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JeannetteDrake.com - Biography Page

Jeannette Drake, born in Newport News, Virginia attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) and graduated (High Honors) with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology. Her minors were psychology and history. As a college senior she participated in student protests and marches to integrate drug stores in Hampton, Virginia. Passage of the civil rights bill afforded her an opportunity to secure employment as a caseworker in the Hampton Department of Public Welfare. In this job she regularly heard tales about the ravages of the civil war from the superintendent whose mother apparently held vivid memories. The superintendent also reminded Jeannette that any flag-waving or protests would not be looked upon with kindness.

Initially, Jeannette determined eligibility and provided services in the categories then known as Aid to Dependent Children, Aid to the Blind, Old Age Assistance, Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled and General Relief. After two years, Jeannette transferred to Child Welfare where she conducted foster and adoptive home studies, interviewed birth mothers and placed babies for adoption.

Since these years as a young caseworker, Jeannette has worked in many capacities in the human service field, always choosing to remain in direct service and avoiding administrative positions. She began to write poetry as a response to working with male adjudicated delinquents whose crimes were related to heroin addiction. A quiet stint as an indexer for the American Psychological Association whetted her appetite for higher education in social work.

From Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, she obtained a Masters Degree in Social Work. Her casework field placements were in alcoholism at the Medical College of Virginia, foster care for the state of Virginia, and social work education at Virginia Union University.

After graduation, she worked as a family, individual and group therapist at Family and Children's Services in Richmond, Virginia and taught courses in human behavior and the social environment to juniors and seniors in the social work program at Virginia Union University. In 1980 Jeannette began to work as a poet in the classroom for Richmond Arts & Humanities Center. She began as a Clinical Social Worker for Richmond Public Schools in 1981 working expressly for a number of years in a federally funded program with students designated as Emotionally Disturbed at Westhampton School before transferring to regular school social work.

In 1991 Jeannette graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. In 2001 she obtained licensure from the Commonwealth of Virginia, Board of Social Work, Health Professions as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

A charter member of Richmond Chapter, National Conference of Artists, Jeannette has performed as a soloist in a gospel choral ensemble, acted in James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, and in 1982 co-founded a Black Writers' Workshop that convened until 1992. She writes poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children's stories.

Jeannette's earliest influences were Biblical stories read to by her mother and a Baptist upbringing which included regularly hearing James Weldon Johnson's "The Creation." There was also music, sacred and secular; The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, The Harmonizing Four Gospel Quartet, The Clara Ward Singers, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Wings Over Jordan, and Marian Anderson. Too, there was the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday morning radio and during the week, Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, George Gershwin and Nat King Cole.

Her serious interest in making visual art began through her work with emotionally challenged public school students. In addition to reading, her hobbies include viewing old films, listening to spirituals and anthems, blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, funk, classical, country and western, show tunes, jazz, new age music and dancing in her living room.

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