2020 has seen more turmoil than we could have ever anticipated.
We are living through a global health pandemic that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, and impacted the lives of millions who are grieving the loss of loved ones, job security, healthcare, and so much more.
Each and every Monday, Her Agenda highlights women’s stories from various backgrounds whose journeys allow us to see ourselves and lend the courage needed to take that leap of faith, start that novel, or even get some rest. No matter who is telling the story or who is on the receiving end, it’s sisters inspiring sisters.
As we grapple with the country’s current state and a life-changing Presidential election, we are in the center of a civil uprising demanding the systemic change our ancestors have sacrificed themselves for generations. We found it suitable at this moment to revisit words from the women who have graciously shared pieces of themselves with our readers over the years, to carry us through.
Heading into a new season of hope for so many, I reflect on sisterhood in the words of writer and revolutionary, Sonia Sanchez.
“One night, I got a frantic call that a former student was climbing the walls. Some of the sisters and I went to her house. She had taken something because this man that she had married had come home and she smelled his former lovemaking as she was making love to him. She flipped. We pumped her full of coffee and walked her back to sanity. It was for her I wrote:
he poured me on
the bed and slid
into me like glass.
and there was
the sound of splinters.
You can’t put splinters back together, but that’s what we did as sisters. Sisterhood is very important. That hood is a covering. Sisters make everything possible on this earth.”
Read below as we reflect on advice from the agendas of countless impactful women.
Persevering through stress and uncertainty
Via Keke Palmer: Understand that it’s going to be difficult, but accepting yourself, embracing your flaws, and being true to yourself is what’s ultimately going to bring you the most joy and happiness. Everyone’s version of happiness is different, and with difference comes disagreement and criticism and that’s okay. It’s always tricky to be in a place where you have to accept and love yourself for who you truly are and not conform to societal pressures. My biggest piece of advice would be to never be ashamed of what makes you happy.
Everyone’s version of happiness is different, and with difference comes disagreement and criticism and that’s okay. -Keke Palmer
Via Julie Cohen: Don’t become too invested in any one outcome that you can’t make the best of what comes to you. Try to take what comes your way and figure out how to make the best of it. When I was working at the Justice Department, an official made an interesting point. He stated that sometimes an event occurs and you don’t know whether it is bad news or good news for your life. At the time of an event, it can seem very difficult and tragic, but in fact, it is going to end up pointing you in a new and better direction. My takeaway was to relax a bit when you’re focused, waiting, or invested in something taking place.
Via Elisha Hartwig: Be kind to yourself, and slow down. I’ve always been a perfectionist, and with that comes a lot of anxiety. I don’t say that in an ‘I’m perfect’ way, I say that in an ‘I’m always setting myself up for disappointment and stress’ way. I’m trying to say no to things that don’t positively add to my life, and just giving myself a break. Actually, not just a break, all the breaks. As many breaks as I need. Didn’t make it to the gym? No sweat (literally). Didn’t write the most amazing creative proposal in my life? It’s okay, I did the best I could at the time. And regarding slowing down, that’s pretty straight forward. Through meditation, I learned how much of my life I’m not really present for. I mean, I’m living it every day, but I’m not fully experiencing it sometimes and that’s a real shame.
Be kind to yourself, and slow down. -Elisha Hartwig
Via La La Anthony: People love to put you in a box. I had to fight really hard to be seen as an entrepreneur and actor, a producer, a New York Times best-selling author. Why can’t you do different things and be great at different things? I’m not going to allow myself or anyone else to put me in a box. That’s been my motivation through it all. I always had an interest in acting. I started taking acting classes and going to school. When the opportunity presented itself, I was ready. You ask for these opportunities, but you have to be ready when you get them.
Via Rebecca Minkoff: My goal would be to [let women know] if you see it, you can do it. I didn’t come from a trust fund. I essentially had to work for everything I wanted. Nothing was handed on a silver platter and I think for the majority of us, that’s how it is. If you could just show it and see it, then other people can see it, and also be able to do it.
