Career, Confidence, Entrepreneurship, Goals, Women Empowerment, Writers

You Have as Many Hours in a Day as Beyonce

Earlier this week Beyoncé turned 37. She celebrated her best life in Italy surrounded by her loved ones! Pink is her color. She’s glowing!

beyonce-knowles-carter-birthday-post-1536251118happy 37th birtday beyonce celebrating with hubby jayz and yummy cake

She took to Instagram to reflect on her many accomplishments in the past year, including shutting down Coachella mere months after giving birth to twins.

beyonce 37th birthday instagram note

The Beyhive, of course, were already out in full force singing the praises of their Queen. Several shared an old meme to jokingly remind us how far short we’ve fallen of Bey’s greatness.

2013 Shay Cochrane

Others in the past (usually in the creative and entrepreneurship space) have shared the same meme not as a joke but as a tool to motivate. I understand those fellow entrepreneurs and creatives have good intentions. They want to encourage others (and themselves) to strive for more and to do better.

However, it is annoying. Yes, we all have 24 hours in a day (although I would argue Bey’s money buys her the help that frees up more of her time). And yes, Bey’s success is probably worlds above what we’ve managed to achieve (even if we’re of similar age).

Bey’s achievements are incredible, but they do not negate what the rest of us have accomplished. Our accomplishments are also valuable.

Why should we be shamed into believing that our not reaching Bey-level success has to do with a lack of drive, focus, or hard work? Why the comparison? Why the put-down?

nichollekobi work

We shouldn’t. There’s no reason for the comparison or for the put-down.

melsey illustration weekend work

As I’ve had to do for me, I urge you to appreciate every effort that you’re making even if they don’t (yet or ever) return Bey-level results. Those early mornings and late nights. Those weekends. All those hours that you’re putting in matter.

hard at work

And as you think of what’s ahead, the only person you should be in competition with is you.

You’ve got this!

levo grit

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Confidence, Entrepreneurship, Writers

Facing Serena Williams-Level Competition

.challenge serena

I say this whenever I watch a Serena Williams match, as I did tonight when she beat Pliskova to reach the semifinals.

This statement also applies to us entrepreneurs, creatives and freelancers.

We can psych ourselves out of a win by obsessively focusing on how much better our competition is.

It’s important to know and respect our competitors’ strength (so we’re prepared), but we shouldn’t let it paralyze us.

How do you mentally prepare to compete without the paralyzing fear of your competitor?

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Brooklyn, Diversity, Race

Immigration and Being ‘Other’ Within the Black Family

Sak pasé? How are you?

sak pase clear up close 2

In celebration of Labor Day 2018 (and the upcoming annual West Indian Carnival aka Labor Day Parade), here’s an article I wrote for Ebony magazine about blackness and the diaspora.

Please share your thoughts. What’s your black identity? How does that influence your relationship within the family?

flags labor day

Article:

This month natives and visitors alike danced their way through the streets of Brooklyn in celebration of the annual West Indian Carnival. Scores of Caribbean immigrants proudly waved the flags of their native Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, and many others. It’s a kaleidoscope of the Black diaspora and just one story of who we are in this country.

Of the New York’s 3 million foreign-born residents, non-Hispanic Caribbeans account for 19% of the population, with Jamaica (169,200), Guyana (139,900), Haiti (94,200), and Trinidad and Tobago (87,600) most significantly represented.

On a national scale, the Black immigrant population has more than quadrupled since 1980, from 800,000 to 3.8 million in 2013. An overwhelming half of them are from the Caribbean alone. The largest source is from Jamaica with approximately 18% of the national total, followed closely by Haiti with 15% of that population. The most recent growth of the Black immigrant population has been fueled by African countries, which account for 36% of the total of foreign-born Blacks. In all, 8.9% of U.S. residents who identify as Black are foreign born.

