Sister Sister summit aims to empower women of color
The inaugural summit brought four women of the African diaspora to speak about empowerment, professionalism and wellness
Fostering conversations and a network of strong women was the goal of Saturday’s “Strengthening the Bonds of Sisterhood Summit,” on campus, during which students of the African diaspora were able to engage in multiple dialogues with their peers and mentors.
Sister Sister AU is a student group focused on the wellness, inclusion and empowerment of women of the African diaspora on campus, according to club co-President, Janae Littlejohn.
Representing a wide array of ideas and professional backgrounds, the summit highlighted four African-American women who are challenging the social norms around their race and sexuality. They included Yandy Smith, star of “Love and Hip-Hop New York,” Dr. Mary Kennard, AU vice president and general counsel member, Lauren Ash, founder of the website Black Girl in Om, and Brittney S. Carter, founder and CEO of B. Carter Solutions.
Sister Sister AU launched their #SisYouAreBeautiful campaign during the event, which they hope will inspire women to create a network of love and empowerment inside the African diaspora, according to the club's mission statement. They presented their campaign video, which includes members of Sister Sister AU expressing what the words, #SisYouAreBeautiful, means to them as a part of this group.
Smith, the keynote speaker, touched on finding empowerment and staying humble in a world that might not always be kind to women. Smith has appeared on the VH1 show “Love and Hip-Hop: New York” and is part owner of women's lifestyle and fashion blog, EverythingGirlsLove.
Smith said that most times, African-American women take care of others, and often hold it all together for their families and communities. She expressed that African-American women need to take care of themselves and each other in order to achieve a support network that can help women of color in both the professional and social worlds.
“The people that make the real difference are dreamers that do,” Smith said. “And you have got to be one of those people. Don't just dream about what you want… but you have to couple your dreaming with doing.”
Smith said that her success in the entertainment industry has been through her motivation to grow as a businesswoman and her focus on projects that she hopes will reflect her most authentic self. She also shared how her success at Violator Records all started when she begged to file papers for her boss, Mona Scott-Young, when she was in her early twenties and out of college.
“Sometimes you have to file papers to be partners on ‘Love and Hip-Hop’ one day,” Smith said to the audience during her speech. “Sometimes you have to get coffee to be partner in that law firm. You gotta think greater, but sometimes that means humbling yourself out.”
Other speakers like Ash, founder of the wellness and lifestyle website, Black Girl in Om, taught attendees about the importance of self care and reflection in a world that constantly has women on the go. Her site promotes the practice of yoga for African-American women, as well as mindfulness, spirituality and healthy mind body practice.
“Any opportunity that I get to speak with today's young black women about just the value in recognizing you who are and the value of cultivating sisterhood amongst women of color is quite honestly one of my favorite things to do,” Ash said.
PR and social media guru Carter brought her charisma to a presentation about building a personal brand as an empowered, successful woman. Drawing on her own experience of success online through her company, B. Carter Solutions, she emphasized the importance of staying authentic and consistent online, and always speaking from a place of knowledge and power.
“A lot of times in today's society, young girls [labeled] as African-American or any culture, they live in a world where they are judged by the way they look, the way they dress, so these events really give us that intimate space to like really get to know each other… and have those intimate conversations,” Carter said.
Dr. Mary Kennard, vice president and general counsel at AU, gave advice about climbing the professional ladder as a woman. She also emphasized the importance of understanding the emotions and actions of others, and what we can do in order to support and connect with one another.
“Having a very clear goal for your time here will help you then make decisions, you know?” Ash said. “I think that developing an intention in every area of our lives helps you say ‘yes’ to certain things, and say ‘no’ to other things and reminding yourself of that purpose on continual basis is key.”