My name is Kavisha Shah and I am a second year active who joined to help close the opportunity gap and provide our community with great, strong women. This is close to my heart as I am a pediatrician and believe that each child should have an equal opportunity to succeed.

The Junior League of Minneapolis has made it our mission to combat the Opportunity Gap, and 2020 has given us a chance to put our ideas into action. The Opportunity Gap is the disparity of opportunities, experiences, and resources across various socioeconomic statuses as well as an inequality between different races and ethnicities. The year 2020 has been a challenging year full of social injustices, the loss of influential leaders, and of course, COVID-19 (or “Coronavirus”). COVID-19 has significantly changed every aspect of our lives and in turn has made us adaptive to our ever-changing world. 

Our League has many opportunities to be a pillar for our city and help provide resources for families. Our September kick-off General Membership Meeting (our monthly meetings where our membership gets together for training, League updates, and socializing) shed light on many of our community’s issues. The center of the meeting was a panel discussion surrounding the Opportunity Gap featuring Jazlynn Paige, a School Psychologist and Special Education Consultant and Keisha Davis, Vice Principal at Birch Grove Elementary. Our membership learned about working to create more equitable environments and systems in education, our community’s educational disparities and how to advocate for and support educational equity, and how to become more racially conscious.

Throughout this pandemic, it is impossible to ignore that the low-income community within our country has been impacted the most by this virus. This is most likely due to multi-generational living, small spaces, lack of protective gear, being classified as essential workers, limited access to health care, and high-risk categories/factors for COVID-19. Virtual learning will create greater disadvantages for children who have working parents, lack reliable internet and/or technology, rely on school lunches for their meals, or need extra learning assistance. This opportunity gap will lead to long-term effects on children’s education and development as distance and virtual learning will negatively impact this community at disproportionate rates. 

As a physician, I strongly believe that each of us must take personal responsibility to protect our community by social distancing, limiting large gatherings, and wearing protective gear when in public. As the fall and winter season comes along, the spread of Coronavirus may worsen as we also battle the flu. We can be representatives of science and protect our community by continuing to wear masks when in public spaces and socially distancing. By taking these measures, we can protect the most vulnerable members of our society. 


Our constitution is a remarkable document that serves as a pillar for our country’s freedom and democracy. However, the document itself is not without its flaws, as is evident by the 27 amendments that have since followed since it was written in 1787. One of those amendments, the 19th amendment, was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and ratified on August 18, 1920 –finally giving women the right to vote. Well, some women. Because until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, women of color were still largely prohibited from voting in many states.

Just seeing the timeline and facts of these events shows us how incredibly flawed, complicated, and exclusive women’s suffrage proved to be. Like our Constitution, this movement was vital to our country’s evolution, but it was an inadequate moment in our history by excluding so many. As an organization that develops women, all women, it is incumbent upon us as civic leaders to acknowledge this fact and learn about the different angles of the story of suffrage in the United States.

It is undeniable that our communities become a better place when they are more diverse and inclusive. To move the world in that direction, we must first acknowledge the foundation upon which we stand and look ahead to where we want to be. Because of this, the Junior League has is hosting a centennial celebration of the 19th amendment called “When We All Vote”. This event is meant to discover how the 19th amendment in 1920 is part of a much larger and longer story about the pursuit of voting rights, a struggle that is both unfinished and ongoing. Please join us for the virtual event below celebrating a decades-long effort about using the power of your voice and envisioning a more just future:

Save the Date!

Announcing a Special Event August 18th Honoring the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Mark your calendars to join us on Tuesday, August 18th at 6:30 pm CT/7:30 pm ET for “Why the Women’s Vote Matters,” a powerful panel conversation —exclusively for Junior League Members—exploring the complicated history of the 19th Amendment.

