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 to track State Legislation

Trying to track State legislation?  Check out these links!

Tools for tracking state level legislation:

 

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

Federal Legislation Tracking

Trying to track federal legislation?  Check out these links!

Tools for tracking federal legislation:

  • GovTrack.us: This is a free legislative tracking tool created by Joshua Tauberer; it is unaffiliated with government and is used by many congressional transparency websites. Use it to track federal legislation by issue area and set up alerts.
  • https://www.govtrack.us/
  • Congress.gov: The website of the United States Congress, this site includes a searchable database for federal legislation. For those of us who do not know bill numbers by heart, the Advanced Search function offers a Subject Search by Policy Area and Legislative Subject Terms.
  • https://www.congress.gov/advanced-search/legislation

 

Subscription databases for federal legislation include the following:

 

JLM Advocacy: Providing education to inspiring members to action

A Conversation with AchieveMpls

As the strategic nonprofit partner of Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), AchieveMpls mobilizes our community’s resources to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the tools and support they need to be career and college ready.

The overall graduation rate in MPS is 64 percent (79 percent in comprehensive high schools) but the gap between white students and many students of color is over 20 percent. There is a tremendous opportunity for improvement.

The January Salon discussion focused largely on how AchieveMpls gives students the right tools and information to make choices for their future. By 2020, 74 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require some form of post-secondary education.  However, not every student is interested in a two or four year post-high school program, so AchieveMpls works with each student to ensure they know their available options.

This kind of guidance isn’t always built into students’ high school experience. For example, the best practice counseling ratio is about 250 students for every counselor. In Minneapolis Public Schools, it is closer to 792 students for every counselor. Which means not every student is getting the level of attention he or she needs. AchieveMpls is focused on ensuring students have support in learning about college and career options that suit their skills and vision for their future. They do this through three primary programs:

Career and College Centers
Located in 10 MPS high schools, CCCs offer career and post-secondary education planning resources for 3,500+ students every year.

Step Up Achieve
This program provides work-readiness training, paid internships and professional mentoring to over 700 Minneapolis youth each year in partnership with 150 top Twin Cities employers.

Volunteers
Each year, AchieveMpls connects students with over 800 volunteers who serve as Graduation Coaches, career exploration volunteers and mock interviewers.

To learn more, visit AchieveMpls.org.

JLM Advocacy: Inspiring members to action