Ladies, You Are Unbreakable!

by Yolande Morris

Have you ever walked into a room where the women were fierce, confident, walking in their purpose and dripping with the word of God? That’s the atmosphere that I walked into last weekend at the Fresh Oil Conference at Purpose Life Church in Brooklyn, N.Y. So, it was fitting that the conference theme was “Unbreakable” because I walked out with clarity and confidence, in a way that I have never felt before.

Here’s why:

Free people, free people and ask for help.

Only women who are free, open, vulnerable and transparent can help you break through to your own freedom. These women were not there to perform, they were there help us break chains. When I walked in that room, I couldn’t help but to break free from the chains of conformity and religiosity, which is an insincere form of righteousness that is based on performance.

I learned the secret to their “unbreakable spirit” - obedience. When we do the things that God says to do, i.e. waking up early to spend time in His word, caring for His people, and loving others as He first loved us; He takes care of us and our needs. We learn to trust in His provision and guidance rather than our own self-righteousness. We also learn that we are not superwomen so we ask for help - we ask for help with our children, our marriages, we go to therapy, and we seek wise counsel. It’s cliche but we really are stronger together. The Bible says, a cord of three strands is not easily broken - you + Jesus/Holy Spirit + your village = Unbreakable.

“The Holy Spirit is a person, ask him for what you need.” - Naomi Raine.

Here are some more highlights from the conference:

Night 1: Kicking off the festivities was worship leader, Naomi Raine, who brought us to our feet with an original song called, Unbreakable, the theme of the conference. Then world renowned worship leaders, David and Nicole Binion, who sang the house down with songs from their latest album Dwell and one of my absolute favorite songs right now: Surrounded.

Enter, Pastor Sara, a powerhouse preacher with a fierce Jamaican accent a remarkable story of courage in the face of persistent adversity over sexual abuse, neglect, and violence. She reminded us about the “bounce back” and that “it costs too much to stay in a broken state.”

Panel discussion on mental, emotional and spiritual health in our churches, relationships, and marriages. The biggest takeaway from this panel was the need to cultivate a strong foundation in God’s word, take our thoughts captive daily, and overcome emotional trauma through prayer and therapy. Yes, therapy, we need the spiritual and practical to become truly unbreakable in every area of life.

Moderator: Yolande Morris, Founder + Editor-in-Chief of Wit + Grace Magazine

Panelists:

  • Naomi Raine - worship leader, wife and mother of three.

  • Gillian Garcia - hairstylist and girls empowerment leader

  • Dr. Jackie Greene - speaker, dentist, wife and mother of three.

  • Sade Solomon - faith and style blogger and Founder of Conversations Beyond

  • Abby Crews, licensed marriage and family therapist

0A9A3045.JPG
0A9A3140.JPG

Night 2: The Saturday afternoon sessions included messages from Dr. Jackie Greene, Pastor Sharo, the panel and a closing message from Jazmin Georges.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the conference, there’s always next year. Check out freshoilconference.com for more details.

If you are interested in learning more about organizations and practices to help you overcome anxiety, depression, stress, addiction, grief, marital strife and more, check out these resources below:

For people interested in therapy services:

  • Check with your employer's EAP (Employee Assistance Program). Sometimes, they provide counseling, and other times they will refer you to the appropriate service or professional at no cost or copayment. They can also direct you to attorneys and other professionals for other issues.

  • Check with your insurance plan. Therapy may be covered just as medicine is covered.

  • Here is a list of therapists that we personally recommend:

  • Avail NYC provides after-pregnancy support and resources for women who have had miscarriages or abortions - https://www.availnyc.org/

  • If you have had a miscarriage - visit https://www.miscarriagehurts.com/

  • If you find that your insurance doesn't cover much or any sessions, also check out community mental health clinics.

  • If you are an undergraduate or graduate student, your institution will also have a counseling center.


Taking a Break to Become Unbreakable

fullsizeoutput_fc10.jpeg

by Yolande Morris

I was mad at God.

And even though I didn’t realize it at first – the frustration and minor annoyances that seemed to be associated with the people in my life who just couldn’t see to “get it right” or “do the right thing” was stemming from bitterness in my own heart toward God.

He really doesn’t care, does he?

That was the lie that my mind kept believing and so I was mad but I didn’t tell him I was mad. So, I did what any good Christian does – I continued to go to church, serve in ministry, and fulfill all of my religious obligations but continue to take out my frustrations on those around me. Nobody really knew the cause – not even me. It was like a dirty secret that I kept from myself.

Yet, through it all, he kept whispering things to me through the Holy Spirit. And his whispers weren’t really suggestions, they were more like commandments.

Rest.

No.

Serve my people.

No.

The good – no actually – the great thing about God is that when he wants you to do something, he tells the people around you too so that it serves as a confirmation of his word.

And in my life, the voice of God usually sounds a lot like my mother’s voice.  

She called me a few months ago to tell me what she usually tells me – “You’re all over the place and you need to rest.” But this time she added in another tidbit – “You need to be serving in the church.”

What? I thought I was supposed to rest and not serve? How could I do both? And why now?

I didn’t realize it at the time what God was doing in my life but I knew that I needed to be obedient. I knew that for once, I couldn’t control this season of my life and I needed to let God handle the outcome rather than letting anxiety take root.

So, I joined two ministry teams. I started taking little breaks from social media and spending more time in Bible study and really listening to what God was saying to me. Then on August 10, I deactivated my Instagram for the first time ever and began to practice the rest that I have so diligently been preaching to others. I allowed myself to rest, listen and lean into God’s word. I spent time caring for my grandmother, practiced being present with family and friends, serve in my local church and attended a leader’s retreat.  

