Category Archives: HEROES

INVENTING DARLA/”A Letter from Susan”

“A Letter from Susan”

Expressed through Darla Davenport-Powell—A Tribute

September 14, 2011

I can imagine Susan Lynne Majette writing this letter:

Hi Everybody!

I made it! I’m breathing on the other side, and I don’t need an oxygen tank. You can’t imagine the celebration that’s going on over here. There are no words to describe how awesome it is to wake up in the arms of God.

It’s better than Hampton’s Homecoming! The “welcome home” sign just blew me away. My Mom, Dad, Clarence Little, Felecia Kurtz-Gillis, Collins, Rodney, Van and so many others just surrounded me with the biggest group hug this side of heaven. They all asked about you and can’t wait to see you again. You know how much I loved Christ as my Lord and Savior. Well, for those of you who don’t know Him, get to know Him, ’cause you haven’t seen life, like life eternal. Don’t know how people live without Him; for it was only God who gave me the strength to live life victoriously on Earth…through all kinds of surgeries, financial challenges, disappointments, heartaches, trials and tribulations; it was His keeping power that gave me peace in the midst of the storm and joy in the midst of sorrow.

You know from Birth to Death, there is a dash. You write your own eulogy by the life you live. I’ve fought a good fight, I’ve finished my course and my question to you is: “How you living your dash?” There is no strife over here, no hatred, no jealousy and no bitterness. Just joy unspeakable! If you’re holding a grudge, or have something in your heart… anger, resentment towards anybody, FORGIVE; and do it today, while the blood is still running warm through your veins. You know it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have any instructions to leave; some call it a legacy…

To my Aunt Shirley, my Aunt Evelyn and cousin Helema: I leave you ever abiding love and hearts filled with peace. I know at times I was a handful, very picky, stubborn, bossy and set in my ways, but God gave me a family that loved me unconditionally. Lupus could not even beat our team! Hold onto the memories, the laughter and the love; and keep taking good care of each other like you took care of me.

To Angie, my Prayer Partner, Sister/Friend and Confidant: I leave you confidence in knowing that our friendship and spiritual connection will never end. There were many nights that I thought I wouldn’t make it to see the next day and you would call and we would pray, and it gave me what I needed to hold on a little while longer. We had some good times too! I am still laughing at some of the stuff that we’ve been through…you get a medal for patience. Your “calling” is clear, don’t run from it…

To my Pastor and Mentor Jan: I leave you with the blessed assurance that your work was not in vain. The respect that Ruth had for Naomi and Timothy for Paul, I had for you. Thank you for your example, for taking me under your wings as a Minister of the Gospel; for living the principles that you preach and for embracing and accepting me as one of your spiritual daughters.

To my Sorors: I leave you each other. Our sisterhood is a gift! Cherish it! Make time to fellowship more . . . there is something special that happens when we get together. Take those trips we talked about; there is no perfect time, so just do it. Charlma and I had planned a trip to Niagara Falls this fall. I didn’t get a chance to go, but you can; and if not there, somewhere.  Every opportunity you get, love and nurture each other.

To my Family, my Friends, to my Church, and my Community: I leave you a spot to fill. We serve God by serving others — for the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Find a cause greater than yourself and make the world better.

And finally, I leave my Doctors, Nurses, Caregivers, and Friends at the dialysis center, my thanks and appreciation for the good times and the challenging times we had, for I know that in the end, it all worked together for good. I leave my chair for the next person who comes in; remember to treat them with kindness, for that may be the only time in their day that they don’t feel alone.

Well, it’s time for me to go now. I know you are going to miss me telling you what to do . . . Well one last thing: Reality shines when we accept the things we cannot change, change those things we can, and in spite of everything we may go through, give God thanks for the journey.

Love you all,





INVENTING DARLA/Warren Buffett, I’m on your trail!

I must admit. I am in way over my head.

What have I gotten myself into with this social media marketing animal? And, boy, I do mean animal.

For two weeks, I have been trying to wrap my brain around all of this new media technology. I said yes to blogging with a passion. I love extemporaneous writing. The major hurdle was sharing my inner most thoughts with the world—pretty much like handing the key over to anyone who wanted to read my diary.

Now I have a Twitter account and a new NiyaKids Facebook page. It’s kind of weird having followers and following people around on the internet. The goal is to get as many people of like interests to sign up as followers, which would make me a leader. I’m all for that. But the other way around feels somewhat odd. I know. In order to have a friend, you must first be a friend; and to be a good leader, one must be a good follower. I get it! The same principle applies to my new Facebook page The goal is for me to get 100,000 friends to LIKE the page to gain the interest of a manufacturer or licensor.  The more toy folks I like, the more folks may like my products. I’m still trying to figure out if my Twitter name is Niya@NiyaKids or @NiyaKids. I need all of my global diary readers to ‘tweet’ me – and we’ll see which one works.