Our Panelists are:

Jordan Brooks, Executive Director, The United State of Women

Stephanie Young, Managing Director, When We All Vote

We will be joined by Grammy® and Golden Globe® Nominated Actress, Singer and Songwriter Mandy Moore to get you revved up and excited! RSVP here: https://www.ajli.org/?nd=workshop_detail&workshop_id=240

February Salon Series

Written by Katie Caffrey

Every year, the Junior League of Minneapolis holds a Community Partner Salon Series. This year it will be during the month of February in place of a General Membership Meeting. These small group meetings are hosted in partnership with community partners and non-profit agencies. The goal of this series is to provide hands on training experience for members to supplement their League experience. Each meeting is designed for attendees to take something away from the training – knowledge about the organization, its mission, how to be an effective volunteer, and how to take your JLM experience and share your talents with others! Additionally, this series exposes members to other organizations in Minneapolis, and the impact these organizations have on our community. These meetings are on the calendar and most are still available for registration. Here’s an overview of the partners you can learn about during this year’s salon series:

Minneapolis Foundation:

The Minneapolis Foundation works on numerous projects to create positive change in the community. Located in downtown Minneapolis, the foundation administers more than 1,400 charitable funds that enable individuals, families, and businesses to support causes they are passionate about. They invest their unrestricted grant making resources in programs and initiatives that are aligned with their vision: a greater Minneapolis that is vibrant, inclusive, and positioned to thrive locally and compete globally. The Minneapolis Foundation researches, convenes, advocates, and helps shape public policy around issues critical to the current and future vitality of our community. Last year, the Foundation and its donors invested nearly $70 million in programs and services that change lives and strengthen the community. Make sure to sign up for this salon series event on February 26th to hear from two members of The Minneapolis Foundation’s Philanthropic Services team, including Steph Donley, a current JLM member! You can also visit the foundation’s website for more information on their current projects: https://www.minneapolisfoundation.org/

The Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery

The mission of the Nursery is to end child abuse and neglect and create strong, healthy families. In 1978, the United Way conducted research on child abuse and neglect in the Minneapolis area and found there was nowhere for parents in crisis to turn when they needed counseling and help caring for their children. To fill this need, the Junior League of Minneapolis partnered with the National Council of Jewish Women, B’nai B’rith Women, Southside Nurturing Center, and several other organizations to establish the first crisis nursery in the state. It was a unique collaboration that focused on something the community desperately needed. For more than 35 years, the Nursery has been committed to ending child abuse and neglect and creating strong, healthy families. Today, they answer approximately 4,000 crisis calls annually and shelter up to 20 children per day, providing over 5,000 nights of care during the course of the year to children aged newborn through six. The Nursery remains committed to strengthening families in our community in order to end child abuse and neglect. JLM currently partners with the Nursery through Helping Hands snack and dinner shifts. To learn more about the Nursery, visit their website at https://www.crisisnursery.org/, and sign up for the salon series event on February 19th

Incorporating JLM/Volunteer Experience into Your Resume

Do you ever think about how valuable your JLM volunteer experience could be in your professional resume, but aren’t sure of the best way to incorporate it? You’re in luck! Kelly Leiker, JLM Sustainer & Board of Directors Sustainer Member at Large, will be holding a hands-on-workshop on February 12th, focused on Incorporating Your JLM/ Volunteer Experience into Your Resume. Kelly is a Professional Speaker and Executive Coach and is bringing her valuable experience and knowledge to our salon series. Don’t forget to bring your resume, as well as a laptop or notebook for brainstorming! Visit Kelly’s website at https://leikerdevelopment.com/ for more information about her experience and services.


The mission of the LeagueAires is to bring the joy of music to older adults and those with special needs. The idea for LeagueAires was born in the early 1960s, when four young women- Ruthy Frenzel, Mandy Johnson, Mary Kunz, and Patty Strong- sang together at an alumnae meeting for Skidmore College. They enjoyed singing together so much, they expressed interest in forming a regular singing group. A few months later, they performed in a talent show for the Junior League of Minneapolis. It was then that they decided to turn their love for music into a community mission. The women presented a new idea to the JLM Board to foster artistic involvement between JLM and the community by using music as a way to serve. The LeagueAires is currently in its 54th year and is the longest project of the JLM. They continue to have an annual performance that all members are invited and encouraged to attend. This year’s performance will be at the Minikahda Club as part of the General Membership Meeting on April 14th! To view their full performance schedule, visit: https://leagueaires.org/

Wallin Education Partners

Wallin Education Partners is more than just a scholarship. It is a proven college-completion program for high-potential students with financial need. JLM has partnered with WEP to provide a scholarship for 16 local female scholarship recipients. Join us on February 24th, to learn from Stela Center, WEP’s Director of Advancement, about the scholarship program and how the organization is working to close the opportunity gap at the higher education level. https://www.wallinpartners.org/

For more information about these partner organizations, come to one, multiple, or all of this month’s salon series events! Visit the calendar on the JLM website to sign up. We look forward to seeing you there!

