CELEBRATING WOMEN OF INFLUENCE

 

 

 

Joanne Jones, a 20 year Information Technology Professional is committed 
to family and community, evident through the activities she supports.
Joanne, formerly Vice-President of the Dahntay Jones Foundation, has a new role as the National Communications Director of the Mothers of
Professional Basketball Players (MPBP, Inc.), Inc.  Founded in 1994, the
organizations’ mission is to support the communities where our sons and daughters live, work, and play.  She is the mother of Dahntay Jones, Guard with the Cleveland Cavaliers, 2016 National Basketball Association (NBA) Champions, and a proud grandmother.

Best and worst decision? “The best: deciding to be the best parent I could; I had my son when 19. He forced me to grow up and made me a better person. The worst decision: never obtained my bachelor’s degree. My focus was making sure he was successful. I had an associate’s degree in data processing; since I had to work, I valued more the time spent with my son and now the grandkids.” Dream job as a child? “I thought I was either going to be a model or a pediatrician because I like helping children.” Barriers to female leadership? “The stereotype that men can do it better; that we can’t do, when in fact we can. Women have proven we are equal if not better. We bring value to everything we do, and are good leaders because we can multitask. We are nurturers and influencers…very talented.” Who inspires you? “In the media — Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelo would come close — but it was my mother, (the late Eugenia Moore), who was one of the most caring and giving person. She raised me and my sister by herself, took care of my aunt and grandmother. She never complained. She read the Bible, tried to do the right thing, and was amazing. She finished high school even when she was pregnant with me. As teens, we couldn’t beat her in Scrabble because she read the dictionary. She could converse with scholars because she knew every word.” Challenge for next Generation? “You have to be educated to succeed. The younger generation seems immune to working. “Nothing is worth it unless you work for it. You must have good morals, and stop thinking that people owe you anything. Even if you don’t believe in God or have a spiritually base, just stay grounded in what you believe about being a good person. Do the best you can.” Life lessons: “I tried not to be my son’s friend, rather his mother. I let the coaches know this too. I felt if I had a good relationship with my child and the people that interfaced with him, and they knew, they applied more  respect. I was involved. The only game I missed was because of surgery. We must ensure the people that we entrust our children to respect us.”

 

Donna L. Allie, PhD, launched the Team Clean, Inc. company in the mid-1980s as the solopreneur president/ceo; she has grown the company to over seven hundred employees. As company president, Allie’s client list includes government, education, industry, professional offices, and sports, events, and entertainment venues such as Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Best and worst decision? “The best: to own and operate my own business. The worst: only owning one business.” Dream job as a child? “I majored in vocational rehabilitation in college, and planned to go an engineering school in California. I have a passion for people, so being able to do something socially responsible—like helping someone who can’t walk and giving them a device so that they can walk— something that I really wanted to do.” Barriers to female leadership? “Not thinking big enough. The women’s movement is reemerging at the right time, but we need to think more in leadership terms. At a recent conference of women business leaders, women from other countries were talking $500 million and one billion dollars…thinking big. I know we can too.” Who inspires you? “There are many, but my mother [Beatrice Hayes, 84] inspired me the most. She told me to pick it up, keep stepping and that there is a God saying you can do this. She doesn’t have a college degree and she didn’t push me to go to college, but she was the rock who told me, ‘You have got to do this and show them because you have God with you—in every Board meeting, at every corner you turn, and with every decision that you make.’ She inspired me to keep going. She never put me on a pedestal and always kept me humble.” Challenges for the next Generation? “I don’t really see much of a challenge. This generation has everything. The small challenge is access to capital, but now they have micro-lending angel funds and crowd funding. The only thing I would say is that as ladies, we must tick together. The older ones like me have to reach back and pull up the younger ones so far I have mentored four women-owner cleaning companies in my industry.”