My technology tutor said that the object of all of this is to connect all of the dots. It’s like the neck bone is connected to the shoulder bone concept. With a push of a key, my blog will go out to all of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers. The thought of it is a bit overwhelming.

I wonder what Warren Buffett thinks about all of this texting and tweeting?  I bet he doesn’t answer his own email. But he does have a Facebook page. In fact, Warren Buffett’s page has180, 797 LIKES.

Tweet this: Warren Buffett, I’m on your trail!

INVENTING DARLA/An invocation that continues the dream

SACRAMENTO, Calif. _ Drexel University held its inaugural commencement outside Philadelphia yesterday in a stellar ceremony that featured Darla Davenport Powell giving the commencement. We’d like to share her words!

My Mother’s favorite saying is: This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it; indeed, this is a great day. Psalm 118:24. Let us still ourselves in this moment… as we give thanks for this special occasion…a historic day in Sacramento…the first commencement of Drexel University outside of Philadelphia in the 120-year history of the University.

We have a lot to be thankful for…

Let us pray…

God we are grateful to be alive today…to witness, to participate and to celebrate our inaugural commencement. We are filled with appreciation for those who made this journey possible.

We give thanks to our grandparents, our parents, our spouses, our significant others, our children, family and friends who gave us the inspiration to “keep on keeping on” in spite of the challenges and in the midst of obstacles.

We give thanks for our late President Constantine Papadakis, ‘Taki’ for his vision, his wife Eliana, for her continued support of his vision and thanks to our administrators for carrying out that vision.

We are grateful for the Trustees, President John Fry and the alumni for their continued commitment and service to this outstanding University. We give thanks to our professors for their rich deposits, our guest lecturers and mentors; and the excellent staff that truly was the wind beneath our wings.

We are grateful for the soldiers who serve to protect our freedom and give thanks for their sacrifice.

Now God we ask your blessing on this ceremony, and on this graduating class. Guide us in our decisions and allow us to use what we’ve learned to make a difference in our communities, this nation and the world. Keeping in mind: “To whom much is given, much is required.”(Luke 12:48)…and in the words of Winston Churchill: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”


Darla Davenport-Powell, M.A., MSHE

INVENTING DARLA/God has a funny way . . .

My daughter and I were talking this morning about God and his sense of humor. One thing is for sure:  He has been consistent.

I can imagine how Abraham felt when God told him to “get thee from your kindred and kind, and I’ll make thee a nation; and make thy name great.”


Did anyone bother to tell God that Abraham was old, and his wife Sarah’s eggs had long since dried up? They were probably hardboiled by the time Isaac was conceived. Nevertheless, Isaac was conceived and we know the rest of the story.

The same God took Paul, persecutor of the Christians, and turned his life right side up to be a premier apostle of the very same Christians he hated.


God has a sense of humor, and He is consistent.

We see it in the story of the Mary the Mother of Jesus (a virgin), Mary Magdalene (a former prostitute), Peter (a former thug) and throughout the Bible. Take Noah for example. Here it is: He hears from God to build an ark for years with no rain in sight. I can imagine people murmuring: “Look at that crazy Noah, building a boat, and it ain’t even raining.” The flood came and we know the rest of the story.

I can talk from my own experiences. He sets me up to get a second master’s degree with full tuition paid, without a book allowance. Unemployed, son in college, one in high school, bills up the ying yang and you want me to go back to school and earn a second degree with no books, Lord?

It gets better . . You are not only going to earn a third degree, you are going to graduate with a 4.0 cumulative GPA.

And one car, 17-thousand schedules ( everybody going in opposite directions) and an ailing Dad, who was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma plus a myriad of other demands, I graduated.

And we know the rest of the story.

It doesn’t make human sense . . .

I live in a house that our salary does not sustain. My children attend private schools, I’m sitting on top of a mega-million children’s entertainment business. I’m able to fly to Philly for my graduation. I get my hair done and eat on the regular. I enjoy full medical benefits through my husband’s teaching salary. I get stopped in public places by people from foreign places who ask me: “Aren’t you that doll lady I saw on “American Inventor?” Who knew I would win $50,000 as a finalist to take my product to the next level on a show with 14 million viewers, a product that now is licensed internationally to countries around the world?

God’s ways are not our ways.

