Jocelyn Dorsey didn’t evolve into a badass – she was groomed for it. Born to a civil engineer and a teacher, Jocelyn was the first African-American female news anchor in Atlanta - the city where she has had an illustrious 42 year career in broadcast journalism. We caught up with Jocelyn to speak with her about her broadcasting career, her childhood and her love of riding motorcycles.
You were the first African-American news anchor in Atlanta. Tell us about your career.
WSB-TV recruited me a year after I graduated from Ohio State, back in July of 1973. It was culture shock when I moved down from Ohio.
What was shocking to you?
Attitudes. Attitudes towards race. Attitudes towards gender. Most people assumed that I was hired because I was black, not because I had talent. It was a battle to prove myself. The black community was also suspicious of me because I went to a major white university, not from a black college. They figured I knew nothing of the experience of being discriminated against, especially in the south.
Were your parents supportive?
My parents were scared. My father was raised in Louisiana and he had his share of incidents in the south. My mother was a bit skeptical. They had raised me to follow in my father’s footsteps. My dad felt like the engineering field was opening up to women and he felt that women would make good engineers because they tend to be detail-oriented. They didn’t want for me to go into television.
Fast forward to when they finally knew that I was doing okay. It was in 1996 when the Olympics came to Atlanta. I got my parents tickets to some of the events, including the opening ceremony. My dad said, “Well, you finally arrived.”
Throughout your 42 year career, what stands out to you the most?
To sit back now and realize how much history I was a witness to. I have been truly lucky to be in this position. When my son died, Mrs. King (Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) came by herself and sat for over 2 hours with my parents and I. My mother was a history a nut. She was asking her about everything. It was an intimate meeting that I’ll never forget. It is things like that that have allowed me to be in a position to be inspired by the history of Atlanta, and perhaps the nation. Sometimes, you don’t realize at the time that the people you’re keeping company with are ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
One thing that fascinates people about you is that your day job, hosting a local Atlanta television program, stands in stark contrast to your being a Harley-riding motorcycle chick. How did you start that hobby?
I am a tomboy. When I say that, people assume I’m gay, which is fine. I let them think it. It doesn’t change who I am or the friends that I associate with. But I am – a true tomboy.
I grew up on a cul-de-sac of African-American professionals. It was one street where people could afford to buy a house and raise their children that wasn’t in the projects. I had no brothers so these 3 neighbor boys were the guys I used to hang out with. Their dad had an auto shop and was very prominent in the community because of his successful business. Whatever they were doing was so much fun. They had soapbox cars and motorcycles – they were always driving something. My father hated motorcycles so I wasn’t allowed to ride them. I had to sneak around the corner and ride on the back. They eventually taught me how to drive it myself.
When I got married, I stopped riding for a while but took it up when a not-for-profit group asked me to be the Grand Marshall for their charity ride. Every year, the local Honda place would give me a bike to ride for the week. I started realizing how much I really, really enjoyed it. It was freedom. It was also therapy. You can’t think about anything but what’s on that road.
I started riding with a group of people and discovering Georgia. We took the back roads, rode in the mountains. The scenery was so relaxing. It changed my life.
I get out every weekend when the weather is great. I’m about to go to Panama City, FL and then again a ride to Naples where we are going to go deep sea fishing. I love riding with people because it gets me out of the house and seeing things I would otherwise never see.
What do you ride?
I ride an ’06 (you don’t say “2006”) Street Glide. It’s carbureted so it has the “potato-potato-potato” sound that Harleys are known for. It has all of the comforts that I would want to have (except for when it rains).
What’s your favorite Tomboy product?
I love the underwear. The ones that look like boy shorts – the “Feeling Frisky” ones – I love them!
Who is your favorite Tomboy?
Sigourney Weaver. She always played tough girl roles. I like her spunk. She was a badass in Aliens. My back-up favorite tomboy is Ellen. My mother loves Ellen, too. She’s the one who got me started watching Ellen. I remember hearing people criticizing her when she came out as a lesbian. I never understood why people care about sexuality. If you’re a good person, who cares? And Ellen is a good person.