Aspiring to achieve success comes with an interesting tool box. The majority of your journey includes filtering through what you can work with and what you need to let go. One of the essential tools to success is connecting with the right people. This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending The Root’s Young, Fabulous & Female event, sponsored by Toyota, at the House of Deréon Media Center. The theme was “Getting Across the Line” asking how black women cross that line to achievement and success, how we bring others with us, and what obstacles are in our path. The panel discussion included a number of gems, positive energy, and motivation. Now, let’s get into my recap of the event and suggestions to improve the discussion.
The panel included Joy Sewing, fashion and beauty editor for the Houston Chronicle, Dr. Camille Cash, plastic surgeon in Houston, Denise Hamilton, CEO and founder of WatchHerWork.com and co-founder of JONES Magazine, Tera Roberson, Special Projects Producer for Houston’s NBC affiliate KPRC, and Suzette Turner-Caldwell, former engineer and current associate pastor for Windsor Village United Methodist Church. Devi Dev, music director for 93.7 The Beat and TV pop culture correspondent for CBS affiliate KHOU11, moderated the panel. First, I think Donna Byrd and her The Root team did an excellent job gathering local brilliant women to enhance this discussion with diverse experiences and views.
One of the big topics that was touched on a number of times was the struggle with obtaining opportunities. I loved how Denise set the tone by saying “it’s more about us opting out then us being kept out.” The analogy she gave is one that I think all of us can relate to – a job application lists requirements A, B, C, D. A woman would read that application and tell herself “I can do A, B, C, D, E, and F, but I don’t know…let me call my Mom and talk about it…maybe call my best friend…maybe I’m not qualified. A man would read that application and tell himself “I can do C…I can do that job. Submit.” Regardless if you fit this scenario or not, I think we all have been guilty of doubting ourselves. I have been diligently working on myself to recognize how my talents can apply to any job and switch my mindset to view my skills as abundant rather than lacking.
Speaking about mindset, getting cross the line to opportunity also involves checking your attitude towards your worth. Tera shared her life motto – “Live your own. Have your own. Be your own.” In some circumstances it is easier said than done, but it is so important to stay true to yourself while aspiring and achieving success. The challenges, competition, and disappointments will make you question what you stand for and why you are working so hard. Don’t let that make you forget who you are. This is why I loved when Devi said “find beauty in your struggle.” So much growth happens during personal struggle. When I look back at where I was 5 years ago compared to what I am doing now, I am humbled. I still have a lot of work and ground to cover, but I can see the progress and I can note what I gained from every challenge I pushed through.
There was also a lot of wisdom shared about what excellence should look like. Sharing advice on how to focus your life and career, Suzette said, “Be prepared. Be very good at what you do. Be humble.” She also added that to be confident in yourself, you should always be prepared. I totally agree with that sentiment. Have you noticed a pattern among most success stories that opportunities do not usually appear as planned? That is why you always have to be ready to do your best because you never know who or what will open the next door for you. Excellence also involves constant change. I could totally relate to Devi when she said, “never get comfortable. Look for constant evolution.” This does not mean you should be selfish in always being unsatisfied, but you should always try to do better. I am constantly seeking knowledge and inspiration to expand and enhance my passions and my purpose. Constant evolution in yourself can include reading a book a day to mastering meditation to joining a community group to contributing to a new cause. It all depends on what you need and how you define your journey.
Having an accomplished journalist on the panel was also a plus for me because she spoke to part of my niche. Joy shared how she visualized and spoke her dream of being a journalist into existence even at a time when the industry did not seem promising. “It’s not just about working hard,I love being a journalist,” said Joy. “If you want to do it, and it’s not about the money, then a way will be made for you.” She also noted the deeper reality black women face in having a successful career – “there is a part of you that you have to quiet to conform to what you’re working with.” There were a lot of head nods and finger snaps for that statement. Being a professional black woman is a challenging balancing act. Even though we encourage ourselves and each other to stay true to who we are, we still have to withhold some of our brilliance in certain settings but also be bold and step up in certain circumstances.
This point leads to my next overall comment on this event. I know the discussion was supposed to be 2 hours, and they did well to stick to that timeframe, but I would have loved for the conversation to continue for 4 hours. With more time, I think the panel could have taken this topic further and answered more questions. It is great to encourage attendees to clarify their goals and plan for their future, but if time permitted I think it would have been equally important to mention how to achieve this in an environment that seems to set us up for failure. Similar to what Denise touched on, “women are the keepers of culture and we need to start owning that.” I think owning that does not only include being great at what you do but also being great at taking care of yourself. We are in a troubling time now. The culture we have carried and supported throughout history is under attack. We cannot go by one day without reading, hearing, or seeing a story about our people being murdered, arrested, or suffering. I know this topic could branch out to all kinds of comments and would extend the discussion for hours. However, for next time, I think we should include one question for the panel along these lines – Regarding the troubling and tragic climate we are living in now, how do you continue to get across the line to success and opportunity? The responses might vary, but I feel they would enhance what the audience learns from the event. It is important for black women to pay attention to their well-being. I think it would be helpful if the event also provided resources for where to connect with mentors, how to find grants, how to strengthen one’s spirituality, etc. We cannot ignore the fact that what happens in our community directly affects us…it comes with the package of being a queen of black excellence.
What would my answer be, you ask? Part of the reason why I sacrifice so much, work so hard, and strive to be legit in everything I do, is to make sure my people’s pain is not in vain. I am building a legacy for those coming behind me to take notes and push further and I am hopefully making an impact so that our future is less tragic.
Overall, I enjoyed the event and am very happy The Root came to Houston. I also hope it won’t be the last time they host an event like this here. I left feeling inspired not only by what was said but also by seeing there are a lot of brilliant women in Houston doing great things to influence their community. We need more events like this here (or I need to get better at finding these events before they pass) to help facilitate these types of discussions and connections. If anyone is planning something like this here, I would love to contribute and/or help.
Also, check out The Root’s video recap. Me and my signature blazer make a few cameo appearances.
How are you getting across the line to success and opportunity? Have you attended The Root’s YFF event before?