I don’t have to imagine what went through Abraham’s mind when God promised to make him a nation with faulty equipment. I know how Noah felt when he was given the assignment of building a boat for an event that people didn’t believe was going to happen. I can identify with Peter, who was rough around the edges but willing to trust what he couldn’t see. For faith is the street where I live; not knowing how but knowing who; not knowing when but knowing that if God said it . . . we know the rest of the story.



INVENTING DARLA/This just in!!

Dear friends and supporters: I wanted to share this news with you!

Drexel University Mom Graduates Top of Her Class without Buying a Book

Darla Davenport-Powell was so excited to learn that she would be one of the first recipients of a merit- based full fellowship from Drexel University that she forgot that it didn’t include a book allowance. So how did this mother of three graduate at the top of her class with a 4.0 cum GPA without buying any books?

“I literally lived in the library,” says Davenport-Powell My day consisted of searching the web to find text books on line. Google became my friend and I read and printed any information on the topics that were assigned. On occasion, I would borrow my professor’s books and read as much as I could before returning them the following week. I also had wonderful colleagues who allowed me to make copies of pages that I couldn’t find (on-line).”

Davenport-Powell will give the invocation at Drexel University Sacramento Commencement at 6 p.m. on June 25, 2011 at the Crocker Art Museum, where more than 100 graduate students are expected to participate in the ceremony. Drexel has enrolled 424 students in its doctoral and master’s programs since opening its Center for Graduate Studies in Sacramento in January 2009.

“I feel a double honor to be celebrated as a graduate of Drexel’s inaugural class and keeper of my Dad’s legacy,” says Davenport-Powell. “He had a work ethic second-to-none and never called in sick after working 46 years and 3 months at the U.S. Postal Service. He was an example of excellence, determination and discipline. My success is a tribute to my father—a man who lived the motto: No excuses!”



I know you’re probably asking, where is Darla?

I spent the past week getting my ducks in a row for my graduation in Philly today. This was my first time stepping onto Drexel University’s main campus. The administration pulled out all the stops for our inaugural class from the Drexel West Coast campus.

The weekend will be filled with special events, receptions and tours. My son, Nigel, wants me to bring him back a Philly Cheese steak sandwich. Request denied. I want to be fully in the moment and not distracted by things I need to remember not to forget.

I’ve opted to stay on campus in a graduate dorm instead of one of the swanky hotels. With all the activities taking place on the main campus, I figure why waste money on a room that most likely will be used as a place to change clothes? Who has time to sleep when there is party over here and a party over there? It’s time to celebrate all of our wonderful accomplishments.

I packed my Mom and Dad’s picture neatly between my regalia, resumes and business casual outfits. They saw this day well before I finished my second thesis. As I marched across the stage to accept our degree, I held their picture in one hand and my diploma in the other and said: We Did It!

To God be the Glory for the things that He has done!

Darla Davenport-Powell

June 8, 2011

INVENTING DARLA/Oprah’s last hurrah

Oprah Winfrey has pulled out all of the stops for her farewell season. Twenty-five years; where did the time go?

It seemed as if it were only yesterday when we welcomed her into our homes. I first met Oprah at a National Black Media Coalition conference. Pluria Marshall, Sr., founder and president of NBMC, made the introduction. Oprah had three years under her belt at AM Chicago, and I was just getting my feet wet in broadcast journalism. Pluria had put me on program to read a tribute to Oprah entitled, “Phenomenal Woman,” written by our mentor, Maya Angelou.

The program ran long, and I didn’t get a chance to do the poem. That ended up being a blessing because Oprah had included it in her speech. We were on the same page.

Now the final chapter of her show has come down to the last episodes.

I hear that her last show will be “star-studded” with celebrities from all walks of life paying tribute to the talk show legend. I was hoping that Oprah’s “last hurrah” would celebrate the behind-the-scene folks who cleaned the bathrooms at Harpo Studios, the personal assistants who ran errands and provided service outside of their job description, the door men, chauffeurs, mail room personnel, food staff and the janitors who swept the floors— all the real stars on the ‘O’ team.

I heard Oprah tell Hollywood film director Tom Shadyac that “This country has gotten off course in its obsession with celebrity…and this culture celebrates people for doing absolutely nothing.” Shadyac asked a question that brought it home “Who will celebrate the women who swept this floor as much as any artist because she is an artist, too?”

My mother and I would stand in line for that show. I’ve produced it in my head. The theme would be, “A servant’s heart;” with special musical guest, Whitney Phipps. As the all-stars are celebrated on the world stage, Rev. Phipps would sing:

Just ordinary people,
God uses ordinary people.
He chooses people just like me and you,
who are willing to do as He commands.
God uses people that will give Him all,
no matter how small your all may seem to you;
because little becomes much
as you place it in the Master’s hand.(Danniebelle Hall)

Each segment would shine the spotlight on those unsung artists on the Oprah team, who served in “street sweeper” positions; and swept as Dr. King would say: “Even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry.