Which means that although we check off “Black” in the Census box, our cultural experiences can be as varied as our skin tones. Not surprisingly, there are inherent cultural differences that exist as a result of unique traditions passed down from generation to generation. For example, who can explain the emotional connection Caribbean people have to rice? Or, what exactly is the appeal of black-eyed peas (the food, not the group) for Black Americans? The superficial differences that can be celebrated (or made fun of) are fine.

Where we start getting into trouble is when our differences are used as a weapon to divide. Why should Black Americans care for Black Caribbean Americans? Or for Black Latino Americans to care about Black Americans? Why should the struggles of one Black group matter to all Black groups? Because a house divided against itself can never stand.

Yet the division exists.

As a Black immigrant (made in Haiti and bred in Brooklyn), over the years I’ve heard this distinction made about me: She’s not Black. She’s Haitian. Most recently it was said in jest by a white man paying me a “compliment.” Before you puff your ‘fro and boost your fist in protest of his racist and patriarchal attempt to divide, let me say that I’ve heard this from other races. The loudest and most persistent voice in promoting this sense of “otherness” has been my own people – both native and foreign.

In my family, Black Americans and Black Caribbeans were fragmented. As children we were constantly reminded that although we were being raised in America, we had a duty to act with Haitian class. We weren’t to behave like the “ill-mannered and ignorant Black Americans.” “Pitit Ayisyen pa fè bagay sa yo,” they would say. Meaning, “Haitian children don’t do these things.” “These things” referred to everything from misbehaving in school, to doing drugs, and to becoming unwed teenage mothers (a Haitian family’s worst nightmare for a daughter). Although I straddled two cultures, it was indisputably clear which one my family held in higher esteem. And I’m not alone. Other culturally-blended Black Americans (for example, Guyanese-American, Nigerian-Americans, Ghanaian-Americans) that I know share similar life experiences. We were thought early on to behave as “model Blacks” or risk bringing shame to our family names and countries of origin.

But just as foreign-born Blacks can reject native Blacks so too can the pendulum swing the other direction. Black Americans with roots as deep as the first boatful of slaves brought to these shores also perpetuate this division. Perhaps as resentment of the “better than you” attitude of immigrants or for being labeled the “problem Blacks.” Whatever the reasons, the result is the same. A line clearly drawn in the sand to delineate “us versus them.” Oftentimes statements that lead with “but you’re not from here” serve as a rebuke for why foreign Blackness isn’t as authentic as their own.

With the number of foreign-born Blacks in the U.S. projected to double – to 16.5% – by 2060, the time is ripe for us to examine our own definitions of Blackness and to bravely open the door to honest conversations. What accounts for the intra-racial push-pull? Why have we internalized this racial hatred? Honesty can hurt. And nothing hurts more than being rejected by family. But there is an opportunity to find healing in the truthful discussions that leave us raw. With healing comes the ability to better understand one another and to start restoring broken connections.

As we seek to better understand one another, one way to do so is to address the concerns that directly impact our lives. There are commonalities such as unsafe policing and educational inequality, but there are also unique worries such as immigration. A topic that has traditionally been missing from the Black Lives Matter dialog.

Which is understandable if we look at the face of immigration in America. Carl Lipscombe of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) writes: “The face of the immigrant is often a Latino face.” He continues, “Black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean are largely ‘invisible-lized’ in the public’s consciousness.”

Perhaps the lack of awareness and inclusion are tied to the feeling of security that comes with permanent residency and U.S citizenship. According to the Pew Research Center, “When compared with U.S. immigrants overall, foreign-born blacks are less likely to be in the U.S. illegally and more likely to be U.S. citizens.”

While immigration policies are less likely to affect the majority of foreign-born Blacks (and very unlikely to affect native Blacks), what happens to one should matter to all. According to forthcoming report by the BAJI and New York University Law School’s Immigrants Rights Clinic, Black immigrants make up 10.6 percent of all immigrants in deportation proceedings between 2003 and 2015. In the 2014 fiscal year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency deported 1,203 African immigrants. That is 1,203 Black families stripped of mothers, fathers, siblings, or other loved ones.