 

 

Kilimandjaro owner Youma Bah hails from Senegal, West Africa. Her restaurant offers delicious food at very reasonable prices and was lauded by Philadelphia magazine at”one of the best in town.” Best and worst decision? “The best: Coming to the U.S. in 1999. When there are nine girls and three brothers, it was mainly the females who had to step up and help the family. I had to find my way for the younger kids. We grew up in the ghetto (in Senegal), surrounded by drugs, alcohol and prostitution. If I didn’t succeed to help the younger ones, they might have fallen in that life. That pushed me to stop everything, even school, to help. Today, they all are in a good place. The worst decision: I was in the economic program, but didn’t finish college. Fortunately, I was still able to help my family.” Dream job as a child? “I wanted to be a judge, working in the army or justice department.” Barriers to female eadership? “In our culture, a woman should get married at an early age. Woman were not trained to tackle leadership, rather how to cook and clean. We’re getting there, but we still are struggling to speak up as we should. Male employees’ egos get involved, and they ask, ‘Why do the women tell me what to do?’ We are still dealing with these issues. When we stand up and believe, we succeed.” Who inspires you? “My mom, (Aiffaea Mdiaye), she left school and was married at She raised nine kids on her own. My father was in Europe and visited every year. She overcame that and fought for us to get an education. She is now a vice-mayor in our city and in the senate. If my mom can do that, then I say nothing can stop a person who really wants to succeed. You just have to believe.” Challenges for next Generation? “We, when young, didn’t have as much freedom as women now. If they use their uniqueness in the right way, they can make a better world. We are the mothers of this world: the ones who protect our men; the ones who protect our kids— women are protecting the world.”

 

Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall-Blake, is President of the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and Vice President, Community Affairs, Independence Blue Cross. She also serves as an associate minister at the Vine Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia, and is affiliated with more than 30 professional and civic organizations, including the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the United Negro College Fund, and is the President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Best and worst decision? “When I said ‘yes’ to ministry, accepting it’s not about status; it’s about service. I am definitely a servant leader. Worst: Not leaving a job sooner. After an episode of social injustice, finally, I took off. It’s wrong when people think they are better than others.” Dream job as a child? “I wanted to be a nurse or a fireman because I am always putting out fires and putting someone back together. There were five of I was often the one that had to look out for my siblings. A lot of organizations have folk with nursing degrees—compassion, empathy, and business skills.” Barriers to female leadership? “Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemy, or letting folks define us. We need ‘G.C.’ — God Confidence. A favorite assage is Psalms 136: ‘We are marvelously and wonderfully made.’ Everybody has value, is special. and has a voice, still making room for growth. Someone said, ‘I am an unapologetic Black female’. You don’t have to apologize for who you are.” Who inspires you? “Michelle Obama. Strong Black woman—polished, prepared, spiritual — and not afraid to speak her mind. She values family. Even when people rise up against her, she stands firm. My favorite poem, ‘Women’ is by Alice Walker: ‘‘They were women then/My mamas generation/Husky of voice/Stout of Step/With fists as well as hands/How they battered down doors/And ironed starched white shirts/ How they led armies/Head ragged generals/Across mine fields/Booby-trapped ditches/To discover books/Desks/A place for us/How they knew what/we must know/Without knowing a page/ Of it/ Themselves.’ The women before us went through what they went through so we can have great successes now.” Challenges for next Generation? “Things are not going to happen overnight or without hard work. A dear friend, Wynonna Green, who passed away in 2016, said, ‘Time makes the difference, and the difference is time.’ I added: ‘You’ve got to give time, time.’ You must take time to learn lessons, have teachable moments that shape you, to do the work to get to the top, and be patient.”

 

Sekela Coles, PhD, Professor of Business, Harcum College and Delaware County Community College; elected Councilwoman, 7th District of Upper Darby, November 2013. She was raised in West Philadelphia by two hardworking parents, Pattison and Jacqueline Pierce- Mungai, who instilled in her the importance of education and community. Dr. Coles has stayed active in numerous community endeavors since moving to the Upper Darby community in 2003. Best and worst decision? “The best—to become involved with helping my community; it is rewarding to be a public servant, raising awareness about issues, workshops and resources. The residents are very diverse, so I have hosted an interfaith prayer vigil, and town halls on public safety. It’s a lot of work and challenging at times, but I love engaging with people and seeing how we are all similar. I like my children to see that. “The worst—I’m not sure that I can pinpoint a horrible decision. We must learn from our mistakes and failures. Anything that may not have gone right, I can’t control; everything happens for a reason, an opportunity to grow and learn.” Dream job as a child? “A top one was to teach in college, because my grandmother was a teacher and both my parents were educators. I have been able to do that. When I completed school, it didn’t seem so, because I studied business and finance. Down the line, after I started a family, it became a reality and I’m so happy it went that way.” Barriers to female leadership? “Women face greater scrutiny than men. It might emanate from being objectified, marginalized or that different assumptions are made about our competence, or by those not used to seeing women in leadership. That can impact the self-confidence of women. It is a unique challenge that women face in local politics.” Who inspires you? “…there are many women that inspire me; there are many trailblazers — Michelle Obama, our former First Lady; Kamala Harris, the first African American female senator in California, and former Maryland congresswoman Donna Edwards, and a new representative in Minnesota, a Somali-American, Ilhan Omar.” Challenges for next Generation? “Many are newer challenges because of the rapid pace of information, traveling and technology. They have to understand what’s appropriate and what’s not. It’s okay to be bold and beautiful or sexy and smart while remaining strong when facing adversity.”