Via Vanessa K. De Luca: As someone who has made themselves over at different times, it’s all about your attitude and your mindset and being clear about what you want; knowing that not every position that you are in is going to be THE position, it could just be a pathway. Nothing is permanent. You can just take that opportunity for whatever it is and make the most of it. When it’s time to move on to something else, that is okay. That is really okay. I have kept that mindset throughout my career, and its really allowed me to make transitions a lot easier than if I was like, ‘okay, this is it, this is the end. This is the big goal, and I’m done.’ You are never really ever done.
Importance of investing in women
Via Tanya Sam: My dad came from Ghana on a scholarship and became a doctor. He’s 80 years old, so that was decades and decades ago. I look at how hard he’s worked to support other Africans as they came to Canada, and helping them to build their businesses. I feel like it’s part of my family history. He always taught us to help others succeed and build their businesses. Historically in this country when you look at the people who were on the Forbes list and have the greatest amounts of wealth, a lot of that was generational, because they had generational land, lumber, or steel that helped them become the Rockefellers of this country. It’s changing now, and it’s up to us to look back and put a hand down for other future minorities and people of color, and women especially.
…it’s up to us to look back and put a hand down for other future minorities and people of color, and women especially. -Tanya Sam
On the importance of exercising our right to vote
Via Symone D. Sanders: One day at a time. That is how we are shaping the future of the Democratic Party. We are all fortunate to live in a time when we know the history of people like Donna Brazile, Minyon Moore, and Leah Daughtry. We know the history of Black women that have opened doors for people like myself and Amanda Brown Lierman who currently serves as the Political and Organizing Director at Democratic National Committee. We are all shaping it one day at a time. …Black women literally built the table. We don’t need a seat at the table. It is, in fact, our table. I am humbled and privileged to play a part in setting the course of what life will look like for folks 50 to 60 years from now, much like Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer did in their time. We are shaping the face of the party from the inside and outside every single day. We would not have been having a conversation about criminal justice reform and police brutality in 2016 if it weren’t for young Black activists who stood up and challenged presidential candidates. We are not waiting for anybody to give us permission. We are actively standing up and making moves on our own. Now, sometimes that means we bump our heads. Sometimes we clash, but I think that is all part of the growing pains that the Democratic Party apparatus is going through right now. There is no future of the Democratic Party without the young people of color that are currently at the table as well as outside pressuring the table. I think we should all be encouraged and refreshed by that.
Via Erin Vilardi: On Super Tuesday, when voters in eight states went to the polls, 25 out of 33 women [candidates] advanced, which was a 76% win rate. In 2017, 70% of our first time candidates won in spite of usually having a ten percent chance of winning.
On the importance of mentorship
Via Midwin Charles: It’s very important to have mentors to give you strength and push you, because it’s going to be hard. Be prepared for that. You’re going to face opposition in a lot of ways; in micro-aggression ways. Be ready for that. Be ready with a strategy of how to deal with it. Which is why I love my mentors because they helped me prepare for those instances that you get as a woman working in a male dominated field, and help you deal with it in a way where you’re not popping off. That’s a skill. Because we all want to pop off when things aren’t going our way. Get ready for that and be armed with ways to deal with it.
On choosing a good team
Via Kendra Scott: I have learned that the ability to choose your team is a gift. If I could give advice to other business owners, it would be to exercise that right and be picky. Your team and your partners become an extension of your family, and one that you’ll likely be spending hours on end with, so choose wisely. One of the reasons my business has grown exponentially in the past few years is because of the team I now have, but the ability to find such an incredible team developed over time. I had to learn to communicate and define my company values carefully, and find people that would have the same purpose in mind while bringing their own unique talents and strengths into the mix.
I had to learn to communicate and define my company values carefully, and find people that would have the same purpose in mind while bringing their own unique talents and strengths into the mix. -Kendra Scott
Via Valerie Jarrett: It’s important to remember that one cannot be successful alone. Everybody needs help. Part of being good at your job is figuring out whose help you need in order to [do well]. That means you have to take the time to build relationships with your co-workers and help them understand that they can trust and rely on you, and watch their work so you know whom you can trust and rely. You also have to care about the people with whom you work. If you do care about them, they will care about you.