Additionally, as reported to Think Progressive, some lawyers say that Black immigrants have the odds stacked against them in the immigration court system. The BAJI report that Black detainees face deportation for minor offenses from possession of a small amount of marijuana to petty larceny. Because Black immigrants tend to live in lower-income areas that are generally heavily policed, they – like Black Americans – are often disproportionately impacted by policies such as ‘Broken Windows’ or ‘Stop and Frisk.’

The presidential debates and eventual election is a way to start erasing that line in the sand by collectively lifting our voices (native and foreign born) in demand of change. We can focus on shedding light on the plight of the approximately 575,000 unauthorized Black immigrants living and working in this country. The growth in the changing face of blackness in America means that our friends, neighbors, and colleagues could very well be included in this statistic.

To laud the beauty of our blackness means embracing perspectives, victories, and challenges that are both shared and unique. For the betterment of our people we need to strive to be whole.

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Books, Creativity, Reading, Voice, Writers, Writing

Make it rain…books…lots and lots of books…

Updating in honor of International Literacy Day. This year’s theme is ‘Literacy and skills development’. It “explores and highlights integrated approaches that simultaneously can support the development of literacy and skills, to ultimately improve people’s life and work and contribute to equitable and sustainable societies.” Click here to learn more.

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Psst…come closer and I’ll tell you a secret. *waiting…waiting…* Okay, come on, stop taking so long to get here. Oh, you’re here. Sorry. As I was saying, I’ve got a secret. Here goes – I puffy heart L-O-V-E reading. I mean really ❤ it. I have since I was a child.

little kids reading

To know me is to know that I’m a happy introvert who loves to tuck away in a corner and read.

black lady readingtuck away reading

For no reason other than the joy of being a reader, here’s a collection of my favorite reading memes.

sleepread

read past my bedtime

And a tiny collection of my favorite books.

The MOST important book I will ever read. It goes so far beyond ink on paper (or words on a screen, I read it on my phone). It guides my life.

Bible Live

The book that gave me the courage to admit that I wanted to be a writer.

anne frank the diary of a young girl

Ironically, the book that encouraged me to see something special in my dark skin and what I thought of as my plain brown eyes.

toni morrison the bluest eyes

The books that shaped my career’s passion to kick open the doors of opportunity and help marginalized faces like mine own the fact that we belong.

Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria dr. beverly daniel tatum
Kozol

I have so many more. They can be seen on my Author and Fan and I Heart Reading Pinterest boards.

enemy fields j marie darden

How can I not crush on Kane and Jared?

How can I not crush on Kane and Jared?

Hopefully one of my books will be added to someone’s favorite list some day.

your fave tm

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Creativity, Skills

Haitian Art = Black Creativity

Last week I attended Narrating the Haitian Story, a wonderful exhibit of the late Fritz St Jean’s work. As Haitians, creativity flows through our veins.

Narrating the Haitian Story plaque

Highlighted below are some of the pieces I’d like to share with you as food for thought. Tell me what you think.

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Diversity, Hallmark Channel, Race, TV

Hallmark Movies: Casting Women of Color!

If you believe the Hallmark channel, white women have a monopoly on the beauty, lovability, and the just-right quirkiness that make for happily ever after. So far in 2018, of Hallmark’s scheduled 90 original movies, not one woman of color has starred in any of its signature romantic comedies. Women of color—when they’re around—serve as emotional props to boost white women in their search for happiness.

As a black woman viewer, I have conflicted feelings. On the one hand, I am unashamedly a lover of Hallmark’s heartwarming fanciful romantic stories. On the other hand, Hallmark’s reputation as the feel-good “heart of TV” makes the lack of diversity more crushing. The absence of women of color in lead roles feels like a non-verbal confirmation that we are not allowed joy. That we’re not deserving of the freedom to frolic, chase dreams, fall in love.