IMG_0692.JPG

It was there – at this familiar place in the woods (a.k.a. Lake Champion) – that God spoke to me and I realized that all of the anger and frustration that I had been feeling was rooted in disappointment. I felt like he had disappointed me. He knew the desires of my heart – marriage, family, ministry – and he was holding out. Somewhere deep down, I knew that he didn’t think that I deserved it.

So, there it was – disappointment rooted in shame – was affecting my relationship with my Heavenly Father, and many others around me.

What could I do? Nothing – the debt had already been paid on the cross, I just had to receive his grace daily. I had to learn to focus on him and seek him before anything else. Instead of believing the lies, I had to accept the truth – not only did he care but he was infatuated with me. He saw me – beautiful, graceful, sweet, lovely – in all the ways that I didn’t see myself.  

At first, I thought that God wanted me to rest simply because I was burned out and I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t think that I could afford to accomplish my goals and rest at the same time.

But that isn’t who God is. He doesn’t issue commands to withhold from us but so that we can trust him with the outcome instead of trusting in ourselves. So, by taking a break to rest and spend time with him, he was showing me all the ways that He could be trusted with my heart, my future, and my provision. It’s not my hustle that produces favor and fruit in my life, it is His grace, and His grace alone.

The Bible says that apart from him we can’t bear much fruit.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

So, anything that I am trying to do in my life that is not aligned with his word and his will for my life, will not bear fruit. I don’t want to waste any time on things that won’t last or won’t matter in eternity.

Now don’t get me wrong, social media can and has been a fruitful channel for connection, inspiration, and communication. And, as a full-time communications professional, I can’t do my job without it. But, taking a break from it has helped me to recharge, refocus and reconnect with my family and my purpose. I feel strengthened, renewed, and fit for the season ahead.  I am no longer consumed with anxiety – that has been replaced with unconditional trust in my God. I am becoming - day-by-day - unbreakable.

It’s fitting that today is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah (יוֹם תְּרוּעָה), which literally means a "day of shouting or blasting." So, on this day, I am shouting and blasting this from the Music Monday playlist:

(Thanks, Kendolyn)

And, I’m inviting you to become unbreakable with me. Join me at the 2019 Fresh Oil Conference, where I will be moderating a panel called: “How to Live Unbreakable Mentally, Physically, Emotionally, and Spiritually.” The panel will feature special guests: Sade Solomon, Abby Crews, Dr. Jackie Greene, Gillian Garcia, and Sharo Ramkhelewan.

Rise of the Truth Teller

Ashley Abercrombie

Ashley Abercrombie

by Yolande Morris

If you’ve ever met Ashley Abercrombie, count yourself blessed (and highly favored). Not only is Ashley a gorgeous and fierce female preacher, she’s also a truth-teller. She tells the truth from the places and spaces that she so eloquently graces - the pulpit, her podcast, and on social media. So, it’s no surprise that in her first book “Rise of the Truth Teller,” you will find the truth and nothing but the whole truth bound in 216 pages.

I first met Ashley when I moderated “The ChangeMakers” panel during Black History Month of 2018. I remember reaching out to my best friend about ideas for the panel, which was focused on race, faith, and social justice and she said, “You need to get Ashley Abercrombie on your panel! She is the TRUTH!” Not only did Ashley show up and blow us all away with her insights but we formed a friendship. And, every now and then, Ashley will slide into my DMs to encourage me, send me links to resources, invite me to events, and, most importantly, share God’s truth.

So I was ecstatic to receive a copy of her book a few weeks ago and I immediately started digging deep with my highlighter and my journal. But don’t just take my word for it, here are three truths from Rise of the Truth Teller that blessed me:

The Truth About Your Past: If you’ve ever felt ashamed of your past or thought that God can’t use you because of something you did decades ago, Ashley dispels that lie in Chapter 1. She shares her story of overcoming rape, abortion and many other trials in life with biblical wisdom and gives grace and space for all of us to share own stories. The truth is this:

“My story matters. Truth telling starts with me.”

The Truth About Reconciliation: It’s not often that you meet a six-feet-tall, skinny, blonde, green-eyed white woman who is willing to talk about race and privilege with conviction in her heart and purpose in every step. The truth is:

“After working in community development and serving in jails and churches, I can assure you that skin color is seen, and it matters. We can do better, and we must.”

The Truth About Margin: “Margin is about capacity, and we cannot do it all, despite the women-shaming rhetoric out there that tells us to be all things to all people. We must set our priorities and focus so that we create a life we love and will continue to love years from now.” This. All of this, every day. This is the truth that every woman needs to hear about creating margin in her life.

“Without Sabbath, there is no peace. And without peace, there is no justice.”

Amen and amen.

Final truth: You need to get this book and find out more truths about forgiveness, trauma, power, aggression, and Christians, among others.

This Conference Wants Your Feminine Heart!

IMG_6845.jpg

“God knows the depth and potential He has put in the feminine heart.” - Bobbie Houston

Whew - if you don’t know Bobbie Houston, please do yourself a favor and read her quintessential book on women and women’s ministry - “The Sisterhood - How the Power of the Feminine Heart Can Become a Catalyst for Change and Make the World a Better Place” about her 20-year plus journey with Hillsong Sisterhood and the Colour Conference. Yes, it’s color with a “u” because she’s from the land down under, Australia.

Equally, if you are unfamiliar with Hillsong, head over to YouTube to listen to some of the worship gems they have dropped over the last 30 years of ministry, including Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), What A Beautiful Name and, an oldie but goodie, Shout to the Lord.

