which began while earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast journalism at Howard University. King is a former reporter and anchor for Power 96.5 (WQHH-FM) and WILS-AM, and she was also a producer and assignment editor for CBS affiliate WLNS-TV in Lansing. She also served as chief operating officer for One Love Global, a nonprofit that responds to the social, economic and developmental needs of vulnerable children and families.
King’s zeal for living life freely drover her to continue her college career at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, where she earned a Master of Arts in urban ministry leadership. She found Grit, Glam & Guts during her time there, which is a statewide movement engaging young girls with arts, civic engagement and educational opportunities.
King is now the CEO of Good Girl Radio. Her thought-provoking conversations through her multimedia platform empowers her to further her reach and touch the lives of women across the country and around the world.
“There are too many moments to count throughout history that have reminded me of the rich culture of intellect, faith, creativity and fortitude that define Black people in the U.S. and beyond. Some of the most inspirational moments are when Black people show up as their authentic selves and shatter glass ceilings. Moments including when actress, writer, director, producer Issa Rae produced her own web series which has morphed into an award-winning HBO series, or when organizations like Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the first Black Greek-lettered sorority remain intact after over a century of service to its community. Moments when a movement led by three Black women to bring justice and healing to the lives of Black people served as a catalyst for change for the entire world proclaiming a simple statement that Black Lives Matter. It’ these consistent moments of inspiration that happen every single day that define me and remind of my rich legacy. These moments build on one another and connect in intricate ways to create a magnificent history that’s undeniable to my soul.
“My hope is that Black girls and women do more than just survive but also practice freedom
regularly and show up on their jobs, schools, communities wholly as free Black women,” King added.
In addition to our interview with Cameo King, CAWLM writers reached out and spoke with other friends of the magazine about defining moments in Black history that changed or inspired them.
Renee Morgan Freeman
Renee Morgan Freeman is a Detroit native now living in the Lansing area. Freeman was employed as office manager with former state Rep. Virg Bernero serving as his special administrative assistant, responsible for his schedule; the administrative functions of the office; and supervision of staff, interns and volunteers.
Freeman continued to work in Bernero’s office through his election as mayor. As the mayor’s office manager, Freeman oversaw management and administrative functions of the office and served as the mayor’s assistant and personal scheduler.
“On June 28, 1990, in Detroit, my best friend and I took the day off work to join more than 50,000 people at Tiger Stadium to see Nelson Mandela,” Freeman said. “Detroit was the first city he visited on his Freedom Tour after having been released from nearly three decades of imprisonment and attaining a position of political influence. To see Mandela in persona and hear the determination in his voice to resume a cause in which he truly believed, through unity, peace and reconciliation, was awe-inspiring. Being part of such a massive and jubilant crowd on one accord greatly reinforced my belief that all things are possible. Mandela didn’t let his circumstances hold him back. He never gave up on his desire to rid South Africa and the world of inequality. His perseverance to keep pushing for the advancement of humanity resonated within my spirit.
“In the midst of this still ugly, cruel and degrading racist society, I strive to make a difference wherever I can. It is my resolve to take the high road and look through the lens of peace and love. Each of us is uniquely different, but the same blood runs through our veins. Yes, Mandela’s triumph was a defining 20th century moment, which correlates with the 21st century defining moment for me when in 2008 the United States elected its first African American president, Barack Obama, to lead the nation.
“In 1990 at Tiger Stadium, Aretha Franklin sang ‘The Impossible Dream;’ at President Obama’s inauguration she also sang ‘My Country ʼTis of Thee.’ Both songs were appropriate for the occasion. While I may have been at work, there was no working on that day either. As much as I wished to be in the crowd of more than a million people in Washington, D.C., my colleagues and I were glued to the television to watch Obama take the oath of office. To honor the legacy of these two presidents and the civil rights activists who came before them, I am forever inspired to remain a soldier on the battlefield for the progress of African Americans and equality through love and peace.”
As a leader with 15 years of financial industry experience, Catrice Lane is a business consultant within the operations area of Jackson national Life Insurance Co.
Lane also is a community leader and gives her time and counsel to organizations through board memberships and public support efforts. She is a strong advocate for human services programs, and targets her personal philanthropic efforts to help organizations connecting vulnerable people with human services and promoting self-sufficiency for low-income people overcoming a personal crisis. Lane gives a voice to her and others’ thoughts and issues as a freelance writer for publications that focus on topics of interest to women and people of color.
“In 2008, Barack Obama ran a campaign about change and became the first Black president of the United States. Unfortunately, my dad passed a year before this event occurred. The day the 2008 election results were nearing an end, I remember sitting at home by myself with uncontrollable tears and thinking about how amazing it would have been for my dad to be alive to witness the moment they said the words ‘President Barack Obama.’
“My dad used to tell me when I was a child that ‘it would be nice to have a Black president, but I don’t know if the world is ready for that yet. It may still be too soon to move away from the undeserved stigma placed on Black people for generations.’ I’m personally inspired to know and honored to share a statement that my dad used to say to me about race relations in this country. He would say, ‘We aren’t what we ought to be, but we’re definitely not what we used to be either.’ The moment I was able to witness the unthinkable on behalf of my dad will inspire me for the rest of my life. Black history – my history – will always be the proudest moments to share.”
Suban Nur Cooley
Suban Nur Cooley is a writer and editor living in the Midwest, where she is a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University. Her research focuses on women of the Somali diaspora and how their identity performance is affected by memory, migration/displacement and assimilation.
“A defining moment in black history that has shaped and inspired me is the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994. As a Somali woman growing up in Australia during the ’80s and ’90s, it deeply saddened me to know that institutionalized racial segregation still existed. So I remember this moment in history as I was alive for it and am grateful for the work of all those who sacrificed their lives and freedoms to make it happen – Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela and many, many others. I also share a birthday with Madiba (Mandela).”