Through a series of extraordinary, incisive, often-humorous essays, Emmy-award nominated actress Vanessa Baden examines what the idea of “home” means to a Black millennial woman. What are the consequences of gentrification on the life of a young Black woman, and on her ability to raise a family? What does it mean to be part of a lineage, whether it be passed down through names or through the voices of generations of writers and thinkers? In these profound, intimate essays, Baden has found a space where she can work out thoughts and feelings she feels unsafe saying out loud. As she processes the initial ideas more fully, her essays evolve from personal stories to fully-realized communiques of a generation of Black women who are finding a new sense of both belonging and ostracism in private, work, and public life. What begins as a single rider on a Los Angeles public bus travels through a range of experiences and ideas: the interconnectedness of living in a majority-Black community in the Crenshaw district; the overwhelming grief and fear of watching young Black boys be buried while raising your own son; the miracle of finding love for love’s sake and love for one’s self when historical traumas have tried to rob that very idea from you. Underlying the theme of each essay are questions of how a Black millennial woman can find “home” anywhere when confronted with its invasion by police, men, and society’s expectations.
ISBN: 978-1-953103-02-4; $17; May 4, 2021; 240 pages; Three Rooms Press; Trade Paper Original
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An Excerpt from Far Away From Close to Home
The emergence of white girls jogging down Crenshaw was the first sign of trouble.
We had lived in Hyde Park, an area of South Los Angeles that bordered Inglewood, for about two years at that time. I was pregnant. We had every intention of staying in the area, raising our son there, and planting roots. But those damn joggers.
I remember the first time we saw one. Her white earbuds visible as the strawberry blonde ponytail swayed with every counted step, blissfully unaware of the number of Black and brown faces watching her from their driveways or windows or porches. Maybe she wasn’t blissfully unaware. Maybe she was hyper-aware, the headphones a purposeful distraction from what she felt were unwelcoming faces. Perhaps she feared what we all were thinking. Her running in the Crenshaw District would be considered dangerous to anyone who knew her, but maybe she was determined to not let fear of the unknown and preconceived notions of “neighborhoods like this” deter her. And good for her if that were the case. Of course, we are not allowed that same privilege.
From the essay “Joggers” in Far Away From Close to Home by Vanessa Baden Kelly
About Vanessa Baden Kelly
Vanessa Baden Kelly is an Emmy-winning actress, Emmy-nominated writer, and producer. She began her career as a child, starring on Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island and Kenan and Kel. After departing entertainment, she began organizing in college, co-founding the Student Coalition for Justice (later the base for the Dream Defenders) and continued working in the field. To date, she has led campaigns for The Trayvon Martin Foundation, Community Coalition South LA, and various political campaigns including Obama for America ’08 and the Ndoum Presidential Campaign in Accra, Ghana. Additionally, she is an Ambassador for the RuJohn Foundation. Upon her return to Hollywood, Vanessa has become a successful television writer and producer, writing for shows such as TNT’s Animal Kingdom and Mindy Kaling’s HBO Max series The Sex Lives of College Girls. Vanessa originated the role of Journee as writer/star of the Issa Rae digital series Giants, where she is four times Emmy-nominated and one time Emmy-winning for Best Actress in a Digital Drama. Vanessa is mother to a human son, Ryder, and a dog son named Dude.