On the heels of Hillsong’s widely popular worship and music ministry, Bobbie launched what is widely considered the largest women’s conference in the world, which kicks off in Sydney, and then travels to London, Kiev, Cape Town, Los Angeles, and New York City.

“The Sisterhood has just put new language and parameters around [women’s ministry],” says Bobbie. “It’s crossed some lines that I think were generational, where young women would perhaps not see themselves as part of traditional ‘women’s ministry’. I think all those barriers have been beautifully broken down. The Sisterhood represents a really wide, gorgeous demographic of girls.”

So, last weekend, I found myself among this wide and gorgeous demographic of girls. There were girls who came from every corner of the globe and the beauty and diversity of God’s kingdom was on full display. To kickoff the conference, Bobbie hosts a “high tea party” with senior pastors and guests who are a part of the Hillsong Leadership Network, a collective of churches and leaders who share resources to help build healthy local churches.

Source: Hillsong Network website

Source: Hillsong Network website

Then, it’s time for the main event: an all-out-high-octane-mega-overdose of worship and womanhood, fueled by inspiring words from Bobbie, Dawn Chere Wilkerson, and others. Dawn Chere spoke about her eight-year battle with infertility, while Bobbie led discussions on gender and racial justice.

Here are some of our favorite moments:

Screen Shot 2019-04-10 at 10.51.10 PM.png

“I was overwhelmed, I felt really insecure. I didn’t want to be known as the infertility girl, I didn’t want that label on me. I just wanted to figure it out before people were able to attach that name to my life. I had my eyes looking to doctors, other friendships, and other support. But you when the moment that changed my life came? It’s when I came eye-to-eye with the one who loves me the most. It took years for me to be really transparent with God and say God, ‘I’m really not happy with this season, I resent it. I don’t know what to do with it or how to move forward … and as I looked eye-to-eye- with Jesus, my Jesus, my Yeshua, my Strength, my Song, my Salvation, an amazing thing happened. I didn’t hold a baby in my arms but Jesus became my treasure.

And Jesus satisfied my soul. He satisfied my soul in a way that a baby never could, he satisfied my soul in a way that my marriage never could or any achievements never could. It was a deep rooted establishment of peace. Something that was a revelation in my spirit that God would never leave me, never forsake me and even if I never held a baby on this side of eternity, that my life had purpose and that I have work to do. There is a mission before me and there is no time to waste.”

- Dawn Chere Wilkerson’s message on Day 2.

IMG_6851.JPG

Watch more highlights from Colour Conference on Instagram here.

IMG_6878.JPG

Dreamers, Diversity, and Doing It God's Way

yolande61.JPG

Is anyone else a dreamer like me?

Yes? Ok, cool. Well listen up.

As dreamers, it’s important to practice self-care so that you can protect yourself and your dream. So, I’ve been pretty much silent on IG for the last few weeks with the intention of eliminating stress and burnout. ⠀

In the midst of a very busy season at work and running this magazine, I started to lose my joy. I was feeling the weight of the work and resentment started to creep in. I don’t know about anyone else, but having a full-time job and a dream project can be exhausting at times. It’s not just about attending glitzy events or speaking on panels, it’s about doing the hard work 100 percent of the time.

I needed to remind myself of why I was doing this and spend time with the Dream-Giver, God.

So, if you’re feeling the weight of your dreams or struggling in a season of not-there-yet, don’t just remember your WHY, call on your WHO!

God is faithful to answer and not just lift the burden but also carry you through doors only He can open. That was the case a few weeks ago when I was interviewed for a new YouTube show on Diversity and Inclusion. I had the opportunity to share about my dreams as a kid, my faith, the magazine, and some of the incredible and diverse women who have joined us on this journey.

Hopefully, it will inspire you to step out in faith to pursue your dreams and not give up. 

IMG_6720.jpg


Women Making History: Carolyn Li Ming Geh

LiOrganics.jpg

by Megan Montgomery

What do you do when the products you want to use aren’t on the market?  If you’re Carolyn Li Ming Geh (Li), you invent them.  

While Li had always had sensitive skin, it wasn’t until she moved from Malaysia to Canada for college that her skin sensitivities got worse.  As a child, Li’s father, an engineer, instilled in her a love for creating things using natural ingredients instead of chemicals, including food items such as soymilk and yogurt.  Li struggled to find skincare products that worked for her so she decided to tap into her childhood experience of sourcing her own raw plant-based ingredients, including guava fruit, turmeric root, cajeput, tamanu, vetiver, rice, and coconut, and developing a few formulas to address her skincare needs.

“While I was getting my Master’s degree in Neuroscience,” Li says, “I was scouted to be a double on a TV show, which eventually led to a contract with a top modeling agency in New York City.  As a model, I  had to be even more diligent about my skincare routine and I continued to refine my formula by combining ancient traditions with modern science.  Some of the make-up artists that I was working with kept telling me that I had great skin and asking me about the products that I used on my skin.”

ourfounder_thumbnails_LiOrganics.jpg


When Li informed them that she made her own products, they strongly encouraged her to launch her own skincare line.  As Li prayed about taking the leap to start her own business, Li decided to launch a skincare service brand that was not just nourishing for the skin, but also good for the soul. She wanted her skincare line to encourage women that beauty is much more than just skincare.  With that purpose , Li Organics (www.liorganics.com) was officially launched in Jan 2019.  

