Desiree Peterkin Bell is driven by Purpose, not Position. Desiree raised by a single mother, who didn’t always have the monetary resources for her children, as a community activist, raised her children to work hard and make education a priority. Desiree believes she drinks deeply from wells she did not dig and advocates for marginalized communities today. She is a passionate advocate for justice and always for fighting for those our broken system has traditionally written off as powerless. Her goal in everything she does is to make the world a better, more fair place for the next generation: for those like her daughter. Seasoned and battle-tested, Desiree uses her skill set and many talents to stand up for what’s right.
Based just outside of New York City, New York, Desiree Peterkin Bell runs DPBell & Associates, a full-service firm focusing on brand management, development, and positioning. She created the group in 2016 after 20+ years of public service working within varying levels of international, national and local governments and on policy issues. DPBell & Associates recently collaborated with the city of Los Angeles and H Code, a LatinX digital brand, to produce culturally appropriate messaging to promote COVID-19 testing to the city’s Latin community. The group utilized OTV, influencer partnerships, and digital partnerships. Thanks to their hard work, her team and H Code helped boost awareness, soothe COVID-related anxieties, and increase the rates of testing. DPBell & Associates has also been tapped by numerous campaigns, and causes to develop digital and GOTV strategies during the 2020 Presidential election cycle. DPBell & Associates, also serves as the Public Affairs and Public Relations Firm of record for AMP Global, and their project The Mic: Africa, which is revolutionizing the Telecom and Media industries by empowering fans to earn mobile data for discovering and amplifying great content.
Like Desiree Peterkin Bell herself, her firm is most passionate about representing movements rather than moments. They’re focused on working with brands and people who are proactive about making a difference. As a leading group helping address racial inequality and equity issues, they’re often called to advise organizations, executives, and C-suite offices. The company has team members in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Tel Aviv. They serve clients both nationally and internationally. In addition to brand development services, they also offer crisis communications, strategic counsel, media training, content development, and more.
Desiree Peterkin Bell has won many awards throughout her career. She’s been honored in PR Week’s “40 Under 40;” the Philadelphia Tribune, where she was named one of the city’s most influential African American women; and as a “triple threat” in Black Enterprise. She’s even won a “Shorty Award.” She’s also been credited with the rise of Cory Booker’s significant social media presence, which led to his participation in the 2020 Presidential Race. She has other legacies from her government career, too. She helped guide three historic pieces of legislation, the New York City Smoke Free Air Act of 2002, the Film Tax Credit, and Tort Reform, into law.
Our Interview with Desiree Peterkin Bell
Question: What’s the most important thing we should know about you?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: I am a mother, a wife, a sister, and a daughter committed to fighting injustices and waking up everyday determined to make this a better world for my daughter. I am driven by Purpose, and not position. I may not be perfect, but my intentions are solely rested in equity, parity, justice and equality.
I am also an international best selling author and I am just getting started. I have co-authored two Amazon Best selling books and contributed to one book geared to mothers and parents about how to talk to your kids about the world at large and creating civically engaged kids.
Question: Name the most impactful lesson you learned from failure.
Desiree Peterkin Bell: Always trust your gut. I have had the most amazing opportunity working with some amazing leaders who have served some amazing roles. My biggest lesson was never to put yourself in a situation where you care more than the person serving in the role of authority- never idolize and only focus on the mission and the purpose.
Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: My daughter is a 12 year old precocious, creative and passionate young lady who sees the good in people and always wants to help. She is my greatest accomplishment because I know she is destined to change the world.
Question: What did you waste the most time on when you were first starting your career?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: Self- doubt can be derailing. I have always been the youngest, often only Black female at a decision making table in government in politics for over 20 years. Being so young you can second guess yourself. I have learned that wisdom has nothing to do with age but with everything to do with experience. The fact that I was a young, Black female raised by a single mother in an inner city meant my perspective was different, my journey and how I valued things in life ie safety, protection and viewed discrimination was critical for any converation in the room specifically when discussing policynin an inner city. I learned to rely on my experiences, when making decisions that impacted people and communities of color.
Question: Name a tool you use for work that you can’t live without.
Desiree Peterkin Bell: Anything and everything about my phone. Especially because of COVID, my phone has been my office, my link to clients, movement work and to the people who matter most outside of my home.
Question: What is your favorite hobby and why?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: Dancing. I enjoy the free flowing movements that allow me to forget for a minute all my worries and troubles. Dancing allows me to feel the music in a way that resonates with my soul.
Question: What excites you the most about your industry right now?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: While there is so much many may see wrong in politics, I see the potential for good people to preserve the rights of our democracy. I see young people stepping up in ways we haven’t seen in our lifetime demanding necessary and critical change to systems that are archaic and often produce disparate outcomes based on race, class, and socioeconomic status. I am hopeful for the future because the young people I see leading the way are fearless.
Question: What concerns you most about your industry right now?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: That there are those who support the systemic racist structures and understand their roles in perpetuating stereotypes and injustices. There are people in power, in leadership of public service, in elected positions who thwart regard for the law and the systems in place. They use their power, privilege and positions to challenge the very nature and foundation of our democracy.
Question: What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: To continue and fight for justice despite the obstacles that have been places before me. I recognize that I drink deeply from wells I did not dig, my ancestors were killed, beated, raped and pillaged so that I can be their wildest dreams. As Maya Anglou said:
“Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Question: Name one small habit that positively impacts your productivity.
Desiree Peterkin Bell: Being able to take a breath and pray and be thankful for living another day, my family and having a roof over my head and life’s necessities. No matter the battle, that always grounds and centers me.
Question: What tips do you have for getting a seat at the table?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: Trust yourself. Have facts on your side. And just step on in. And as Shirley Chisolm said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”
Question: What book has made the biggest impact on your life?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: The Bible. I can always find refuge and safety and answers in the Bible. A more mundane book, is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou which is a powerful it is a coming-of-age story of Maya Angelou as a young Black girl- that illustrates how strength of character and a love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma.
Question: Do you value intelligence or common sense more? Why?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: No. I value common sense. I know a lot of book smart dumb people. When I look to hire people, I want people who can do the job, traditional academic trajectories often don’t teach someone how to think creatively and define and design their own solutions to complicated problems and understand the context in which they may exist. Cultural competency is a necessity as well just as important as common sense. Cultural competency is defined as a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations. Again, in Today’s world it’s a necessity.
Question: What would you consider to be the perfect day?
Desiree Peterkin Bell: For some a perfect day would be without obstacle or struggle, for me a perfect day is remembering that despite what may come up and try to be an obstacle or hurdle, with GOD’s grace and mercy behind me, I have the endowed skillset to persevere to greatness and accomplishing the task at hand. My family is my anchor, my daughter is my light, anything I do and anything having to do with a perfect day results in her warm smile and pride in her mother that I am doing all I can in the world to make it a better place.