You could literally feel the energy and the emotion lingering in the air at the For Sisters Only Urban League Empowerment Summit.
Held at the Georgia World Congress Center, the panelists included Terri Vaughn, Demetria McKinney, Tia Brewer Footman, Valerie Burton, along with Tamar, Towanda, Trina, and Traci Braxton. Famed author Susan Taylor moderated.
The discussion opened with startling facts — like 86 percent of eighth graders are below reading level. A powerful campaign video for Essence Cares, featured Taylor summing up in one sentence the change required, “We have to pull up our bra straps.”
After the fact, the crowd and panelists paid close attention, while Taylor asked probing questions of panelists including ways to deal with loss, keep the joy alive and deal with competing pressures in life. The central theme in the room was empowerment.
Tamar Braxton spoke about her parent’s divorce and how it affected her and her self-worth. “I felt like when my father divorced my mother, he divorced me too.” she expressed, while holding back tears. Tamar admits that while the divorce effected her, she insists that it did not impede her journey in life. She made a decision to change her life and love herself and has succeeded today with six record deals.
When panelists were asked about how they deal with loss, Vaughn spoke into the mike with an instant tremble in her voice. “The first step is admitting that you’re sad or hurt when something is wrong,” she said. “Journaling, writing and having a strong relationship with God,” were also key points that have made a significant difference throughout Vaughn’s life. She added with watery eyes that it’s also important to help our kids and our youth through their day as well.
A shocker to some, but not all in the audience was when McKinney spoke on the sexually abused she suffered in the past at the hand of who was someone close to her. She talked about keeping the joy alive in her life even after being sexually abused by her stepfather, disowned by her church family, and eventually forced to leave her own home.
“It does not have to stop you,” McKinney stated sternly. Even after she was blamed for what happened by her own mother, McKinney learned to rely on her self and make two choices — to grow and change.
All of the women on the panel shared touching and inspiring stories and their testaments to the ongoing journeys that gave them the strength, courage, and perseverance to move on and change their lives.
“People underestimate the strength of a black woman,” stated Footman. They panelists agreed that our community, especially black women needs to work to uplift, love and encourage one another. They warned women not to compare themselves with others or depend on approval from others.
Taylor summed up the summit perfectly, “Focus on what you love about yourself.” –mckenzie harris
*photos courtesy of CME 3000