LiOrganics2.jpg

Li had also had a dream many years earlier that had never left her and in that dream she built a school.  She decided that 10 percent  of her company’s profits would go to building classrooms and schools in poverty zones.  Attending school had always been a joy for her and opened up a lot of opportunities for her to go to Canada and the U.S. and then later travel to many other countries, which opened her up to a much broader world beyond her village. 

“I want children to have the opportunity to go to school,  get an education, and dream as big as they possibly can,” says Li. “I encourage everyone reading this to pay attention to the dreams on your heart as they might be there for a reason that’s much bigger that you. We also get to support local communities on the island of Penang in Malaysia, where our products are handcrafted in small batches using time-tested, traditional methods. We take no shortcuts to create the best product possible. These products are the very best nature has to offer, and I hope they nourish and make everyone who uses them even more beautiful than they already are. My promise is that we will never compromise on the quality, source, or safety of our ingredients, and you’ll certainly see that in the results!”

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_7bf3.jpg

Women Making History: Ogo Ekweozor - Holley

Ogo

by Megan Montgomery

Ogo Ekweozor-Holley is the epitome of a serial entrepreneur.  After obtaining her law degree at 20, Ogo has since founded six companies with a seventh on the way.  Her companies have spanned multiple industries, including fashion, real estate, and an agency generating funds for non-profits.  She is the founder of her eponymous fashion line OGO New York, which has an online and physical storefront in Brooklyn; and Style Chest which offers personal styling boxes direct to your door.  

ogo new york 14 wo-1.jpg
ogo new york 9-1.jpg
017-1.JPG

Ogo has a strong passion for giving back as well and founded the True Beauty Foundation which offers events designed to inspire and empower women. She created the True Beauty Conference in 2012 to provide an affordable, educational, and inspiring event for professional women and entrepreneurs. Her achievements are frequently recognized with awards including the YWCA’s Woman of Distinction and Economic Development award, Brooklyn Reporter’s Power Woman in Business, and Third Avenue Association’s Business Pioneer Award.  And, if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she is also married with three very active children under the age of four.  

FB_IMG_1552186301866.jpg

When I met Ogo, the first question that came to my mind is “how do you do it all?”  And, yes, Ogo is a firm believer that you really can do it all.  She believes that it is possible to have a happy marriage, fulfilling career, solid friendships, and still have quality time with your kids. 

“It’s not about work-life balance, it’s about harmony and finding a way for all of the things that are most important to you to sync together,” says Ogo. “If you are involved in a lot, you need to be really intentional about staying present with what you are engaging in at the time, whether it be with the kids, husband, friends or a work meeting.”  To help her do that, Ogo will frequently turn off her phone or put it in another room so she can really focus on the person or task in front of her.  She also finds that she prioritizes better when she starts her day with quiet time with God. 

“One of the keys to success as an entrepreneur is having a clear vision that’s bigger than you,” says Ogo. “You have to know your why.  Most businesses don’t make a lot of money in the beginning and it can cost a little more time and money to start than you would think, so without having a clear vision and purpose, you can easily get discouraged and give up.” 

Screen Shot 2019-03-09 at 10.31.56 PM.png

As a Christian woman who owns a business, Ogo looks for ways to live out her faith in everything she does. She does this by treating all employees and customers in ways that honors and values them, being ready to be a listening ear, and praying for people when they are going through something. She also leverages her businesses to give back to various charities including ones involved in stopping human trafficking and supporting education in underprivileged areas. Ogo is in the process of expanding her True Beauty Foundation to provide resources to teenage girls through afterschool programs focused on leadership development, business management, and entrepreneurship. 

“Giving back is the right thing to do,” Ogo says. “I believe that having a strong corporate donation culture also helps employees and customers to have a deeper connection to the company which boosts overall retention and employee productivity. Personally, giving back also adds to my big WHY when times get tough and helps me persevere for the sake of all the lives I’m touching.” 

Learn more about Ogo and register for the sixth annual True Beauty Women’s celebrationon Thursday, April 25, 2019. 

Women Making History: Marty McDonald

Marty McDonald, left, with Sopha Rush at her Black Girl Magic Event.

Marty McDonald, left, with Sopha Rush at her Black Girl Magic Event.

Interviewed by Brittany Cole

A builder, a corporate queen with a few hustles on the side, and a super ambitious go-getter – this is how Mary McDonald, founder of Boss Women Media (formerly Boss Women Who Brunch), describes herself. Confident? Yes, but she has the data to back it up.  Presently, Boss Women Media is one of the fastest growing women’s empowerment businesses with a 650 percent growth in 2018 over the previous year.

“I’ve always known that I wanted more,” says Marty. “I didn’t always know what ‘more’ looked like, but I always desired more from the time I was a kid until now. Even as a kid, I was always a builder. I would take my dressers in my room and design them and paint them. I was always a builder and a creator not knowing that would follow me in life.”  

Marty majored in Interior Design and Architecture at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She initially planned to major in fashion design, but her dad refused to pay for that degree and gave her other options for her future. Marty followed suit and spent four years as an interior designer before moving over to brand marketing. She decided to go back to school for an MBA and soon found herself on the corporate grind.

“I was never fulfilled in that space, but I was always trying to climb to the next level in my career,” says Marty. “But I didn’t wasn’t living in alignment with my purpose, which is the desire to empower and propel other women forward so that they can tell their story.”

blob

But Marty wasn’t there yet so she continued to work hard at her corporate job as the head of brand innovation and development for a Pizza Brand. She was responsible for their advertising and marketing promotion plans for about 500 restaurants nationally. It was a job that she was recruited for while heading up marketing and advertising for a luxury high end brand, where she was responsible for 16 restaurants averaging about $40 million in revenue a year. The excitement of working in a new environment where she could learn from “really smart people who went to top business schools” drew her to the pizza brand.