I am not alone in noticing this diversity gap. The #HallmarkSoWhite complaints have reached the ears of William (Bill) Abbott, the president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, the parent company of the Hallmark networks. In a 2017 interview with International Business Times (IBT), Abbott stated, “we certainly want to be more diverse.” He went on to say that diversity is “one of our major initiatives and major focuses.”

However, he refuses to “put a number on it.” IBT explained that his reasoning for not disrupting the status quo is that “the company already has a family of talent it works with whom audiences like and are used to.” Meaning that white people are comfortable with the white faces they see on their screen so please don’t ask us to ruffle their feathers. But what about your non-white audience?

If a large part of Hallmark’s appeal is the familiarity and likability of its actors, allow me to submit for your consideration women of color who fit this bill. You’ll notice several soap opera names on this list. That’s intentional. Soap opera viewers (of which I am one) are loyal to the core (as are Hallmark viewers). In fact, I’d venture to say Hallmark and soaps share an audience. Soap loyalists are quick to claim our soap actors when they venture to other mediums. “Oh, you’re just now finding out about [insert actor’s name]? I’ve been following her since she played [insert character’s name] on [insert soap name].”

Give them a Hallmark Movie:

  • Renée Elise Goldsberry.
    Renee Elise Goldsberry

    She’s a multi award-winning actress and singer. Her most recent win was the 2016 Tony for best featured actress in a musical (Hamilton). But in many of our hearts, she’ll always be Evangeline Williamson. The fight-for-justice lawyer who found love (and her fun side) with Irish-American brooding hottie John McBain on One Life to Live. There’s no better leading lady quality than Renée.

  • Brandy (Norwood).
    Brandy Norwood

    Brandy’s 1997 TV version of Cinderella remains the undisputed champion of fairytales. (Argue with your mama!) Brandy’s already established that she can play royalty. I see her as an American freelance writer tracing her heritage for a story. She learns that she’s the future queen of a small African nation and must marry the future king of a neighboring kingdom to unite their region.

  • Constance Wu.
    constance wu

    My sister from another mother. Back in 2013 when Constance played the best friend to a white woman in a TV movie (Deadly Revenge), I knew she was meant to be the star. And in 2018 she is. You want a romantic heroine? Here she is. We’re handing her to you on a silver platter.

  • Vicky Jeudy.
    Vicky Jeudy

    Before she rocked her role as Janae Watson on Orange is the New Black, she was sharpening her craft on our campus TV soap opera at SUNY New Paltz. Give her a platform and let her shine.

  • Aimee Carrero.
    Aimee Carrero

    You want just-right quirky, funny and lovable? Watch Dominican-American Aimee as Sofia Maria Consuela Rafaella Rodriguez on the now-canceled Young and Hungry. She is romantic comedy gold. Give her a movie!

  • Mishael Morgan.
    Mishael Morgan

    The execs at Young and the Restless were silly enough to let the very talented Mishael go because she wanted to be paid what she was worth. Their loss is your gain Hallmark (if you’re willing to pay her!). She was half of a very popular couple on the show. She was a troublemaker with a vulnerability that allowed you to root for her. She is the perfect lead for a romantic retelling of “A Christmas Carol.”

  • Freida Pinto .
    freida pinto 2

    Listen carefully: if I looked like Freida I wouldn’t step foot outside without rose petals being laid at my feet. She’s gorgeous and talented. What else do you want, Hallmark?

  • Kristolyn Lloyd.
    Kristolyn Lloyd

    The Bold and the Beautiful dropped the ball with Kristolyn’s Dayzee Leigh Forrester character. Her “girl from the streets turned millionaire” character should have made daytime heroine history. She’s gone on to do great work on Broadway. Last checked, she had a starring role in Dominique Morisseau’s Paradise Blue. For Hallmark, let her shine in a rags-to-riches story.

  • Meaghan Rath.

    Meaghan-Rath-300x400

    A recent addition to the Hawaii 5-0 TV series. Meaghan has the right marriage of strength and vulnerability. Hire her to play the heroine who rejects love until she finds the man worthy of receiving her heart.