 

 

Weatta Frazier Collins is the daughter and family spokesperson of Heavy Weight Boxing Champion “Smokin'” Joe Frazier and founder of The Legacy Exists, non-profit scholarship fund that was created to exemplify the embodiment and humanitarianism of her father. Best and worst decision? “The best: marrying my husband, Gary Tyrone Collins, 28 years ago. Partnerships are very important, and we were placed on this earth, as my father used to say, “to be fruitful and multiply.” Gary is a phenomenal person, he is the first guy I dated. The worst: not furthering my education. I have an associate’s degree, but I didn’t have enough confidence when young. I am dyslexic and don’t comprehend like the average person. My self-esteem was low; that could be why my father spent a lot of time on me. Parents know which child needs attention. I was a lot like my father; he felt he was an underdog and didn’t graduate from high school. I made sure my three kids got their education.” Dream job as a child? “I am about 5″2′, and my dream job was to travel the world and model clothes. I loved fashion at that time.” Barriers to female leadership? “Haters, those trying to knock you down. You must believe in your cause and your dreams. When you get a couple people on the same page as you, you should never ever stop or give up. When I have an obstacle, I think about what my parents would do or how I can get around it. I just keep moving.” Who inspires you? “I could say Michelle Obama, but in my spirit, right in front of me every day, is my mother, Florence Frazier. She inspires me. She is ill now, but she keeps going and is still determined to help people—her spirit is still high. My mother is my shero.” Challenge for next Generation? “Stamina. I don’t think some are willing to run the race. If something doesn’t work, you must try something else. Millennials have so much entitlement; I don’t know if it’s because we taught them civil rights, what others have done to us, and how to move forward. Being Black women, we are entitled, yeah, but we must go get it and work for it. My parents taught us was that we were gifted, but we had to do the work.

 

Captain Lisa Forrest may be small in stature, but over the course of her nearly 17-year career in the Philadelphia Fire Department, she has achieved some big accomplishments: Forrest is the first African-American female fire captain in the history of the Department. She is President, The Club Valiants, Inc., an association for Black Fire Fighters in Philadelphia. Best and worst decision? “The best: becoming a mother, and a role model for little girls. I’m 4″10′ and 108 pounds, so with my stature getting into the fire department, they can say, ‘if she can do it, I can too’. My daughter, (Ariel, 9), doesn’t have to look at a superstar for a model, there’s me. In her school journal, she listed me as her hero and she had never told me. I made a lot of mistakes in my life…but doubting myself, not exploring other options for a while was the worst.” Dream job as a child? “To be in the military or be a nurse. While in college studying nursing, I joined the Army ROTC, which took care of both of my dreams.” Barrier to female leadership? “Recognizing the glass ceiling and that you can break it. First firefighting was challenging enough, then I became a lieutenant. Then I went for captain. I know I have what it takes. You can’t talk about something that you’re not willing to do. A lot of women stop too soon. When you are a firefighter you have to face the fear of adversity, be in the right position, and be willing to make a change.” Who inspires you? “I come from a family of strong women — my mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins — so I didn’t have to look on TV. I’m a combination of them, with my strength and go-get-it attitude. I do have mentors outside my family who have helped me, like the late retired PGFD Deputy Fire Chief Carla D. Blue, second in command, Prince George Company. Our stories were imilar: She faced being the first and the only. In her I saw hope for me. She tragically died in a car accident. She inspired me and I have emulated her.” Challenge for next Generation? “Women seeing their worth in the fire department. I am having a hard time with this new generation. Although I serve as an example, I can’t get them to move up in rank, or convince some, even, that they can join the fire department. They’ve been brainwashed it’s still a male job. I’m aspiring to be a Chief. I will not allow anybody to put limitations on me.” When you think about the real trailblazers for Black women in sports, Tina Sloan Green is at the top of the list. Sloan Green went from a college lacrosse walk-on to one of the most decorated coaches in Temple University’s athletics history.

