Activist Jodie Patterson Thanks Her Way Through Hard Times

Featuring a broad cross-section of women who have distinguished themselves across a rich variety of careers, our Portraits of Power series is a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of BLACK ENTERPRISE and of black women. It’s a place for today’s businesswomen to share their own favorite images and their own stories, in their own words. Today’s portrait is LGBTQ activist Jodie Patterson.

Jodie Patterson

Author, Social Activist, Chair of the Board – Human Rights Campaign Foundation

Nickname­­­­­­­­ JoJo

My first job was … I’ve always worked, can’t recall a time I didn’t work. I was an acrobat in the Big Apple Circus as a child. I worked at a modeling agency in high school. But my first womanly job, that covered my own bills, was at the New Press as a junior editor of non-fiction books. I’ve always loved words.

My big break came when I became pregnant with my first of five children. It was my first break from anxiety and self-doubt. After I birthed Georgia, I was like: “Oh hold up, I can gestate and deliver an entire being??? Well then I can balance a budget, launch a company, manage a team, produce an idea, make shit happen. Let’s go!”

I’ve had to work hardest at making my own damn money. Nah mean?

I never imagined I would be this very woman. I mean, who can exactly predict transformation, loss, gain, growth, love, betrayal, triumph, birth, death, and success? I never knew I’d be this 50-year-old JoJo.

I wish I’d learned to say “hell no” sooner.

The risk I regret not taking is … I don’t even understand the question. I take risks. I probably could take one or two less each month.

If I could design my fantasy self-care day, it would be spent … OK, here it goes: I’d run a few miles in the sunshine from Vineyard Heaven to Oak Bluffs. Then a two-hour massage by my go-to folks in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. Then my eyebrows tweaked by Maria Brito at my home on my couch. Lashes enhanced by Bling in Manhattan. Read a few chapters of Baldwin’s book of essays in a hammock on my roof deck. Brain dump a chapter for my next book. Cook a plant-based meal and eat it at the kitchen table with all my children. The grand finale: I’d close out the day with drinks and hand holding with my boo.

My boo keeps me up at night.

When I’m struggling, I say to myself, “Thank your way through this, Jodie. Drop to your knees and be thankful. Go inward and be still. Pray. Connect. Answers will come.”

I am unapologetically a mother. A builder. A social architect. Before all else, I raise my children up in love. Just as my mother and her mother and her mother did.


Portraits of Power is a yearlong series of candid insights from exceptional women leaders. It is brought to you by ADP.

Jodie Patterson will be a speaker at the 2020 Women of Power Summit, March 5-8 at The Mirage in Las Vegas. Register here to join us!