Election Education 2020 – Minnesota Caucuses, Primaries, and Conventions

In less than a year, voters across the country will head to the polls for the general election on November 3, 2020. Here in Minnesota, voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on the presidential election, a U.S. Senate seat, eight congressional seats, every state House and Senate seat in the Minnesota legislature, and various local offices in November. Before the general election, Minnesotans may participate in caucuses, primaries, and conventions, ultimately to narrow the field of candidates that they’ll see listed on the November ballot. And, while Minnesota continues to use the statewide caucus system for local and statewide elections, 2020 will be the first time in almost 30 years that the state will hold a presidential primary instead of a presidential caucus. 

To educate Minnesota voters on what to expect over these next nine months, read on to learn more about caucuses, primaries, and conventions! 


Caucuses are meetings facilitated by the state’s political parties and typically signal the official start of the election season by serving as the first of a series of meetings to endorse candidates in the upcoming election. In Minnesota, precinct caucuses are planned by the two major political parties in the state – the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party and the Republican Party of Minnesota. To attend, one must be eligible to vote in the general election, express support for that party’s platform, and live in the precinct where the meeting is being held. This year, the precinct caucuses will be held at 7 PM on Tuesday, February 25, 2020, one week before the presidential primary. To find information on your precinct caucus, visit https://www.dfl.org/caucuses-conventions/ and https://mngop.com/event-calendar/

Caucuses are a bit similar to the Junior League neighborhood meetings many of us attended before the holidays. At a caucus meeting, participants demonstrate support for their preferred candidate, meet others in their community, and discuss issues of importance. Because Minnesota is holding a presidential primary, the caucuses will serve to discuss local and statewide candidates. The precinct caucuses also typically serve to elect local party leaders, as well as to choose delegates that will represent that precinct at a series of conventions held later in the year. 


A primary serves to determine which candidates will be listed on the general election ballot in November, and the process of voting in a primary could best be compared to the general election, as it’s very similar in that voters cast secret ballots, either absentee or at their polling location, for their preferred candidates. 

Minnesotans will have the opportunity to participate in the presidential primary on March 3, 2020 (also known as Super Tuesday because of the sheer number of other states voting that day) and a primary for state races on August 11, 2020 that include U.S. senate, congressional, Minnesota state legislature, and other local offices. 

Primaries are either open or closed. The Minnesota presidential primary will be closed, meaning that voters must choose a ballot from one of the two major political parties in the state, either the DFL or Minnesota GOP, and they may only vote in that party’s primary. The number of votes determine which delegates from the state will attend the Democratic National Convention this summer to ultimately choose the party’s nominee. 

In addition to the presidential primary in March, Minnesota voters may exercise their right to vote in the state-level primary on August 11, 2020. This primary is open, which means that voters are not required to declare their party affiliation, so they can exercise their right to vote in whichever primary they choose regardless of their political affiliation. Ultimately, whichever candidates earn the most votes in August will appear on the general election ballot in November for the office in which they’re running. 


In Minnesota, district, county, state and then the two national conventions are held after their respective primaries and caucuses, and are facilitated by each party. In district, county, and state conventions, non-presidential candidates are endorsed, and delegates for the national convention are then selected. In Minnesota, the Republican state convention is scheduled for May 15-16, while the DFL state convention will be held May 30-31. Policy goals and party platforms may also be discussed and decided upon during these conventions. 

In the national conventions, the 75 delegates from Minnesota, which will be allocated based on the votes cast during the presidential primary, make their selection for a candidate from their party, and, ultimately, the candidate that receives the most overall delegate support cinches that party’s nomination, and their name will appear on the ballot in November. The Democratic National Convention is scheduled for July 13 – 16 in Milwaukee, while the Republican National Convention will be held August 24 – 27 in Charlotte.