We stand on others’ shoulders.

What I know for sure is found in Proverbs18:16: “A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.”

Oprah is a giver. I hope it’s not too late for the cleaning crew, personal assistants and hospitality staff to share the stage with the Queen of Talk. I hear the last taping is being held at the Chicago United Center. From what I hear. that’s plenty good room.


I’m putting a sign up in my house that says: “Excuse-Free Zone.” It’s amazing how the mind can sabotage great ideas. All it takes is an excuse.

Someone rightly said “Excuses are tools of incompetence used to build monuments of nothingness.” I saw a show with Dr. Wayne Dyer, the renowned author and speaker where he explained that there is an affirmation for every excuse that one could conjure. The program was called, “Excuses Be Gone!”

Dr. Dyer called a friend to the stage who had lost all of his limbs in a fire. To think that if anyone needed an excuse, certainly this man had a legitimate reason. Or did he? Not according to this “excuse-free” angel who simply said that “Life is a gift. How can one complain about being alive and being used to inspire others?”

He saw that what may have appeared to be a tragedy was a blessing to help others stretch beyond their self-imposed limits.

When he sat down at the drums and placed a tennis band around one arm to hold one stick and caught the other between a nub, that was all she wrote. He gave a solo that was out-of-this-world and demonstrated once again: With God, all things are possible, if you believe!


I wrote a book back in the day called, “Things Mama Would Say.” After spending two hours on the phone with my Mom this morning it hit me: Jesus spoke in parables. My Mom speaks in idioms. Her conversations are positive and filled with wisdom. She knows every song in the world. Today, she sang all but one. You can never be depressed around my mother, after she gets through telling you about the goodness of God and how everyday is a day of thanksgiving, there’s nothing left to do but to “look up and live!” Her words are like soul food. Here’s a taste:

“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”
“It’s a beautiful day”
“Thank Him for the little things”
“Take what you have and make the most of it”
“It maybe raining on the outside but there’s joy and love on the inside”
“Don’t forget the bridge that brought you”
“Hold your head up; you can’t see anything looking down”
“Keep on keeping on”
“Never give up on your dreams”
“You can’t live in this world by yourself”
“If you’re going to be by yourself, you’ll be by yourself”
“Glad to be in the number one more time”
“Put a little love in your heart”

All I can say is,



My graduation events at Drexel University in Philadelphia are coming up in June. There are 96 days to go before Commencement. I’m working hard to get my ducks in a row because I’ve got to be there to represent. I have to walk across the stage as a ‘Thank you’ to my Dad who fought a valiant fight against T-Cell Lymphoma. He decided enough was enough, and he went on to Glory.

My parents are so much a part of why I do what I do; I live to make them proud. Even now, I hear my Daddy’s words encouraging me to “keep my head up” “keep moving” and “keep believing” in spite of the challenges and storms.

He lived those words.

When I left California and went back home to help care for my Dad and Mom (and give my sister a much needed break), I would steal away in the evenings to do my school work. My Dad knew that I had papers galore and gave me the keys to his green van. He and my Mom didn’t have a computer so I would go to the University of S.C., Columbia College and Embassy Suites to do my work. I didn’t want to leave him, but he practically pushed me out of the door with his infamous words: “You’ve done enough; I’m fine, fine, fine.”

I would be up late doing research or calling in to participate in class discussions; didn’t want to miss a beat. Why? My parents have always sacrificed so much and have a work ethic out of this world. They taught us that “can’t” doesn’t exist, and there are no excuses. Burning the midnight oil was what we did in our household.

The last time I went home to take care of my Dad, he was very frail. But that didn’t stop him. I remember our going to Best Buy to pick up a new remote. Well, little did I know that my Dad had another agenda, He said: “Your Mom and I need a computer. I want you to pick one out for the house.” I did and we went home and put it together that same day.

The rest is history.

The truth of the matter is that my Dad got the computer for me so that I wouldn’t be out all times of the night doing my Drexel work. My Mom would be up waiting with the porch light on as I made my way back from Embassy Suites a little after 1 in the morning. It didn’t matter how late, she would be waiting.

Yes, I see myself at the 2011 Drexel University Commencement. I have to be there to celebrate the 4.0 cumulative GPA that we earned in spite of the odds. I didn’t get there by myself. There were – and still are – a whole lot of people praying for me, supporting me and believing in me. My Dad’s legacy lives through me. After they announce my name, when I throw my graduation cap in the air, I will close my eyes, picture my Daddy’s face and whisper in his ear, “This one’s for you.”

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