“I traded in the glamour to go learn from a Chief Marketing Officer who had worked for larger brands and gone to Wharton Business School,” says Marty. “I knew that I was going to go learn a ton from her. I had to relearn myself and what my worth looked like in this new environment. It was no longer someone telling me that I was the smartest, I just had to know it and show it, and show up every single day. That role taught me to never let anyone define my worth. It also taught me to never stop learning.”

Not all of Marty’s lessons were positive, but each one provided her with the opportunity and ammunition she needed to become the person she is today. She found herself constantly trying to prove her worth by working 60-70 hours each week. In the end she walked away learning how to create pitches, make her voice heard and, most importantly, how to use data as the motivating factor to influence clients. She describes this the most painful job she’d ever had and she tried to find solace and a network outside of work.

blob
blob

 “I kept wondering,” says Marty, “where are my people? So, I called a friend and said ‘hey, we are always talking about wanting more. Don’t you think there are other women who want this, too?’  We decided to host a brunch at Neiman Marcus and I invited ten people that I knew and 15 people who I didn’t know also showed up. This was my first event and that’s when I knew there was a need.”

That was May 2016 and she poured herself into new company whenever she had time away from work. Then, after missing the mark on a project with a new CMO at work, she started questioning her worth, yet again.  That’s when she knew it was time to call it quits. Surprisingly, her husband agreed, and she handed in her resignation in November of 2017 and hasn’t looked back. 

“Once I put the notice in, that was the game changer between do I eat, or do I not eat,” says Marty. “That was what I needed. Maybe a week later, I met with Kela Walker and decided to put in the investment to bring her and Necole Kane of XONecole to Dallas for our 2018 kickoff event. That was December 21, 2017 and since then, everything has changed. More than anything, my mindset has changed.”

Since then, Marty has become a force to be reckoned with and turned Boss Women Media into a nationally recognized media company that hosts conferences, meet-ups, and empowerment events across the country. Here are some nuggets that she dropped during the interview about quitting her job, launching her business, and building a brand that lasts.

Y95A9498.JPG

Brittany: You decided to quit your job. How has that transition been?

Marty: The first two months, I was busy planning the conference, so I was good. When the conference was over. I slept in and watched TV for two months. Then my husband said, what are you doing? I went into a depressive state of not knowing what to do. The advice that I give women now is that you have to have a plan. So, when you pivot in the plan, that’s ok just make sure you have a plan.

I was ready to empower myself to jump but after the jump, I didn’t know what to do. You don’t have to know everything that you want to do just have to have a plan.

“If you have three solid game changers that you want to accomplish, just remember that God is going to step in and do his miraculous work every single time.”  

I knew what I wanted it to be so I had to put all of my effort and energy into it. I knew that I had to go figure it out and let people help.  I know it's a mindset though and even if you’re the most talented but you’re not consistent, nobody cares. Nobody cares because you're not consistent and you don’t show up when you’re supposed to show up. But then also you need to believe that you can do it.

Brittany: What were some of the lessons you learned in the process?

I learned how the companies that I worked for did business. The luxury company prided itself on experience. So that was my biggest learning from working there. At the pizza brand, I learned how to manage a P&L and what the life cycle of business look like. I know how to use the right terminology. The best gift that we can give ourselves is learning how to run effective businesses. If you don’t have the time or energy to do something, find someone who can help you.

Brittany: Who inspires you?

Marty: I just came from Michelle Obama’s Becoming event and just her rawness, her truth, I really admire Michelle. I just love being around badass women. Women who had nothing and created something. I just love being in a space with women like that. But, more importantly, women who are not afraid to take what they have learned and pour it into other people. I am also inspired by women who think differently, too. One of my good friends right now is a woman who is 15 years older than me who believes in me and pours into me. She believes in me more than I believe in myself and shows me how to get things done. Women like that inspire me.

Brittany: What advice do you have for side hustlers or people who are thinking about taking a leap.

Marty: I would say for the girl who is side hustling, be clear on your why. Why are you even doing what you’re doing? Because your why is going to be that ticker in the back of your head that tells you to get going. It can be because I want to create generational wealth. It's never about you either. It’s always about a bigger cause. At the end of the day, if you have credentials and you have education, you can always go back.

Why not bet on yourself? We play safe as black women all the time. Society tells us, do you know how lucky you are to be sitting here in this space at this time at this table at this company? But, do you know how much the world is missing out on your talents, on your gifts? All that you have to offer that you leave at the door when you walk in here?

“Sometimes we just have to be ballsy. If you're serious, if there was ever a moment in history, this is your moment. Generations to come will talk about this movement that happening right now with women. It will be in historic text books in 30- 40- 50 years from now.”

Brittany: So, what’s next? Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Marty:  I want to tell my story a little bit more. I know that I have focused on bringing women to the table to tell their story. So that’s on the horizon, but also just changing the way that women connect. Changing the way women connect in the digital space. So that’s on the horizon. And we want to practice what we preach so in the fall we are going back on tour and doing a pitch competition where we allow women to sell their ideas so that they can get the funding that they need to thrive. And then eventually the goal would be to have a space that can serve as an incubator for females/ black women co-working space and have that in multi cities.

 Right now, I am a wife, and a dog mom but I am professing and claiming to the universe that I want to be a mom in 2019 (I think).

To keep up with Marty, join her in NYC for her “Black Girl Magic” tour.