 

 

Tina Sloan Green M.Ed., Professor Emerita Temple University; President/Co-Founder, Black Women in Sports Foundation (BWSF. When you think about the real trailblazers for Black women in sports, she is at the top of the list. She went from a college lacrosse walk-on to one of the most decorated coaches in Temple athletics history. Best and worst decision? “The best: when I won my third national championship and [former Temple University President] Peter Liacouras asked what I wanted—I chose to be a full professor. I got the title allowing me flexibility in my career. My family was getting big and I wanted to do other things. The freedom of being faculty emeritus allowed me to make a difference with no fear of losing my job. The worst: when younger, I put a time limit on making the U.S. Field hockey team. If I had hung in there longer, I probably would have made it.” Dream job as a child? “When I went to Girls’ High School, my coaches were very influential in my life, so my dream job was to be a physical education teacher and coach.” Barriers to female leadership? “Lack of opportunities. Sports is male-dominated. I saw very few African American role models in administration. Through my husband, who went to Tuskegee University, I met some talented Black women who did great things at HBCUs. We started the BWSF to expose females to Black role models—to see the possibilities.” Who inspires you? “Michelle Obama. I never thought I would see an African American First Lady, especially who comes from an ordinary background. She has made a difference, and didn’t compromise herself. She talked the talk, and walked the walk. She had the credentials: she’s a lawyer, and a Harvard grad. She kept her husband grounded; I could see she doesn’t take any stuff. I liked how she’s raised her children and kept her mother in the mix. I admire her because she has been able to transform the way a lot of people think about African American females. Challenge for next Generation? “The millennials expect to have things given them. We had to sacrifice and work hard. They are not prepared to do that. We must give back; we owe it to the next generation, just as we were helped. They must establish themselves inside and outside of the university and/or jobs that they’re in, to gain respect and security.

 

 

The seeds of Catherine Hicks longtime interest in media were planted in high school, took root at university, was honed as an adult and blossomed in 2015. Catherine took over as Publisher and Co-owner of the Philadelphia SUN Newspaper after the untimely death of its founder. Best and worse decision? “The best: Motherhood. Being a mother has been an amazing experience. Nurturing and guiding my children has taught me patience, understanding and unconditional love, which motivate and define who I am. The worst: not attending a Historically Black College/University. I feel would have enriched my educational and cultural outlook on life.” Dream job as a child? “Television talk show host. I was encouraged to follow the news and current events. Talk shows incorporated news and entertainment. I enjoyed both and interviewed my siblings as guests of my pretend show, emulating various programs full of celebrities, fun and laughter.” Barriers to female leadership? “Trust and support of one another; recognize our power. We are the largest voting-block in PA. We hold more college degrees. Female entrepreneurship continues to grow. We are still far behind in equal pay and holding positions of power in politics. When women come together, we succeed; the woman’s rally after the Trump inauguration is a prime example of what we can achieve when we organize.” Who inspires you? “The values instilled in me by my mother helped me recognize true power and success. My choice is Michelle Obama hands down! She is unequivocally our most accomplished First Lady ever; holding two degrees from Ivy League universities. I am in awe of how she represented African American woman — her intellect, class, beauty, elegance, style and grace — even when she faced criticism. I admire her strength and humility, putting family first while living in the public eye, standing by her husband and family as he fulfilled his and many others’ dreams. She raised the bar on nutritional eating; her ‘Let’s Move!’ program bought awareness to childhood obesity. Her commitment to excellence and work ethics has motivated females to strive to further shatter the glass ceiling. What an inspiration.” Challenges for next Generation? “They need to strive to exceed expectations of their predecessors; not to go backwards; to trust and respect each other; to make education a priority so they can have a seat at the table and be heard; to develop a progressive agenda to further break the barriers that hold us back.”