I often say that the best mentors I’ve ever had weren’t just people who would talk to me occasionally and give me career advice; they were the people who were willing to put their reputation on the line by recommending me for positions and being my advocate. That’s more important than simply being a mentor. You need somebody who’s willing to say “You know what, I’ve seen her in action, and she’s really good at X. You need her in your organization.”
Via Jovian Zayne: When you take your time with things that are worth it, they come to pass. Enlist the right people. When I say the right people, I mean those who believe alongside of you, the vision which you set forth, it’s so important. You don’t have to go through this alone. It’s very likely that you’re not the only person on earth who shares that passion in some way.
Passion and purpose are different things, but you can’t be your best self by yourself. We’re not on Earth alone for a reason, and there are so many gifts, skills, experiences, and points of perspective that many people have to provide us that would encourage our spirit. Yes, sometimes we do encourage ourselves, but oftentimes, that’s why we have other people. Pay attention to who’s in your circle, and more specifically, who’s on your team and who can support you on your journey. Get people around you who won’t let you quit, who remind you why you did it in the first place.
Get people around you who won’t let you quit, who remind you why you did it in the first place. -Jovian Zayne
Investing in the youth
Via Dena Simmons: For as long as I could remember, I have always wanted to be an educator. My mother’s dedication and hard work to provide my two sisters and me with a good education instilled in me the importance of education. My mother’s struggling to send my sisters and me to the neighborhood parochial school sent us the message that we mattered. Education has empowered my family and me, and because of that, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to empowering others, especially those in marginalized communities like the one in which I was raised.
I want to provide others with access to knowledge and to resources that could improve their lives and allow them to experience their visions of success. Being an educator allows me to work from the heart, and that type of work is the work that wakes me up each morning.
Education has empowered my family and me, and because of that, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to empowering others, especially those in marginalized communities like the one in which I was raised. -Dena Simmons
Via Misty Copeland: My experience of having art in my life is what developed me as a person. My limited access to any singular nurturing in my life left me completely underdeveloped. Ballet taught me to think and use parts of myself that I could not connect with simply by attending a public school with basic academics. My verbal skills were enriched, and my understanding of my body through music and movement gave me confidence and articulation. I don’t think I could have become the woman I am today without it.
Ballet taught me to think and use parts of myself that I could not connect with simply by attending a public school with basic academics. -Misty Copeland
Via Kelli M. Coleman: For me, I was exposed to a great deal at a young age; in the way of entrepreneurship, in the way of a strong Black woman in my mother who supported us for many years while my father was building his business. When you are exposed to, and are able to see yourself in others and watch them thrive and grow, it makes all the difference in the world.
Diversity in the workplace
Via Symone D. Sanders: A key challenge is addressing how often people want to sign off the issues that women, young people, and people of color care about as if they don’t resonate with the majority of the American electorate. It is simply not true. I always encounter the challenge of ensuring that when we are talking about young people we are not just talking about student debt, but we are also talking about the economy, criminal justice reform issues, and other topics. I am consistently making sure we are not putting people into these little demographic boxes.
Via Christina Vuleta: I wanted to talk about the problem. I wanted to talk about the solution. There’s a lot of talking about the problems and issues and so forth and that’s great, but other people are already doing that and they’re good at doing it. I really hope to move that needle in terms of getting women to take the next step forward so that somehow we will eventually eliminate the need for it.
Via Gina Prince-Bythewood: There’s so few of us making movies and having the opportunity to make movies. If you look at my body of work, it focuses on Black women. It’s twofold. 1) I have a responsibility to do stories that inspire me. 2) I want to put those faces up on screens, so others can look up and see women, who look like them, that we do not get to see very often.
I want to put those faces up on screens, so others can look up and see women, who look like them, that we do not get to see very often. -Gina Prince-Bythewood
On the importance of the sister circle
Via Tina Tchen: I think we are in this moment because of the courage of women who came forward to tell their stories; the many women who have come forward, including women who are known, who people recognize, and can relate to. Those women had the courage to speak out, other women with less celebrity or people who are in other industries found the courage to speak out too, and that has led us to the moment where we realize how many industries and how many workplaces are affected by these issues; including those where many of the people in those workplaces didn’t realize what was going on. That really fueled the momentum.