BossMagic.PNG

Brittany is a marketer by day and stylist by night. Learn more about her by visiting www.stylebybritt.com

The Best of International Women's Day 2019

Women are powerful. At least that’s the sentiment of many who posted, rallied, and supported the UN’s annual International Women’s Day celebration today.  International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women - while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance. The first International Women's Day occurred in 1911, supported by over one million people.

Here are some of the conversations that took place in honor of #IWD2019 and the theme #BalanceforBetter:

Faith Leaders

Women, it’s time to USE YOUR VOICE to ENCOURAGE the young and the not so young, to BUILD, to BLESS, to SPEAK TRUTH, to INVITE others in, and to tell the never-ending story of hope, faith, & LOVE 💕 The earth needs its DAUGHTERS.

Women, it’s time to USE YOUR VOICE to ENCOURAGE the young and the not so young, to BUILD, to BLESS, to SPEAK TRUTH, to INVITE others in, and to tell the never-ending story of hope, faith, & LOVE 💕 The earth needs its DAUGHTERS.

The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng.
(Psalm 68:11 NIV)

“Happy International Women’s Day! Daughter of God, we love and believe in you. More than that, God Himself has chosen and cherishes you. He created you as an answer and a force for good on the earth. Your strength, insights, questions, and dreams are invaluable to the kingdom of God. Be encouraged that your contribution will bring joy to your family, your community, and the world.” - Lisa Bevere

Grandmothers. Mothers. Sisters. Nieces. Daughters. So  #grateful  💜 #internationalwomensday  - Priscilla Shirer

Grandmothers. Mothers. Sisters. Nieces. Daughters. So #grateful 💜#internationalwomensday - Priscilla Shirer

 

Leaders Around the World

"When women miss out on careers, education or opportunities because of the system that they live in, we all suffer." - Megan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.

To commemorate International Women's Day, Meghan Markle participated in a panel on feminism and women's empowerment organized by the Queen's Commonwealth Trust. The Duchess was joined by five other leaders to discuss women's rights and issues: musician Annie Lennox, model Adwoa Aboah, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, Let Us Learn founder Chrisann Jarrett, and Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) executive director Angeline Murimirwa. Anne McElvoy, senior editor of The Economist, moderated the conversation.

Bias Correct

Unconscious gender bias fuels the gender gap. Visit https://catalyst.org/biascorrect/ to find the tools to become a catalyst for change.

Imani Collective

Imani Collective empowers women in Kenya through employment and educational opportunities. Watch this video to learn more about their story.

Women Are Superheroes

From Shera to Captain Marvel, here are some the wonder women who make us live out our superpowers every day.

Black Girl Magic

According to Google Trends, more than ever the world is searching for “black girl magic” — an empowering phrase that celebrates the achievements, beauty and irrepressibility of Black women and girls. The women featured in the film include icons, barrier-breakers and everyday heroes, including Simone Biles, Issa Rae, and Serena Williams.

Bishop Vashti McKenzie speaking at Black Enterprise’s Women of Power Summit

Bishop Vashti McKenzie speaking at Black Enterprise’s Women of Power Summit

Founder Yolande Morris at BE’s Women of Power Summit — click the link for the official recap.

Founder Yolande Morris at BE’s Women of Power Summit — click the link for the official recap.

Women Making History: April Tam

IMG_7984.JPG

by Megan Montgomery

Have you ever met someone who challenged you in the best of ways?  Someone who made you want to give more, love people deeper, and live for something beyond yourself? 

April Tam Smith is that type of person, a person whose radical giving, passion for empowering people, and infectious joy made me walk away from our encounter deeply reflecting on how to give more.

April credits her parents with instilling a strong sense of gratitude in her, as well as the responsibility to pay it forward.  When her mom was 11 years old, her mom was working in a clothing factory in Hong Kong to provide for her family.  When April was 11 years old, her family immigrated to the US where April eventually had the opportunity to attend MIT, then get her MBA at Columbia and start a career in investment banking.

IMG_9695.jpg

April then started volunteering at a number of charities in NYC helping survivors of human trafficking, the formerly incarcerated and the homeless, as well as serving with charities abroad in Haiti and South Africa and kept hearing the same thing from everyone, “I just want a job.”  She also had a friend now turned business partner who saw her passion for giving and a number of causes and suggested that they start a small business to fund all these causes that she was so passionate about. 

With no prior restaurant experience, April took him up on the idea and decided to start a restaurant that would create meaningful work for people who need a job while donating 100 percent of the restaurant’s profits to charity.  She also decided to make the restaurant vegan to provide food that was good for both the environment and the body and P.S. Kitchen opened its doors in August 2017.   Located in the heart of Times Square, after less than two years of existence, P.S. Kitchen was recently named one of the top vegan restaurants in New York City while providing jobs for more than 40 people in need of a second chance. 

IMG_7004.JPG
IMG_7003.JPG
IMG_7988.JPG

 “We can’t control the circumstances or family we are born to, but we are all called to share the time, talent, and resources we have to help others,” says April. “If we all sat down to a family-style dinner and I got a huge plate of food and you got two tomatoes, of course I would say you should have some of mine. It’s up to each of us to give generously and when you give generously God surprises you because it’s really all His anyway, so you can be bold in really stretching yourself in giving.” 

It’s up to each of us to give generously and when you give generously God surprises you because it’s really all His anyway.
— April Tam

April still works full time in investment banking and both her and her partner don’t take any salary from the restaurant.  She is also still active in volunteering for a number of other non-profits.  When I asked her how she does it all, she explained that it’s really the joy and passion of it that keeps her going.  “If it was out of a sense of obligation, it would get old really fast,” April says. “When you really get to know the people you are serving, they move from being statistics to real people.  That motivates me to work even harder at my day job so that I can earn more so that I can give away more.” 

