By Joy Ayoika
As a young black woman, I often times feel out of place or intimidated by older black women who are established in their career fields. I do not know what it is, but I feel small. When I got the invitation to attend the NC Black Women’s Roundtable I was excited but nervous and when my mentor Kim Pevia told me she couldn’t make it I was hesitant.
I was hesitant because I am a 20 years old college student who is just now figuring out what I want to do with my life. How can I survive sitting at a table full of powerful black women when I have nothing to offer. Part of my hesitation comes from the idea that “when you are in a room full of grown folks, you stay quiet because they are discussing grown folk business”. I have heard that phrase a million times, but I am now realizing the impact it’s had on my life. I could not imagine being a part of the conversation because no one has ever invited me to the table.
It is important for young women like me to be able to see women that look like them. Women that have overcome the same obstacles and continue the fight for justice and equality. I remember the first time I decided I was going to study for the LSAT I felt overwhelmed, although I have a great support system I still wanted to see other black women who had been in my shoes and listen to the challenges that they faced. When I got the change to listen to black attorneys speak at the summit, I was mesmerized because they were the first black female attorneys I have ever met in person.
There is a sense of power that comes with seeing women that have walked the same journey as you and have succeeded because simply being in their presence reassure you that you too can do it. The summit discussed issues such as Black women in leadership and the struggles that they face. Listening to all those women’s experiences was truly wonderful, it allowed me to redefine what power means to me and what it looks like within my community.
Reflecting back now I cannot express how empowering the roundtable was to me. It made me feel as though my voice can and will be heard. I was in the presence of powerful women, Black Women who were not only willing to welcome me to the table but were offering me a seat and engaging me in the conversation. We discussed issues that Black women face in North Carolina and how we can work towards overcoming them.
Justice and equality are not grown folk business, these are issues that affect us all. One of the things I took away from the NCBWRT was changes happen when women are able to invite all women to the table regardless of age, social status, or educational level. We ought to invite all women to the table because these issues affect us all when powerful black women are present a powershift is bound to occur.