 

 

Longtime entrepreneur Charita Powell started Amazulu Collections in 1985, best known for its retail operation in Philadelphia’s historic Reading Terminal Market. Today, Powell travels the world and collaborates with artists on the one-of-akind offerings that fashion-forward Philadelphians know they can only acquire at Amazulu, including its latest outlet, The Amazulu Living Room in South Philadelphia. Best and worst decision? “The best decision that I made in my personal life was to travel. The worst was not doing it earlier, like in my 20s.” Dream job as a child? “I started my business, at age nine, with my team of two, going on the other side of Broad Street, washing Italian peoples’ marble steps. When I slipped by saying I’d gone in somebody’s house to do their floors, my Mom shut down my business. Being an entrepreneur allowed me to buy my first hoodie and a pair of Lee jeans. You couldn’t tell me nothing…I bought it with my own money!” Barriers to female leadership? “I try to look without the barriers, but I think I am scrutinized more before I can get a business loan, so financial gains through loans, and corporate opportunities in some areas. They tend to look at women a little harder in some of our endeavors.” Who inspires you? “My first mentor was my grandmother. She bought properties in South Philadelphia. Today, my mentors are (media mogul) Oprah Winfrey, (inspirational speaker) Iyanla Vanzant, (multi-media journalist) Bobbi Booker, (master hair braider) Yvette Smalls, and (poet/playwright) Ntozake Shange – they have watched me grow and have pushed Then there are my friends, my family, and some of my client-base worldwide. I must say worldwide because my clientbase is beyond Philly and if I don’t say that, they will feel left out. It’s like they are the Amazulu Tribe… and still ‘I rise!’ This is my 16th year going global to produce and create.” Challenges for next Generation? “To work together and come together. There has to be more networking, and there has to be more sharing of ideas for all of that generation to be successful. We are just learning how to do that.”

 

 

Melony Roy is director of social media for KYW Newsradio 1060, supervising the station’s interactive media branding efforts. A native of Camden, NJ, Roy is President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ), and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. Best and worst decision? “The best: joining social media. It has been interesting to have a job covering the social networks because I have been on them since the beginning. Worst: There was no pathway to a social media career, I had to figure it out myself. First, I only worked 9-5 weekdays. Now, social media is a 24-hourseven- day-a-week machine that needs content. Eventually, I had to ask for help, training and a team, but it took me being overwhelmed to ask for help.” Dream job as a child? “12 years old, I wanted to be a reporter. I was at a small Catholic school in NJ, at the beginning of the Catholic school closing. We were in the playground when a TV news truck pulled up and a beautiful Black woman emerged: the late Channel 10 reporter Sheila Allen Stephens. She interviewed me and I was on the news that night. That’s when my love of news began.” Barriers to female leadership? “The lack of female leadership in companies. There are no women above me I can reach out to or follow in their footsteps. Women need to be warm and likable, where a man doesn’t have to be. If your mentor is a man, you may follow with those masculine traits that don’t always work for you. You have to find women to guide you because the issues that men and women have are not the same. I have been lucky to find a few, but we need more women at the top to follow.” Who inspires you? “Michelle Obama. We have watched her lead by example with grace and dignity. She is a role model for all Black females. She has inspired a generation of women. Period.” Challenges for next Generation? “Prepresidential election, I felt that we were living in the Kim Kardashian world, and I was a little worried for them. Now, this generation has stepped up, and not just #hashtagging. They’re out marching. They have educated themselves on issues, like gender-based violence, reproductive rights and gender equality. It’s beautiful.”

 

 

 

Syreeta Scott is the owner of a successful natural salon, Duafe Holistic Hair Care. With an impressive list of clients that include notable celebs like Jill Scott, Janet Jackson, Questlove and Smokie Robinson, Syreeta continues to build her empire, which now includes the Sable Collective Boutique. Best and worst decision? “Best—to walk away from corporate America. I felt that voice saying that it wasn’t who I was and it was like fitting a square peg into a round hole. I am happy that I was honest enough with myself to listen. The worst: At first I didn’t understand the importance of deciding who should be around me; having business core values and sticking with them. I was compromising in places I shouldn’t have, and making people happy who were not willing to work at my
dream.” Dream job as a child? “I wanted to be an actuarial scientist. I walked around with a math book, solving problems. Then I landed an internship at Cigna’s actuarial department, and realized that it was not for I had too much personality to sit in a cubicle pushing numbers. I was too creative. Today, I apply some of the same things that I would have, by being in business.” Barrier to female leadership? “It’s hard to be a female leader; the reason we put ‘female’ in front of it—is the barrier. There should not be a gender role attached to being a leader; just roles and action. It puts the leader in a box, requiring them to act in a certain way. You make the same decisions as a male, seen as positive, using the same language, and are called something negative.” Who inspires you? “I was blessed to be raised with some extremely strong Brown women, unapologetic and didn’t allow themselves to be put in a box. My grandmother [Evelyn Parker] did miraculous things. I saw my mom [Vera Scott] fight to put me through private school. My family guided me and every Brown sister who ‘put their mouth on me’ in a gentle, kind way. That’s why I am here.” Challenges for next Generation? “A lot of sisters don’t reach back. They don’t find someone for their own mentorship. Millennials seem to live in a world without any boundaries and do whatever they want, which is amazing. But, I feel like that grounding with a mentor and asking for guidance should be added.”