April is very diligent with scheduling her time to fit in everything and shared that it is so easy to waste your time, money and resources if you’re not careful.  As busy as she is, she’s never too busy to pray. “You get so much more productivity when you take the time to pray and invite God into the situation,” says April. “When you try and do things on your own without seeking His guidance, then you can easily waste your time like a hamster in a wheel.  God can be so creative with both time and money.”   

April has big dreams about continuing to empower others both in the U.S. and abroad and encourages everyone to challenge themselves through radical giving.  “Start investing in others even if you are starting off small and  then continue to deepen your giving and experience the joy of what giving in a radical way that’s scary and others-centered can do,” April says.  

P.S. Kitchen’s Approach

P.S. Kitchen’s Approach

Watch Asian American Life’s video profile of P.S. Kitchen here.

Black History Month: "Black + Beautiful" Women to Know

Photo credit: Joey Rosado for Island Boy Photography

Photo credit: Joey Rosado for Island Boy Photography

It’s February and in the U.S., it’s not only the month of love, it’s also Black History Month!

It’s a time to celebrate the achievements of people of African descent whose achievements have not just paved the way for black Americans, but all Americans.

In honor of Black History Month, I recently wrote an article for Imperishable Beauty’s Quarterly Journal on this passage found in Song of Songs, “you are black but beautiful.” The article explores the racial identity of the Shulamite woman and American beauty standards.

“And as black women, our past extends back further than slavery or the savage things done to us over the course of history or the ways American culture has viewed us. Here in the garden where Solomon is playing with his beloved, he sees a beautiful black woman and he says, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” (Song of Songs 4:7) “ Read more here.

Speaking of black women, the women featured below are all trailblazers who empower us all with their indomitable spirit, social activism, literature, and music.

Ruby Bridges

Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 6.59.08 PM.png

“Be brave.”

Ruby Bridges was only six years old in 1960 when she was escorted to school by four federal marshals. She was one of six African-American students designated to integrate the William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana, but the only one to enroll.

Her bravery inspired the Norman Rockwell painting, “The Problem We All Live With” in 1964, which depicts Ruby walking to school and the racist words that were written on the signs of many protestors who fought against the integration.

Now in her 60s, Ruby Bridges is an author and activist. She established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and unity among schoolchildren using educational initiatives. 

Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 7.05.53 PM.png

Coretta Scott King

“Be what you are”

Coretta Scott King wasn’t just Martin Luther King’s wife but she was an author and civil rights leader in her own right who championed women’s rights.


Throughout her marriage, Coretta appeared side by side with her husband fighting against injustice. She also openly criticized the movement’s exclusion of women. She had four children and it was her daughter, Bernice, who tweeted recently:

“Remember my mother. Today. Always. There would be no #MLKDay without #CorettaScottKing. Architect of the King legacy. Exemplary leader. Founder of @TheKingCenter less than 3 months after my father was assassinated. And she taught #MLK about the global peace movement.”

Beside every great man is a great woman leading, building, and raising great children. Coretta Scott King did all of those things with style (wit) and grace. Let’s remember and celebrate her, always.

Screen Shot 2019-02-23 at 7.07.26 PM.png

Dorothy West

“There is no life that does not contribute to history.” — Dorothy West 
Dorothy West was a novelist and short story writer during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. She is best known for her novels The Living Is Easy, The Wedding and many other short stories and essays, about the life of an upper-class black family. 


Her father was a former slave who later became a successful businessman. Dorothy wrote her first story at the age of seven and was a published writer by the time she was 14 years old when her first short story, "Promise and Fulfillment", was published in the Boston Post. 


Dorothy was one of the last surviving members of the Harlem Renaissance. Shortly before she died in 1998, she was asked what she wanted to be remembered for and she said, “That I hung in there. That I didn't say I can't."

Today, we remember Dorothy West and many other writers of the Harlem Renaissance who created great works of literature. 

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 11.20.23 PM.png

Hattie McDaniel

“A woman’s gifts will make room for her.” — Hattie McDaniel

Today, we celebrate Hattie McDaniel, who broke barriers in the film industry when she became the first African American to win an Academy Award for acting in any category. She won Best Supporting Actress for “Gone With the Wind” in 1940. ⠀
In addition to fighting discrimination in Hollywood, Hattie McDaniel fought against discriminatory housing practices in California and won in a 1945 landmark case that set a precedent that would later help the Supreme Court rule it unconstitutional for the courts to enforce restrictive housing covenants in Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948.

In honor of #BlackHistoryMonth and the recent Academy Awards, we salute Hattie McDaniels and the seven other black actresses who have followed her lead, including Regina King who won on Sunday for Best Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

OWNing Your Success - Five Lessons from Oprah Winfrey

Photo credit: O, The Oprah Magazine

Photo credit: O, The Oprah Magazine

 

When we think of Oprah Winfrey, we tend to think of her successful media empire, which includes her long-running and award-winning talk show, inspiring movies and Broadway shows, and her eponymous magazine. She's a legend for all entrepreneurs, but especially for women and minorities. 

But in 2011, when she launched her TV network, OWN, it was a notorious dud. It was the first time since her meteoric rise to fame that Oprah didn't seem to have the golden touch. She admittedly wanted to quit. Maybe you're in that same boat right now after launching your own business, church, or meaningful enterprise. Before you quit, here are five things you should know about "OWNing" your success, the first in our series on women-owned startups. 

 

On launching the OWN Network, Oprah Winfrey confessed to major regrets.