  • Naika Toussaint.

    naika toussaint side view

    Fans of the TV show Once Upon a Time know Naika as Seraphina, a witch turned tree (yes, tree). Fans of Garage Sale Mysteries (a series starring Hallmark darling Lori Loughlin) should recognize Naika as Head Chef Tess in Picture a Murder. She’s gorgeous with a great smile, and already in the Hallmark family. Give this tree a leading role and watch her grow.

  • Rukiya Bernard.

    Rukiya Bernard

    She’s already part of the Hallmark family and most recently appeared in One Winter Weekend. As Megan, the best friend learning to be less career focused and more carefree, she showed plenty of leading lady potential. Write her her own story. She’s already done the ski slopes. Now let’s see her as a small town New Paltz girl trying to save her family’s farm from the greedy hands of a handsome NYC developer. Set it in the fall and have them spend plenty of time at Lake Minnewaska. Let’s make Rukiya the Hallmark Queen of Seasons.

  • This is only a small sample of talent from which Hallmark can choose. Actresses of color are believable as leading ladies in romantic stories. Why? Because real women of color play that role in our own lives all the time.

    While I take a lighthearted approach, the lack of diversity at this powerhouse company is no laughing matter. By not recognizing our humanity, Hallmark is negatively impacting the earning potential of a fraction of the acting community. They are shutting so many talented women out of the “third most-watched network on cable television.”

    If Abbott is serious about his commitment to diversity, he can start by valuing his non-white audience. Give women of color the lead roles in stories that reflect the many facets of our personalities.

    Article cited: https://www.ibtimes.com/why-are-hallmark-movie-casts-so-white-we-asked-ceo-263158

    Photo credit: Google

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Goals, Race, Women Empowerment

Thank You, First Lady Michelle Obama

I recently penned an article for Ebony magazine celebrating Michelle Obama’s service as the First Lady of the United States. Below is the article in its entirety as well as the link: Thank You, First Lady Michelle Obama

michelleobama_caro_article-wide_57445.jpg

As his historic presidency draws to a close, there’s much to reflect on the legacy of President Obama. And just as importantly, there’s much to reflect on the legacy of First Lady Michelle Obama. In her sista-friend interview with Oprah Winfrey at the recent United State of Women summit, Mrs. Obama looked back on her journey to the White House and how she initially approached her future role as First Lady of the United States: “I specifically did not read other First Ladies’ books, because I didn’t want to be influenced by how they defined the role,” she said. “I knew that I would have to find this role very uniquely and specifically to me and who I was.”

Sage advice that, unfortunately, prospective FLOTUS-in-training Melania Trump failed to heed. Mrs. Trump, who made her long awaited public debut Monday night at the Republican National Convention, delivered a riveting speech that thrilled the packed arena of “Make America Great Again” supporters. Motivating statements such as, We want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them,” prompted the crowd to erupt in cheers. Many likely thinking, finally, a First Lady who genuinely cares about the future of America; something that could never be said of Michelle Obama.

Oh, but it could. In fact, at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Mrs. Obama practically gave the same speech. A speech that she more than lived up to in her eight years of service to this country. Sadly, no one told Mrs. Trump that you can plagiarize words but not the genuine sentiments behind them.

Mrs. Obama, as a person and as First Lady, resonates with many because of her authenticity. This has been echoed in countless conversations I’ve had with others over the last eight years and the recent formal survey of about 60 Black women across the country. As 34-year-old Michelle J., of Austin, TX stated, “She was open about her real life experiences in a world of politics where everyone pretends that their lives are without flaws.”

The survey gave voice to women ranging in age from 20s to 60s, and with educational attainment of high school diploma/GED to PhD. With such vast differences in demographics, it was interesting to see the trends that emerged: optimism, relatability, and “realness.”

When asked to rate (on a scale of ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’) various statements about the First Lady and why they relate to her, the following were the most consistently agreed or strongly agreed upon:

·       88% said she has made them (more) optimistic about the future of Black/African-American women.