Upcoming Key Dates

  • January 17: Absentee voting starts on this date, and any registered Minnesotan can choose to cast their ballot via mail or in-person before the presidential primary on March 3. 
  • February 11: Anyone who is not already registered to vote in Minnesota can register starting on this date in order to save time on presidential primary day on March 3. 
  • February 25: The DFL and MN GOP will hold their precinct caucuses at 7 PM across the state.
  • March 3 [Super Tuesday]: Minnesotans, along with voters in 14 other states, will head to the polls to cast their vote in the presidential primary. 
  • March 10: Township elections will occur on this date.
  • March 7 – April 19: The DFL and MN GOP will hold their party’s conventions for county, state Senate, and state House district conventions. 
  • March 29 – May 29: Congressional district conventions are held by the DFL and MN GOP to endorse U.S. Congressional candidates and select national convention delegates. 
  • May 15 & 16: A U.S. Senate candidate will be endorsed in Rochester at the Republican state convention.
  • May 30 & 31: A U.S. Senate candidate will be endorsed in Rochester at the DFL state convention. 
  • June 26: Absentee voting for the Aug. 11 primary starts on this date.
  • July 13 – 16: The Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee where the Democratic party will endorse a nominee for their party’s presidential ticket for the general election.
  • August 11: Minnesota will hold an open primary for federal and statewide offices. 
  • August 24 – 27: The Republican National Convention will be held in Charlotte.
  • September 18: Absentee voting starts on this date.
  • November 3: General Election Day!  

Source: Pioneer Press

Call to Action

Become educated on the election. A comprehensive list of upcoming election dates, as well as a variety of other resources, can be found on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website here and here

Get involved. Each party’s website offers a variety of resources on how to get involved. The Junior League of Minneapolis is non-partisan, and we’ve included both major party’s websites below:

Inspiring a Legacy of Leadership\

What’s in a Name? By Ellen VanDine

Some of us have never met Barbara Forster but Barbara embodies the Junior League of Minneapolis’ commitment to civic engagement and advocacy. Barbara is celebrated as an outstanding member of the Junior League of Minneapolis, who has used her talents and resources to improve the social and economic conditions of others. Throughout her career, Barbara was a highly active civic leader in the Minneapolis community and beyond, leading by example and holding numerous volunteer leadership roles. Her list of roles is extensive and far-reaching, from the medical community to financial and educational systems. Visit our press release here.

Rising to the Occasion

Barbara Forster with members of her family.

How can one accomplish a level of civic engagement that we read in newspapers, on podcasts, or hear about in the news? Answer: Find Your Niche. Oh no, there’s that eye-roll worthy phrase. So, in the Minnesotan spirit, let’s say…Find Your North Star. 

With all the successful women involved in the League and in our lives, it can be challenging to find exactly where you fit in or how to even make that first step in discovering your passion. At the Legacy of Leadership awards ceremony held at the Minneapolis Club on October 2, 2019, Barbara said she took advantage of her opportunities in the League, learning “how to engage with other members, build an organization, and manage a nonprofit.” Soon, Barbara was sought after around the community for her ability, reputation, and expertise. Please view this video for more details about Barbara’s powerful engagement within the community

One of the community projects Barbara became involved in after her active years in the League was fundraising and advocating for the Center for Victims of Torture, an international nonprofit dedicated to healing survivors of torture and violent conflict. Peter Dross, Director of Development at CVT, briefly spoke about Barbara and her “full-throttle approach” to all aspects of the organization’s advocacy programs. She played a major role in collaboration within the community through fundraising and program development to raise the organization’s visibility,  making CVT one of the largest organizations of its kind in the world. In her acceptance speech, Barbara remarked that she genuinely believes everyone has the ability to engage in and contribute to their community on some level, even if they don’t think that they are capable or have something significant to offer.

In an exciting announcement, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey officially made October 5th “Barbara Forster Day” in the City of Minneapolis.

Call to Action

Henry David Thoreau said “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Are we involved with things which fulfill us and that we enjoy? How can we as members of the Junior League share our knowledge and passion to make our own mark on the community and beyond, just like Barbara? The goal is to feel fulfilled in your life’s work, but more importantly, to share your knowledge and experience with those who are without and in need. Listed below are some opportunities to get started on your commitments for the year and to begin making your mark in the community through the League!