 

 

Sheila Woods-Skipper, The President Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the region’s busiest and most prestigious criminal and civil courtrooms. She also cochairs the system’s administrative governing board which pulls together leaders from its branches—Common Pleas Court, Municipal Court, Orphans Court, and Family Court. Best and worst decision? “Best: the creation of our Mental Health court, enabling those incarcerated for low level offenses to be released to get treatment for mental health issues, in structured settings; to stop the revolving door. We’ve seen remarkable success. Worst: Sometimes, it’s not that the decisions are bad; it’s wondering if you could have decided differently.” Dream job as a child? “I was going to be a teacher. My mother instilled in us the importance of education as the path to success. They can take other things from you, but not what you’ve learned. I wanted to instill that in children, understanding that every child is different, and to encourage them so they could get from point A to point B with success.” Barriers to female leadership? “We are in a male-dominated world; we women have to help each other. I truly believe that if any of us are going to be successful, we all must be successful. We have to be willing to reach back and give back and bring someone up to be successful with us and don’t think of we need to be on the throne alone.” Who inspires you? “My mother was a single parent, raising three children; I was the middle child. My mother has Alzheimer’s now; she rarely recognizes anyone and doesn’t communicate. She was a fighter, working two jobs and doing whatever it took to see we got in the best public schools. She was very involved in our community, and the home and school association. I took that from her — the need and desire to want to make a difference. She was charged with energy and determination. I got that from her she keeps me inspired.” Challenge for next Generation? “Still recognizing that the struggles exist and not to automatically assume that there is entitlement. We still have to be better, do more and make demands that we are treated equally, fairly, and compensated the same as men. We must make sure we are maintaining high moral and ethical standards, and not be afraid to reach for the stars.”

 

 

Yolanda Wisher is a multidisciplinary poet, educator and currently the third Poet Laureate of the City of Philadelphia. Wisher is a Hedgebrook Writer-in- Residence (2016), Pew Fellow (2015), Catalyst Initiative Grantee (2015), Leeway Art & Change Grantee (2008), Cave Canem Fellow (1999-2000), and the first Montgomery County Pennsylvania Poet Laureate (1999). Best and worst decision? “The worst decision usually turns out to be a best. I got recruited to play basketball at Lafayette College. My parents were ballers in Millersville College. I quickly found it wasn’t for felt like I had cut off a part of y artistic self. But it led me to college. The English Department saved me from having to transfer and losing my money; they offered me a work study position.”” “The best was quitting my job in 2015—a 30-year-long journey doing what others wanted. I taught for ten years, and did arts administration for five. At 39, I asked, ‘What do I really want?’ It was becoming a full-time poet. I bet on myself for once.” Dream job as a child? “My first dream was to have a published book of poems. I didn’t believe I could make a living as a poet. Once I accomplished it being a
side hustle, I started following that path earnestly. I also wanted to be a botanist; it still interests me for healing. Poetry is about the joy and freedom I feel; I also want it to help others. I want to undo some of the harm people experience.” Barriers to female leadership? “Women often imitate men or patriarchal ways of relating to women—that’s crazy. We need to create more woman-centric systems. We have a lot of self-doubt; we don’t bond together enough. We need to be inclusive and mindful of who’s not sitting at the table.” Who inspires you? “Michelle Obama—I miss her visibility as a Black woman. I’m proud of what she brought to the White House; her grace and poise under an incredible amount of pressure, prejudice, hatemongering, and disrespect. Hopefully, we haven’t seen the last of her great impact on the country and world.” Challenges for next Generation? “How to carry forth the legacy of feminism around gender equality. The definition I grew up with doesn’t fit everybody today. It’s important for women of color to keep holding this line. White feminism needs to expand to connect women including transwomen—with more consciousness of the blind spots. More men as feminists will also change that movement. I hope my son will have different notions of feminism, and there’s a movement that includes him. What keeps you energized? “My great grandmother said, “You have a gift, use it.” I wake up every day challenging myself to make my passion do good in the world.”

 


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Eric Nzeribe