Desiree Peterkin Bell

Stories and Lessons from a Woman of Color

Best-Selling author. Award-winning brand builder. Advocate for change.

New York-based public figure and brand builder, Desiree Peterkin Bell, learned at an early age that the courage she’d need to make a difference in life had to come from within herself. As the eldest daughter of a single mother—a former community activist who raised three daughters—she has always looked to the stories and lessons from those around her to help inform her path, but looked inside to find the strength to make things happen.

After a series of unfortunate events left her family homeless in a battered women’s shelter, Desiree realized that the only way to gain control over her life and experiences was through education. From that day forward, she put all of her energy and focus into school. By the time she reached eighth grade, a school counselor had informed her that she could take the SATs and receive an opportunity to attend boarding school. 

Desiree Peterkin Bell passed the exam with flying colors and was accepted to two prestigious boarding schools. However easy she found the test, though, her experience at the school proved difficult. Awakening one night to find another young woman standing over her and rubbing her hand—the girl wanted to see if “the black came off.” Scared, Desiree pushed the girl off, defending herself. 

Unfortunately, as is so often the case in our society, despite the cause of the situation, Desiree bore the brunt of the consequences. She was asked to leave the school. However, they were able to find another school for her through the A Better Chance Program. On academic scholarship, Desiree moved to Wallingford, Pennsylvania, living in the ABC’s Girls House for four years. That time in her life proved pivotal, waking her up to a myriad of societal issues such as, but not limited to, privilege and racism. 

Those early experiences, the ones that pose the risk of breaking us in two, usually become the fuel that directs us towards our path in life. It was no different for Desiree Peterkin Bell. They strengthened her resolve and instilled in her a dedication to make a positive impact in the world. 

Following her high school graduation, Desiree attended Swarthmore College, where she majored in Political Science and Education and excelled in athletics. Upon graduation, she received the Dean’s Award for exemplary community service and outstanding academic achievement. 

The next step for Desiree Peterkin Bell was law school. However, she found herself soon experiencing a self-prescribed quarter-life crisis. She was seeing success in her career but had seldom been so unhappy. Seeking a change, she returned to school and was awarded a full scholarship from the National Urban Fellows Program towards a Master’s in Public Administration. 

The fellowship led to an appointment in the Administration of former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson. The career move would later domino into a series of successful positions within multiple local governments and prestigious institutions, including roles serving the former Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and former New York City Mayor,  Michael Bloomberg. 

Her contributions to these governments resulted in multiple awards. What’s more, she is even credited with the rise of Cory Booker’s significant social media presence—one that eventually led to his participation in the 2020 Presidential Race. Throughout her career, Desiree Peterkin Bell has 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; as a “triple threat” in Black Enterprise; and has even won a “Shorty Award.”

In 2016, Desiree moved away from public administration and into the world of public affairs establishing her own full-service agency. DPBell & Associates, which has offices all over the world, serves both an international and national clientele. With Desiree at the helm, their tactics are battle-tested and purpose-driven. 

Recognizing that she drinks deeply from wells she did not dig herself, Desiree Peterkin Bell is passionate about mentoring the younger generation, specifically young women of color. For Desiree—who learned at an early age that discomfort was the only way for her to grow—works diligently to ensure young women whose stories parallel her own have the tools they need to find resilience and strength. As such, she is a founding member of Simmons Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization working to support students’ education and self-reliance goals. 

As a Black woman who was born without many resources to build with, she has bare-knuckled her way to the top, always fighting for the underdog. She is fighting for justice. She is fighting for the people whom the system deems powerless. While Desiree tries her hardest to separate her personal life from her work, she admits that at the heart of all her decisions is the one of a mother. She is fighting to make the world a better, more fair place for the next generation—for her daughter. 

Desiree Peterkin Bell believes that despite the trials and tribulations life may throw at you, whether you’re a brown woman or just someone who is bearing the average weight of living, you have been endowed with the resources to make an impact. She believes that with a voice, despite your position in life, you have purpose and that purpose leads to power. Now, let Desiree help you find that voice.