Be on the lookout for future opportunities to engage with Center for Victims of Torture.

Volunteer in the month of October in honor of Barbara’s leadership example in the Junior League October community calendar.

Back to Books

Written by Elizabeth Gill

Do you have a stack of books that you have been meaning to read? How did that pile grow, what compelled you to purchase these books? What enticed you to buy those at the bookstore? Was it the clever title or interesting cover that sparked an interest?

Back to school season is upon us and as a teacher, it is an especially poignant time for me.  I love the new starts that it brings: new colleagues, new students, new parents, and new school supplies! 

Over this past summer, I have been reflecting on all of the places that I’ve been a teacher.  I taught in struggling schools in St. Louis, Missouri before moving up here and getting to teach in a top district in the Twin Cities area.  In each and every building, the language arts teachers are passionate about books and teaching students lifelong literacy skills. The differences have been in the resources given to teachers to meet that goal. 

Textbook-Only Teaching

The linoleum floor gazed up at me in all its green and cracked glory.  I had to be careful when I went to work with Trinity because her desk was next to a spot in the floor where I could see the brown subfloor, and I didn’t want to catch my heel on it again.  Surprisingly, the textbook on Trinity’s desk was brand new. I spoke with her teacher about it and the district had purchased the whole textbook suite, including workbooks, the year before.  It was a last-ditch effort to get reading scores up. But the single-use workbooks were not for students to write in. Who knew if those would ever be purchased again? To be safe, the teacher had those stored behind her desk.  There weren’t enough for everyone anyway.  

I was impressed by the textbook.  It had well-written stories by well-known authors.  The interior had full color illustrations and deep questions at the end of each tale.  

The students didn’t read them.  

Sure, they read a few stories as a class. Yet, there was no time for students to leaf through and find a story to read on their own.  The textbooks were heavy and thick. None of the students seemed interested in trying to find anything to read there. No other books were available.  During my year there as a student teacher, it was rare for me to observe students reading anything that wasn’t in the textbook or being read to them.  

They were 7th grade students in one of the most poverty stricken schools in the region. 

Fully-Funded Teaching

“Think of this as a book spa. We have our books organized by content level, reading level, interest level. With the district budget each grade can choose between 95 and 100 books and those will all be ordered for each ELA classroom districtwide.”

The sixth grade language arts teachers met as a group for an hour and a half surrounded by newly published books, award-winning books graphic novels and high-quality picture books. We were each able to take a cart and gather a collection of books that we thought would be great for our students and would connect with our students to build their identities as readers. We debated the merits of individual books and selected books that students would want to read and could be challenged by.  

When we went to scan the books and order them, we had enough money to go back and choose another book to add to our list.  Each sixth grade reading classroom in three different middle schools was going to receive 97 brand new, never-been-read-before books.  Each seventh and eighth grade classroom was going to receive their own stack. Oh, and a teacher that teaches seventh and eighth grade? She would receive almost 200 new books without ever having to buy anything herself. 

Book Access and the Opportunity Gap

You know that phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover?” 

Young students DO judge based on what a book looks like. Certain characteristics are more important to students than adults, particularly the age of a book, the pictures on its cover, and the summary on the back. These all work together to entice a student to read or, horribly, prejudice a student against a book.  Effective literacy programs embed choice reading, so more books that students want to read translates well into increased skills and abilities in reading. For school districts that have a budget tightened by poverty, teachers are the ones building the libraries out of their own funds. Direct donations of books and grants for buying books go a long way towards impacting the opportunity gap.  

As we think about the fresh beginnings that come with the back to school season, think about what you can do to freshen a child’s classroom library.  

Call to Action

Help encourage a child to read: The Junior League of Minneapolis will be helping all children enjoy the excitement of the Scholastic Book Fair by sponsoring the whole 3rd grade class of Partnership Academy, the school that HOMES partners with on science activities. At the September GMM we would love you to write encouraging words on book plates that will go into the front pages of these books. Due to the large Spanish speaking population in the school, our focus will be to include books in Spanish and about science. Kids will be able to choose their own books which is just as much fun as you remember!

