Kimberly Michelle Dobson’s voice is cultured in the way of a woman with a global sense of the world. Her manner of speech that brings to mind Nina Simone or Tina Turner: southern American English co-mingled with European experience. Charmed by living her formative years in Germany—going to boarding school, traveling Europe, and becoming fluent in German—the stars aligned for the veteran radio broadcaster.
Landing cool DJ jobs in Atlanta during the height of the 1990s music scene, Ms. Dobson was known for her beautiful home, hosting celebrity-peppered house parties seasoned with her a soul-stirred taste in music and culinary skills. Nine years ago, swept away in a whirlwind romance, she was gifted a beautiful surprise. Kim recalls, “When I found out I was going to have a child, I looked at it like an adventure.”
Living a full-flavored life, the shift to single motherhood didn’t shake her. “I’d lived in Germany, traveled Europe extensively, met all kinds of people—I’d done a lot of things,” Kim professes. “I had my son when I was 39. He came into my life at the right time.”
In 1998, single and driven, Kim decided to make some power moves, starting with buying her first house. “I was working at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution”—the newspaper that was Georgia’s expression of the New York Times—“and also working part-time on the radio for Clear Channel when I decided to invest in real estate.” After purchasing her first home, she bought another one to rent out. “Once I got that one, I thought, ‘This is a good investment; let me buy another one.’ I would sell some and rent some. It was lucrative.” Kim eventually owned 16 properties.
The Savannah-born supernova had become a successful real estate investor. “I did it for 12 years without having a full time job.” A visual artist, she was able to focus on her artwork while simultaneously becoming co-owner of a catering company called Nu-South Cuisine. A graduate of Savannah State University with a degree in mass media and communications, Dobson worked part-time as a DJ at WCLK, Clark-Atlanta University’s radio station, from 1997-2006. “I had a show called Jazz Nouveau, which featured neo-soul, modern jazz and house music.”
Come December 2006, Charles Langston Dobson-Adams was born. The new mother and her son lived well, she notes. “I always had money,” and time, well-spent renovating her newly purchased homes and taking care of her newborn. However, like many families in the late 2000s, her money was severely affected by the crash of the real estate market in 2007. “I had potential buyers for four of my homes, but no one could get a loan.” The situation got real, real quick.
“I had to file bankruptcy [for] everything—my house, all the houses that I owned, credit card bills.” Kim believes it’s important to share this fact. “People need to know you can come back from bankruptcy. It was actually the best thing that could have happened under the circumstances. I was free to start over again.”
A lovely act of renewal, Kim’s mother took her to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. On the trip, Jacquelyn Oliver Tyson gave her daughter the unconditional love shot: You can always come home. Keenly aware of Kim’s independent nature, Mrs. Tyson conveyed: “You have a son now, you’re going to need help with him. You don’t need to be in Atlanta with a child by yourself.”
Heeding her mother’s words, she was grateful, and clear on a few things. “I could not do this without my mom,” she says. “I wanted my son to know his family; he does. I feel very fortunate, because I could not raise him so well without my family’s support.” The idea of leaving her life in Atlanta was initially unsettling to her but, it turns out, “I love Savannah.”
The benefits of the move were plentiful. Along with practical support, Kim inherited the family home, where her own mother grew up. The consummate entrepreneur and, now, protective mom, she made a business decision that supported her ideals. “I didn’t trust too many people with my only son,” she says. “So I took the appropriate classes and opened a daycare in my home. I cared for kids as a business, including my own child, until he went to pre-K.”
Assured her son was in trusted hands, Kim revisited her career doing what she does exceptionally: broadcasting her gregarious voice. Hired at Magic 103.9 (where she now works) as a radio DJ, the music maven books voiceovers for television and radio commercials, emcees concerts, festivals and hosts parties—K.Michelle the Midday Diva is one of the premier voices and personalities of the Hostess City of the South. Turns out, Savannah loves her back.
Art being a notable part of the city’s character, KIMM (her artist’s tag) exhibited her abstract paintings in December 2014 in historic Savannah. While her homes have always displayed her abstract, large-form paintings, “The exhibit—with another artist, Sonya Robinson—was invigorating to me. I look forward to more opportunities like that.”
Charles is proud of his mother; he thinks it’s cool that she’s an artist and a radio star. As far as he’s concerned, “She is rich. I know that.” Kim chimes in, “Who’s rich??” Her 8-year old responds with pure confidence: “Me and you.”
“My son is a blessing,” she says. “The most challenging aspect of being a single mom is, you have to do everything. You buy all the clothes, you are the transportation, and you help with homework. You don’t have a helpmate to take your child to golf, or fishing. I do that with him.” Often her brothers assist in that way. “My son is really an alpha male kind of little boy. He loves spending time with his uncles. But that’s the main challenge, which isn’t that challenging. Your kids are just a part of you, and you just have to do all they need for a healthy, happy upbringing.”
The adventuresome Kimberly Michelle Dobson looks forward to passing on her traits of courage and curiosity to Charles Langston. “When I was 12, I was at the Louvre in Paris. At 17, I would go skiing every weekend with my friends in Germany. Or hop on a train to London. I’m never scared and always up to do something new. I feel very fortunate to be able to have a child. I have this opportunity to instill a wealth of energy and information into my son. Exposing Charles to as much as I can, my goal for him is to be a well-rounded person and live life to the fullest.”
The Coolest Black Family in America is an EBONY.com original series: an ongoing look at the intricacies, layers and compelling beauty of African-American family life. Of course, The Coolest Black Family is not one family but many. In fact, we’ve found that there are as many Coolest Black Families as there are versions of cool. Also consider: family doesn’t always mean mother + father + kids. What defines family is connected hearts and supported souls. Ride with us weekly as we crisscross the country in search of kinfolk whose cool is so palpable and real, it comes second only to their love. Think your cool fam qualifies? Email us at [email protected] (with Coolest Black Family in the subject line)!
Joicelyn Dingle travels to find the Coolest Black Family in America exclusively for EBONY.com. She splits her time between Savannah and Brooklyn. She is currently completing a documentary on the making of Honey magazine and the 1990s urban publishing era. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @editorialgenius.