·       82% said that because of her, other races/nationalities perceive Black/African-American women in a more favorable light.

They relate to her because:

·       92% – she’s Black.

·       96% – she’s stylish.

·       98% – she’s no-nonsense.

·       98% – she’s not afraid to speak her mind.

·       98% – she can go from the White House to a cookout and not miss a step.

·       96% – in her they see all the things that are possible for themselves.

·       96% – in her they see all the things that are possible for Black/African-American girls and teens.

·       90% – in her they see all the things that are possible for Black/African-American women.

In the words of 37-year-old Nikki F. from Chicago, Il (Mrs. Obama’s hometown), “She represents everything our [Black girls] parents taught us that we could be.”

It’s not easy being the first, however. It’s harder still to be the first in a role that you wouldn’t have chosen for yourself. As the First Lady has stated, “When Barack was talking about running, I was like, are you crazy? I mean, would you just, like, chill out and do something else with your life?” Clearly, the woman was not clamoring for the limelight. Given the choice, she would have lived a fulfilling life tirelessly working to encourage and bring attention to the need for all Americans – especially our youth – to dedicate time to volunteerism and public service.

Thankfully for us, she changed her mind and joined her husband in bringing a “change we can believe in” dream to America. So, in 2009, when her husband was sworn in as the country’s 44th President, we welcomed her with open arms because she presented her authentic self. And because of the connection to her authenticity, we invited her to make us proud; she did not disappoint.

As the first and only (and if we’re being realistic – likely last . . . for a very long time) Black woman to hold this post, Mrs. Obama has exemplified excellence both in words and action. While many love her, there’s a special kinship most Black women feel toward her. It’s not just because she looks like us (although it’s clearly a meaningful fact, according to the survey); it goes so much deeper than that. It’s that she’s made no apologies for the fact that we matter to her. An anomaly in a country where being Black and female has historically meant being discounted, marginalized, and defeated.

As recently as the 2015 Black Women in the United States report, statistics show that the current state of Black American women remain grim:

·       Women’s unemployment fell to a six-year low (4.9%) and white women’s unemployment hit a seven-year low (4.2%). Completely counter to that trend, Black women’s unemployment actually ticked up, reaching 8.9%.

·       Black women with Bachelor’s degrees, on average, earn about $10,000 less than White men with an Associate’s degree ($49,882 vs. $59,014). In fact, it would take nearly two Black women college graduates to earn what the average White male college graduate earns by himself ($55,804 vs. $100, 620).

·       In spite of consistently leading all women in labor market participation, Black women are among the most likely in America to be poor. In fact, the poverty rate of Black women (25.1%) more than doubles that of White women (10.3%) and Asian women (11.5%), and slightly eclipses that of Latinas (24.8%).

In the face of harsh statistics and the personal challenges experienced by Black women, is it any wonder that we “beam with pride” for one who encourages her daughters, mentees, and other women of color “not to live by the limited box and definition that we are put in.” Because she knows that expectations for Black girls – whether they grow up on Chicago’s South Side or in a remote village in Nigeria – are limited, Mrs. Obama created initiatives such as “Let Girls Learn” to provide educational opportunities that change lives.

FLOTUS dancing

During her tenure, Mrs. Obama has shown a willingness to leveraged her platform of power and influence to make it possible to aim and achieve our potential, which is why we say thank you.