Watch a documentary on the Opportunity Gap in Minneapolis: Love Them First – Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary is a Kare 11 News Channel Originals Screening about a school in North Minneapolis. There will be a screening at Riverview Theater on 9/5 and on television on 9/12. Join the JLM at the screening on the 5th

Elise Sarvas, Advocate for Children’s Oral Health

Elise (second from right) with her pediatric dental residents in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

How are you an advocate?

I am the Public Policy Advocate (PPA) for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. You can read more about the position here. Basically, I serve as the representative for the AAPD on the state level to promote children’s oral health in state policies. Every state has their own unique needs for their PPA. In Minnesota, I am concerned with raising the reimbursement rate for children’s oral health services. We like to think of Minnesota as a progressive state when it comes to taking care of our children, but the reality is that we rank dead last in paying for dental services for kids. This means that children who are on state insurance like Medicaid or Medical Assistance programs can’t get the care they need because the dentists get paid too low to see them. So while they “have dental insurance” they can’t use it because the dentists can’t pay for staff, supplies, and time to see them. We are the worst in the country – it’s really shameful. 

How did you learn to be an advocate?

I’ve learned on the job! There is no one way to do advocacy and how I approach it changes on the day and who I’m speaking with. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to investigate who all the stakeholders are. Once you understand their perspective, you can start to make some ground. There are so many issues that seem like they have easy solutions, but if they were that easy to solve, I’d like to think we would have already done it. Once you understand who all is involved, you can reach out to them in a personalized way. 

What are skills that would be good to know?

I was at first a reluctant advocate. It’s outside my comfort zone to talk to people I don’t know. But whatever squeamishness I have is far outweighed by the chance to do good for someone who can’t speak for themselves. And that’s my trick – I’m not asking for something for me, I’m asking for someone else who needs it. It gets me outside my head and that’s the only skill you really need. That and some persistence 🙂

Every year Elise takes her pediatric dental residents to DC to learn how to talk to lawmakers. Here she is with her team and with Representative Betty McCollum (District IV – DFL, Minn).

Ready to make an impact? Be an advocate.

Today a record 127 women were sworn into Congress. Media headlines are proclaiming that 2018 was the year of the woman in politics. Have you been feeling motivated to get involved and step up but not sure where to start?

Luckily we don’t all have to jump in and run for office, (but if you want to, please do!) there are many ways we can make an impact in our own backyard. In the next several months we’ll be profiling other Junior Leaguers that are advocates in our community. We hope their stories will inspire your path to advocacy as well.

Laura Monn Ginsburg

Laura working on Jacob Frey’s campaign, arranging his press gaggle for his acceptance speech.

How are you an advocate?

Professionally, I own a public affairs firm where I get to advocate for clients like environmental organizations, transportation equity organizations, and disability organizations. My company was founded as a General Benefit Corporation which means we’re a mission-based organization. Our mission is to promote social justice and equity and environmental sustainability.

Personally, I advocate through a bunch of nonprofits. I’ve worked to find groups that reflect my values and principles and then join their advocacy efforts which include things like rallies at the Capitol, meeting with legislators, and being invested in how my government represents me.

I’ve also volunteered to work on campaigns of people and issues I believe in. This has given me the opportunity to door-knock, network, phone bank, write postcards, drop signs/literature, and learn more about the political process and how things really work and change. You find out what you like to do and just do more of it!

How did you learn to be an advocate?

By doing 🙂 Honestly, the best way to learn to be an advocate is to show up. You don’t need to do anything fancy, you don’t need to know anything specific, and you don’t have to worry that you aren’t prepared — being you, a constituent, a feeling person, a thoughtful citizen who knows what she cares about — you are ready just as you are.

Ask questions, ask to meet your representatives (they work for YOU — don’t forget it!), and ask yourself what matters most to you. If you see someone around you who is active in a way that interests you, ask them how they got involved and how you can, too.

What are skills that would be good to know?

Being a good communicator who is clear in what she thinks and feels is your best asset. Whether you’re at a planning meeting, you’re showing up at an event or rally, or you’re meeting with a representative, having a clear, concise message that’s authentic and personal is the biggest skill you need.

Having good handwriting for signs is also helpful.

