AFRO Publisher Frances “Toni” Murphy Draper

By Frances “Toni” Draper
AFRO CEO and Publisher

Seven years ago, Dr. Pamela Love Manning and I compiled stories of 12 Black women who successfully fulfilled their dreams and aspirations, despite tremendous obstacles. Many of these women experienced unbelievable trauma stemming from childhood abuse or abusive relationships or poor decisions leading to years of shame, guilt, stress and regret. With their full consent, Dr. Love and I interviewed each woman and included their stories in a book entitled, Life Happens…But You Can Finish.*

As we wrote in the book’s introduction, “Many people start a lot of things that they feel are important to them. They start out with enthusiasm and with the drive and determination necessary to finish their race. But just like running a race, it’s not when you start or how fast you run, what matters most is crossing the finish line. Regardless of how long it took, what obstacles you crossed along the way, who did or did not help you, or how much you wanted to give up or quit, there’s something powerful about being able to go from thinking about what’s left to be done to saying, I did it or I finished!’

Finishers have a certain mindset and level of determination that causes them to overcome obstacles, no matter how difficult or insurmountable they seem at the time. Finishers don’t always have a concrete plan with clearly defined action steps and don’t always anticipate the opposition and delays they will encounter along the way. They don’t anticipate having to deal with the pain, hurt, shame, disappointment, betrayal, and insensitivity based on words or actions of people close to them, relatives, close friends, employers, church members, etc. Despite the odds or obstacles, Finishers finish!”

The courageous Finishers profiled in Life Happens… freely share portions of their life’s journey to encourage and inspire others. Their stories reveal how they achieved personal and professional successes, despite opposition, adversity and in some cases, a lack of personal and financial resources. Some describe how they learned to stop falling and avoid staying stuck in unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior, because of the manipulation and controlling tactics of people who claimed to love them. Still others share insights into how they learned to let go and adjust to the loss of meaningful connections they thought they’d have for a lifetime. Each Finisher also credits her faith in God as an integral part of her journey, and each story ends with an original poem by Andrea Evans (an elementary school teacher in Texas). 

On page B-4 of this week’s keepsake edition of the AFRO (We’re Still Here: Body. Mind. Spirit.), we feature Finisher Deneen Penny-Rymes’ riveting first person account that graphically describes how she finished well, despite being raped as a child, years of substance abuse, a devastating fire, an incarcerated husband and a life-threatening illness. There are other compelling stories throughout this edition including: Sickle cell awareness, education crucial for Black families by Alexis Taylor. Suicide is real and prevention is available by Rev. Kevin Wayne Johnson, The Establishment of the Pink House by Beverly Richards, What One Question Would You Ask God and many more. 

Kudos to Managing Editor Dorothy Boulware, News Editor Jessica Dortch, DC/ Digital Content Editor Micha Green and the entire editorial, production, advertising and digital teams for a job well done. They have shown through their hard work and dedication to producing quality products (in print, on social media and online) that life indeed does happen, but they can finish and finish well. 

*Life Happens…But You Can Finish by Drs. Frances “Toni” Draper and Pam Love is available on

Frances “Toni” Draper
AFRO CEO and Publisher