Below are sample voices of Black women sharing the importance of the First Lady to them:

“She represents everything I can be that the world doesn’t want me to be.” – Lauren W., 27, New Orleans, La

“Michelle matters to me because she breaks the stereotypical views of African-American women in not only America but the world! For 8 years, she has held the position of First Lady, while also wearing so many other hats – a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a philanthropist, an educator and so much more. She’s held her composure at all times with poise, class and humility. She’s addressed issues that most women in her position wouldn’t or know how to. It makes me proud to say the First Lady of America is Michelle Obama, an African American woman.” – Anon, 28, Valley Stream, NY

“First Lady Michelle Obama matters to me because she is great role model for me as an African American woman but also just as a person in general. My being young may have something to do with it, but I’ve never known a First Lady who was so involved issues that are affecting our youth and that inspires me to do more for my community. I also look up to her for her poise and natural confidence. Unlike a lot of celebrities, Michelle Obama provides a healthy and attainable example of what hard work can accomplish.” – Anon, 29

“Michelle Obama matters to me because she has proven to be everything that I expected her to be. She is a woman of stature, grace, beauty, brains and a mother. She has shown that she isn’t just a First Lady, she is an everyday woman who we of all ages can look up to and strive to be more like.” –  Kimberley T., 29, Bronx, NY

“Because she is the perfect example of a Black woman. We are not only what the media and society portrays (uneducated, loud, ratchet) she is someone that i can point out to my 

daughter to inspire to one day be.” – Tanaya G., 33, Cleveland, OH

“Michelle Obama matters to me because of her intersections: Black woman, mother, lawyer, advocate, wife. She is also sensitive, outspoken, loving and unafraid to me vulnerable.” – Erica C., 34, Queens, NY

“The First Lady matters to me in so many ways. The strongest strength I draw from her though is her ability to pull through authenticity and genuineness and whatever she does. Often African-American women are put in tough, precarious even soul sucking positions to grow professionally. Watching Mrs. Obama deal with the ridicule while staying true to who she is has taught me so much about how I can also do the same and still feel good about myself.” – Allison R., 34, New York, NY

“Because she gets it. The experience of a Black woman in America. I don’t know if anyone with that level of power and access to power in the US has ever understood that experience.” – Rachel H., 34, New York, NY

“The FLOTUS matters to me because I admire her strength in a position where she has constantly been criticized, belittled, and stereotyped. Never, not even for one second, has she stumbled or lost her composure. She has remained the classy, sophisticated, honest, and down to earth woman who stepped onto the campaign trail so many years ago. As we well know, beside every great man is an equally great woman and First Lady Obama has been a shining example of what black excellence looks like. I beam with pride when I see her. She makes me feel like so many things are possible that I once wasn’t sure were. She’s a hope and a dream set to a smooth beat.” – Shamela B., 36, Tupelo, MS

“Simply put: she represents hope.” – Kimberly T., 39, Indianapolis, IN

“She is a role model that our daughters can actually relate to. My worry is not so much for my peers as it is for our future young leaders. I am the mother to one teenage daughter and aunt to 8 young girls. As Black women we need more than a village to prepare our young women for their futures.” – Elita Celeste H, 41, Bronx, NY

“FLOTUS means a great deal to me because she showed how elegant and sophisticated one can be without coming from a pedigree background. She did it her way! She did not conform to any set of rules or standards but presented a new level of exceptional quality that will be very hard for the next First Lady to achieve. FLOTUS is my SHERO!!” – Alfreda M., 45, Dallas, TX

“Michelle has dispelled the media’s portrayal of the Black woman as being uneducated, jobless, hopeless, worthless, baby-mommas that mooch off of the government and give birth to criminals and gangster rappers.” – Lee H.

“First Lady Michelle Obama matters to me because she represents all of what any and all African American women can be. She breaks down many stereotypes and proves what can happen when one gets a good education and does not settle for just what one is given; she strives for better. She proves if we as African American women/girls put our minds to it, we can do and be anything we want. She also matters to me because she is not content with her own successes. She does her best to help other be successful as well.” – Katrina

“She defies the stereotype that Black women cannot articulate a thought or plan of action. Her actions are selfless and demonstrate a passionate desire for the children in our nation to have a great future that is limitless.” – Amika K.

It’s a powerful reflection of her legacy to see the many women she’s encouraged and motivated to hope and work for a better future for themselves and the teens and girls coming behind them.  So, thank you, Mrs. Obama, for connecting with us in a way that no other First Lady ever has before (or likely ever will).

 

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