Dayton author empowers women with inspiring poetry

Dayton native Lena Fields-Arnold, an author, poet and motivational speaker, has written several books including "Strong Black Coffee" featuring the inspirational poem "A Diva Made by Design."

Combined ShapeCaption
Dayton native Lena Fields-Arnold, an author, poet and motivational speaker, has written several books including "Strong Black Coffee" featuring the inspirational poem "A Diva Made by Design."

“Don’t allow being a woman or a person of color limit you,” Lena Fields-Arnold said.

From the time her poetry was praised by her fifth-grade teacher at Belmont Elementary School in the 1970s, local author, poet and motivational speaker Lena Fields-Arnold knew the written word would be a powerful tool in her life.

In celebration of March as Women’s History Month, the Dayton native is currently drawing attention to her poem “A Diva Made by Design,” featured in her 1998 book “Strong Black Coffee: Poetry & Prose to Enlighten, Encourage, and Entertain Americans of African Descent.” The passionate, spiritual and uplifting work reminds the reader that labels are just a passing fancy. “I don’t need Ralph Lauren or Polo to tell me I’m fine/I’m made in the image of God, a product of the Divine.”

ExploreWright State announces spring arts lineup

“As a Black woman, I feel like we are often overlooked,” she said. “If you were to (create) a hierarchy of how the world looks at people, Black women are often at the bottom. ‘A Diva Made by Design’ was written at a time when I was made to feel like I was at the bottom. So, it was a cathartic moment ultimately reminding me and subsequently reminding all women, particularly Black women, who are often dragged in the mud, shamed, lied to, and treated so badly, that no matter what message the world sends you’re created in the image of God. You were made by design and not an accident.”

Fields-Arnold is the author of several books including “For This Child We Prayed: Living with the Secret Shame of Infertility,” “In the Absence of My Father,” “Scenes from the City,” and “Jackie’s Way.” Last year, her poem “Dear Black Parents,” which she originally posted on Instagram, received national attention in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death when it was read by a police officer at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Austin, Texas.

“I was blown away by the response, especially when I was asked if it was OK for the poem to be featured on a T-shirt,” she said. “I’m a mother of three kids but particularly two Black sons. It’s very difficult to prove to them that all police officers aren’t bad, especially with all they’ve seen and continue to see. But that moment was beautiful proof that the statement was true.”

ExploreEaster is arriving; here’s how to keep pets safe while you celebrate

Influenced by the poetry of Maya Angelou, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Nikki Giovanni, and many writers of the Harlem Renaissance to name a few, Fields-Arnold is hopeful that future generations of women will be inspired to aspire beyond their comfort zone.

“My generation wasn’t taught to think global,” she said. “We were taught to go to college, get a good job and stay at that job, which is safety. I lot of that was designed by our parents’ fears as Black people. Our parents never considered it might actually be better in another part of the world for us. But there’s not necessarily happiness in safety. So, don’t allow being a woman or a person of color limit you. You have to transcend all of that. The world is big and you don’t have to just limit yourself to the small area you’ve become accustomed to. You really can be anything you want to be but you have to be intentional about it.”

For more information, visit lenafieldsarnold.com.

Contact this contributing writer at rflorence2@gmail.com.

About the Author