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

How Else can I track Legislation?

Here are some resources for tracking legislation.

National Conference of State Legislatures

GovTrack

Education Week

National Education Association

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action

Who’s Hungry?

Did you know that nearly one in ten Minnesotans live in food insecure homes (Second Harvest, 2015)? That means every single member of the Junior League of Minneapolis (JLM) knows someone; whether it be a cousin, a neighbor, or a friend who lives with food insecurities. We know that hunger adversely affects our communities in many ways from an increased burden on our health care system to ill equipped work force. But how does hunger affect the education gap?
Personally, I could write and tell you all about hunger and the negative correlations in education, but the writer Steve Holt at Take Part wrote a wonderful article on the subject that provides insight into this issue and its impacts. To read the full article find the link below:
http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/09/11/going-back-school-hungry

Children’s Health Watch put together an easy to read fact sheet that provides a very straight forward view of the issue. This approach is appealing to me as it gives the reader the facts even if it’s unpleasant. To read the full report find the link below:
http://www.childrenshealthwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/toohungrytolearn_report.pdf

The Junior League of Minneapolis (JLM) has focused their efforts on tackling the achievement gap in the Minneapolis area. So how are we doing it? One of our major programs is called Backpack Buddies. Founded in 2008, Backpack Buddies set out to reduce the effects of hunger by providing easy to prepare food to cover the needs of children residing in food insecure homes. Currently, the Backpack Buddies project sends out 800 backpacks per week across three different schools. That ends up being 15,000 pounds of food per month. The number are staggering. The even crazier thing is there is always more to be done.

To get more involved Junior League members can sign up for an unpacking/packing shift or donate to the Annual Fund. Community members can get involved by donating non-perishable food items to a local food shelf or signing up for a volunteer shift at Second Harvest or similar non-profits.

A day in the Life of a Between the Lines committee member

Frozen?  What’s that about?  Would a second-grade girl like the story?”  The innocuous question revealed a wealth of information about the woman standing before me.  For starters, she must be pretty isolated not to know about the highest grossing animated film of all time.  Second, she’s been outta the loop for quite a while: Disney introduced Anna and Elsa back in 2013.  The most important takeaway, however, is that she cares about whether or not a young girl would enjoy the story.

Over the next couple of hours, I record women as they read — everything from The Babysitters Club to Love You Forever — into a recording device.  Before starting, each woman opens with a personal message about how she misses and loves the recipient of the book: “enjoy the story, I miss you,” “hope to see you soon,” and “momma thinks of you every day.”
The last woman I record thanks me for spending a Saturday with her, and she praises the volunteers I’m working with, “it it’s so, so nice what the Between the Lines people do for Shakopee.”

Between the Lines is a volunteer-driven committee run by the Junior League of Minneapolis.  The mission of Between the Lines is to promote literacy and help incarcerated mothers//caretakers connect with their children.

Want behind the scenes information about the committee?  Four times a year, members bring books, tape recorders, and stationary to the Shakopee Correctional Facility.  The committee helps mothers do three things: 1) select an age appropriate book for their child 2) create a recording of the mother reading out loud, and 3) write a short note to their child.  A couple weeks later, at a ‘wrap party,’ Between the Lines members package and send the books, recordings, and personal letters to the children of participating mothers.

Between the Lines was established in 2010, and the organization has helped nearly 700* children connect with an incarcerated caregiver through reading.  To get involved or learn more about the committee, please contact beteweenthelines@jlminneapolis.org.

Post contributed by Jennifer Prod

What is Advocacy?

This is after all an Advocacy blog? Let’s take a step back to make sure we’re on the same page.

Advocacy is the act of pleading for, supporting, or making recommendations to influence change. People tend to associate advocacy with lobbying or politics – and it can be – but individuals can advocate for themselves or others too. Can you remember a time when you  spoke up for someone who wasn’t present or defended a friend? Advocacy just means “speaking up” and giving voice to our passions and principles.

The JLM Advocacy committee is working to define advocacy for its membership, engage members in a non-partisan way, and educate membership on the issues surrounding the achievement gap. It’s important that we raise our collective voice in favor of programs and policies which support our vision of decreasing the achievement gap.

WAYS TO ADVOCATE                                                                                                            

  • Creating public awareness through education – sharing data and stories to persuade
  • Blogging
  • Communicating with your elected officials and encouraging others to do the same
  • Writing a letter to the editor

TOOLS TO GET YOUR MESSAGE OUT

  • Social media
  • Promotional materials
  • Letters to the editor
  • Opinion Editorials

Attend the Advocacy event “Coffee & Conversation with Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff” on Saturday, March 21st from 9:00am-12:00pm to take a deeper dive into the world of advocacy, understand how you can become civically engaged and hear from  Minnesota State Senator Terri Bonoff on her journey and current priorities. See the JLM website for more information and registration.

Additionally, please post comments on the articles and links you see. Nothing educates people more than a great conversation!

Post contributed by Kristy Barnett.