Laura at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

Thanks Laura!
Are you an advocate and want to share your story?
Please contact Kelly Ptacek to post your profile.

General Post – SPECIAL FEATURE Marta Haynes – Defining Sisterhood

Sisterhood: Fostering an enviroment of authencitcy, empowerment and success

Last week, I attended the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Phoenix, Arizona.  My leadership chain (all men) nominated me to attend and provided sponsorship.  To be totally honest, I felt both honored and nervous.  I am 100% caucasian, and I didn’t know how I would be received by fellow conference attendees.  Nonetheless, I was excited to attend and firmly committed to listen with big, wide-open ears; afterall, how many times do I as a white person get a chance to be “in the minority”?

The moment I set foot on the conference site, I could feel the amped up energy.  Once I put on my conference badge, I was approached by many conference attendees – greeting me, asking me where I was from, welcoming me… I was actually feeling quite sheepish and shy!  This all felt like a lot to take in, and I wanted to retreat into a protective shell.

As I attended sessions, I noticed the distinct themes of authenticity, personal integrity, and sisterhood.  The importance of being seen for who you really are.  I actually felt quite envious as I heard story after story of woman helping woman.  How can I find a group like THAT?  I would love to have some of what they have!  Why have I never truly experienced this? Do I REALLY feel seen?  Am I REALLY comfortable with expressing my authenticity?

About a day and a half into the conference, I had my big “aha” moment:  the discomfort and self-consciousness I was feeling was not the result of any experience I have EVER had with any community of women who were different from me.  All of the insecurity I was feeling came as a result of my experience with interacting with groups of caucasian females – women just like me!  Tears immediately sprang to my eyes and I turned to the ladies sitting next to me, and with all the raw vulnerability I was experiencing in that moment – I shared my heart.  And you know what happened next?  My heart was unabashedly received.  The lady sitting next to me grabbed my hands and leaned forward and thanked me – “do you promise to come back next year and bring other people who think like you, too?  This conference is for everyone – and now that you know our struggle, now that you hear our voice, you are in a better position to help us.”  I asked the three caucasian ladies in my work group (total conference attendees = 1,500), and they too shared stories of competition, woundedness, judgment and rejection, all from predominantly caucasian groups of women.

Ladies – of COURSE I thought about the JLM.  We want to stay true to our mission and foster an environment that truly empowers women.  We want to continue to attract and retain a diverse base of members – so that a broad range of women’s voices will be represented.  The following list summarizes some key learnings from the conference… If you think this sounds remotely interesting, I encourage you to consider attending the conference next year!  I will be.


  • Individuals who are being truly authentic foster supportive environments. When we show up as individuals – honoring our unique abilities, physical attritbutes, and ways that we bring value, we create an environment that gives others permission to do the same.  Individuals are inspired to action in these environments.  Teams achieve goals in these environments.  It is perfectly acceptable to take risks, set big goals – and even fail – in these environments.
  • When one lady wins, we all win! This entire concept of celebrating others’ successes as if they were are own was discussed frequently throughout the conference.  It really boils down to a worldview of abundance versus scarcity.  What do I mean by that?  I celebrate others’ successes as much as my own because I realize that there are abundant opportunities for me to win/contribute.  I do not live in a “zero-sum game” kind of world.  A world view of scarcity comes from deeply rooted fear and insecurity: “when she wins, I lose”, “there is not enough for me and her”, “I will not have enough”.  This does not foster an environment of sisterhood, much less an environment of high-performance.
  • Support your sisters publicly, protect the “inner circle”. This concept basically highlights the importance of presenting a unified front to the world.  What does this look like?  It means presenting a unified image to our JLM community partners, it means discussing conflict 1:1 in a private setting with the indivdual(s) directly involved, it means refusing to engage in gossip or discussion that reduces another in the eyes of others.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us…. Love is what we are born with.  Fear is what we learned here.”  ~~ Marianne Williamson

JLM Advocacy: Providing Education to inspire action

DO Something about it: Action to Advocacy

Policy Action Center, their homepage states: keeps you informed on important education issues, helps you find and track legislation, connects you with Congress and gives you the tools you need to be a successful education advocate.

Here is the Education Minnesota’s main site: http://www.educationminnesota.org/advocacy

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action