In September of 2014, my esteemed colleague, business partner, and good friend, Dr. Jung-Kim and I were discussing the issues affecting girls and women of color and at that time, we realized that a national coalition comprised of organizations for girls and women of color, parents, educators, businesses leaders, students, and others was needed. The coalition would focus on the plethora of issues affecting girls and women of color on a national level and in October of 2014, we decided to begin work on launching the National Girls and Women of Color Council, Inc. (NGWCC). NGWCC is committed to making a difference in the lives of girls and women of color worldwide through collaboration and task forces. We are celebrating, embracing and empowering girls and women of color in 2015 and are excited about launching NGWCC. We are making history and proud to be a part of the change needed.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, now is a good time to think about how you are making history as you continue on your journey. It is also a good time to think about the numerous women of color who are making history every day through mentoring, advising, leading, breaking down race and color barriers, and who are trailblazing as torchbearers to make the world a better place for all girls and women of color. Many of these women do not make it into history books, newspapers, blogs or even receive a small mention of their efforts. They too, must be celebrated! Accordingly, I salute every woman in the world who is making the world a better place especially behind the scenes. Consider, if you will, the women who roll up their sleeves and go above and beyond the call of duty, the miracle makers, change agents, activists, and leaders. Consider the women who are the voices of compassion, reason, reality, injustice, racism, colorism, prejudice, educators, and business owners, many of who are unsung, yet they are making history as trailblazers and torch-bearers.
You can begin a new chapter in history today with a positive focus on women of color and begin by celebrating and supporting each other. Too many times, women of color are labeled as refusing to celebrate and support the success of each other. Jealously, a powerful but wasted emotion can prevent you from being supportive of other women of color and their goals, dreams, and rise to higher ground. Begin celebrating other women of color and form a bond and support network that is unbreakable even by the negativity of jealously and envy. Know that it is okay to smile at each other in passing on the street or say hello, give a compliment, or offer a kind word. You understand the importance and value of unity and you also understand that it is imperative to begin and continue to celebrate, embrace and empower each other in efforts, projects, businesses, causes, and other areas because it is through all of the above, that you can unite as sisters in unity. If you must agree to disagree, then do so. If you must put your differences on the side bar in order to make progress in unity, then do so. Begin celebrating and supporting each other today and make history!
We are all sisters in unity and as such, we value the millions of women throughout the world who are thriving, striving and surviving to make a difference for all girls and women of color. Embrace, celebrate, and honor them by understanding, supporting and knowing that you share a common bond, you are women of color taking a stand in unity, to break down skin color, gender and racial barriers that try to prevent your voices from being heard. If you think about it, we are all trailblazers and torchbearers in our own right.
Be a trailblazer and torchbearer in your own right by taking a stand on issues that continue to affect girls and women of color. Know that it is okay to break down barriers, challenge injustices, stereotypes, and the specialized glass ceilings in place for women of color that among other issues, include race, skin color prejudices, and labels that try to identify women of color in a biased manner. Stand firm in your convictions and know that trailblazers and torchbearers are pillars of strength, resiliency, and perseverance.
As a pillar of strength, you are a strong woman who handles the good, bad, and ugly situations, as well as the curve balls that life throws your way. Know that the trials and tribulations that you encounter will only make you stronger and prepare you for any surprises along the way. You are resilient and always bounce back from controversy, disappointments, and issues that are little annoyances in life. Believe with every fiber of your being, regardless of the issues that you may be dealing with or have dealt with, that you will bounce back and when you do, you will be bigger, better and bolder than you were before. Little annoyances can be just that, annoying but as a woman of color, you are seasoned, informed, engaged, and enlightened. Nothing can shake you or your inner fiber to such a degree, that you succumb to the little annoyances regardless of how they appear in your life. Know that your faith, positive thoughts, and belief in your ability to emerge renewed, refreshed, and rejuvenated will guide you to your destination. Consider women like Harriet Tubman, Madam C. J. Walker, Fannie Lou Hammer, Lakshmi Puri, Dr. Lila Miller, Septima Poinsette Clark, Dr. Beth Brown and Maya Angelou, to name a few.
You have a voice and must make sure that you are heard. Speak up about injustices, inequality, racism, biased standards of beauty, denigration of women of color in print, film or music, colorism, and other issues that affect women of color. When you take a stand, you are letting the world know that as a woman of color, you are strong, determined, and you will not be silenced by anyone for any reason. Be strong! Be heard! Be a powerful woman of color making history.
Sometimes your biggest motivator in life can be you. You are your inspiration to achieve your goals and live a fulfilling life. Have you developed realistic short and long-term goals? Have you seriously thought about where you will be in five years, spiritually, physically, and professionally? Let your dreams of the life you dreamed of be your inspiration to begin working on your goals today and strategically set milestones for yourself. If you experience minor setbacks, just get up, dust yourself off and begin again. You are inspired to sacrifice and challenge yourself by the promise of your fabulous future. Remember that the power to inspire you is within you so be your inspiration.
You are the one who will define who you are. You define what beauty is to you, what being happy really means, your level of self-esteem, your identity, your pride, and your self-respect. Begin today and make a list of how you show yourself self-love, how you focus on building your self-esteem, how you show self-pride, and how you show respect for yourself. Define who you are and be proud of being a woman of color who knows who she is. So define yourself for yourself because you are your number one priority.
You can make history by mentoring young girls, and other women. Why not share your tidbits of life lessons with the next generation of women leaders? This can be done by helping women to build a network of other women/mentors, guiding them through personal and professional goals, and even steering them away from making mistakes. By being a mentor to girls and/or women, you are making the world a better place and helping future women leaders to shine. Seriously consider becoming a mentor to a girl or woman in need of your help and guidance as she transitions in life. You can start an organization or join an organization and serve as a mentor. Your time and service will help you find balance and live a significant and fulfilling life. You will be making history!
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, this is a good time to focus on embracing diversity because you understand that each individual is unique and that you recognize differences along the dimensions of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, body shape, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities, socioeconomic levels, cultures, and customs among other things. Within society, each group is vital because their stories, cultures, ethnicity, heritage and experiences help bridge understanding and contribute to building a society of respect, inclusiveness, and embracing the unique individuals that make our world so colorful. Diversity teaches you to be more open and accepting of people, places, things and experiences that are different from you and moves you to be more open in thinking. As a woman of color, you are unique and an asset in promoting individuality and respect for others. One of the most beautiful things about being a woman of color is that you understand the importance of embracing diversity, being a sister in unity, and understanding the issues that many women from all over the world must deal with daily. Take the time to learn about other races, ethnicities and cultures. Your journey in life will be enhanced as you become enlightened by embracing the various diverse people in the world.
Finally, as we focus on celebrating women in history, remember that you are making history as you travel on your journey. You do not have to be written about in books, in film, or even on a blog, but know that you are indeed making history every time you stand firm in your convictions, stand for equality across the board, make your voice heard, and celebrate, embrace and empower girls and women of color worldwide.
Stand firm and strong as a woman of color and know that through your hard work, efforts, passion, giving back to your community, mentoring, and helping girls and women of color, you are making history. Be a champion of character and courage by taking a stand, getting involved and making history.
Celebrating, embracing and empowering girls and women of color is a movement and we need to hear your voices, ideas, contributions, concerns, and view points. Consider joining NGWCC and make history as this monumental movement takes on a voice and presence for girls and women of color worldwide.
Dr. Donnamaria Culbreth