Dee Dee Ngozi

55, Atlanta, GA, 2016

Jess T. Dugan
American, born 1986
Dee Dee Ngozi, 55, Atlanta, GA, 2016
Pigment print
Promised gift L2019.158.5

Listen to the Artist Speak About the Work

My middle name is Ngozi, which means God’s blessing. I was speaking on HIV and my journey with HIV in the church one night and this African minister just jumped up and said, “You’re Ngozi!” I said, “Uh, what do that mean?” and he said, “It means God’s blessing. You have God’s blessing.” So I adopted that name when I sent my name change in and then I had my last name changed to my husband’s and then we was married. I served collard greens, and ham hock, and baked cakes and he’s just as happy as a lark after the twenty-five years we’ve been together.This coming into my real, real fullness of knowing why I was different is because I was expressing my spirit to this world. And I didn’t know how God felt about it but I believe in God and I have a deep spiritual background and I talk with the Holy Spirit constantly who’s taken me from the Lower West Side doing sex work to being at the White House.

We created the first trans ministry in our church and I sat on the “mother board” with the other mothers. One day, mother Gladys asked me to come and sit down there with them. And after we had our little meeting, after church, Miss Gladys went to do something in the office and then they surrounded me and said, “What gives you the right to be here on this mothers’ board? We don’t understand it.” I said, “Because I’m a mother to the ones you can’t love. The ones that you cannot be a mother to, that you throw out on the street every day. Those are my children. The ones you throw away.” I said, “That’s why I’m here.” You could hear a pin drop, nobody said nothing. They went on and accepted me and said, “Come on girl, sit down.”

I’d go the clinic for my HIV, I would do stuff. I’d push patients, walk them to the car, sing church songs. I was just having a ball while I was waiting for my appointment. And a guy saw me one day that had an agency, and he said, “Miss Dee Dee, you work down here?” I said, “No.” He said, “I got a job for you.” And that was God just setting me in right there in that clinic with my own desk and I was my own boss. I could go to work as myself. The first day I got on the train with my little briefcase and my little suit on with the other people that were going to work. And when I got to the front door of the clinic, the Spirit stopped me and said, “Look across the street.” I said, “Look across the street?” So I looked. Then I saw flashes of me jumping in and out of cars on that corner, and I remembered I used to run girls off that corner. That was my corner. He said, “Now look how long it took for you to cross the street.” I could have lapsed right there on that sidewalk. This had come full circle now.