“Had I known that it was this difficult, I might have done something else," she said. "I didn't think it was going to be easy, but if I knew then what I know now, I might have made different choices.”

Why she didn't quit. 

“I'm a very driven person,” she said. “I believe that I am here to fulfill a calling. That because I am a female who is African American, who has been so blessed in the world, there's never going to be a time to quit. I will die in the midst of doing what I love to do. And that is using my voice and using my life to try to inspire other people to live the best of theirs.”

What makes a true leader. 

"Because that’s what true leadership is – to be able to put whatever you’re doing, whether it’s your cupcake company or a network –in a position that it can sustain itself without you having to be the prominent force every day," says Oprah. "You want to create an opportunity for other people. I love being behind the scenes and creating opportunities for other people to shine." 

How she found her audience:

After a failed start, OWN has found its way as a personality-driven network steered by Winfrey’s taste – and her desire to cater to her core audience of black viewers, particularly black women. Having spent three decades as an “audience whisperer,” someone capable of cultivating a dedicated viewership by evolving with fans and paying special attention to what they like most – She is the viewer. And that’s why she’s as successful as she is. 

Does she still have regrets?

"Not deep ones," says Oprah. "I learned so much about myself, about sticking with it, and not giving up. I learned so much about putting your ego aside and leaving the room for other opportunities and other people’s insights. For that reason, I 'wouldn’t take nothing' for the journey."

 

Read more about Oprah's OWN story by clicking the links below: 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jennagoudreau/2012/04/02/oprah-winfrey-admits-her-own-regrets/#2560f0a7232b

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224189

http://www.vulture.com/2013/09/oprah-interview-bringing-back-own.html

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/11/oprah-own-network-revamped

Are We Too Obsessed With Women Having 'It All?'

Photo credit:  The Every Girl

Photo credit: The Every Girl

by Tasha Levi

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a fascinating social experiment about women sponsored by Lean Cuisine. Early on, I was asked to complete a survey about what the ideal life looked like to me – income, family, travel – and true to who I am, I wanted it all!

Later, I was asked to come in and meet with a social psychologist to further discuss the experiment. I was joined by my sister, Jennifer, and friend, Kayon. They led us into a little boutique marked "It All." I didn't know what was going on, but the cameras were rolling.

Emily Balcetis, a social psychologist, TED speaker, and Associate Professor at New York University, introduced herself and explained that we were going on a shopping spree. Cameras surrounded us, and microphones hovered just over our heads as I hung on every word Emily said, hoping the merchandise on the shelves were somehow real and very expensive.

They weren't.

But, the entire experience was eye-opening.

The participants walked within the walls of "It All," selecting the "ideal life" off the shelves, and adding it to our baskets.

According to their final results, 89% of us made more ambitious choices when surrounded and supported by key women in our lives. What's even more incredible, 77% made those choices in the areas we said mattered most in the earlier survey.

“We’re pushing each other to try to take on more, especially in those areas that we’ve articulated as being really key to what we think is our ideal life,” Emily said of the study results. 

I learned a lot about myself, and I left the experience asking why I wanted half the things I wanted. Why is the conventional idea of success so alluring, as much as it can be anxiety-provoking? What sort of sacrifices will I have to make in order to have "it all?" 

How can I better position myself to reach these goals?

When the campaign launched on social media with the hashtag #ItAll, it sparked a lot of debate about gender roles, diet culture, and what it really means to empower women. 

Check out this clip to learn more about the experiment.

Check out some of the reaction below and by searching #ItAll on Twitter. 

itall.PNG

Comment below to tell us your thoughts on the campaign and what "having it all" means to you.

Lil Mama Helps Empower High School Students In Brooklyn

Photo: Antwon Maxwell

Photo: Antwon Maxwell

by Julissa Soriano

“We are from Brooklyn, we come from the same place. If I realized my dreams, you can do it, too,” said Niatia Kirkland, better known as Lil Mama, in a one-hour surprise visit to Progress High School for Professional Careers in Brooklyn, NY.

In an effort to inspire and encourage students, Lil Mama shared her success story and urged young men and women to finish their education. Born in Harlem and raised in Brooklyn, Lil Mama felt a personal connection to the more than 40 students,  primarily Latino and African-American, gathered to hear her message.

“Please be aware of the naysayers and non-believers. They will hold you back.”

Best known for her roles in TV movies such as CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, with Keke Palmer and Drew Sidora and When Love Kills, with Lance Gross and Tami Roman, Lil Mama’s first break was in 2007 with her hit single Lip Gloss. She then went on to star on America’s Best Dance Crew, alongside fellow judge JC Chasez and host Mario Lopez for seven seasons. 

Lil Mama offered the following advice to students from her career as a singer, rapper, songwriter, actress, and dancer:

"Often times, the closest people to us discouraged us from pursuing what might seem abstract or unrealistic career interests. Please be aware of the naysayers and non-believers. They will hold you back."

“Take a look at the big picture, be sure to obtain the skills required to set you up for success in the working world. By that, I mean, get an education!”
 

Lil Mama’s visit was more than just charity work or good publicity; it was an example of one way she is using her celebrity status to help empower young men and women.  By sharing her story, we hope to inspire to do the same and providing them with a success story from someone real and relatable. So let’s help build and encourage future champions because you just might be the first person in their lives who has ever told them they can do it!

Photo: Antwon Maxwell

Photo: Antwon Maxwell

Julissa Soriano earned a B.A in Journalism and has a passion for arts, fashion, beauty, travel, humanitarian work, women empowerment, and animal rights. She is currently a Blogger and Associate Editor for Wit + Grace Magazine.