It’s About Time: To celebrate women as a community. To change the conversation. To come together and use our diversity as our strength.
This was the theme of the TEDxRVAWomen event I had the honor of attending last week, and what an incredible event it was! We heard from a diverse group of women with a common mission: to change the conversation in Richmond and beyond in order to make the world a better place.
Isn’t this a part of what we are trying to do every day, moms? I took away so many incredible thoughts, ideas and data points, but more than that, I left feeling more empowered than ever to Listen First, Give others space, time and compassion and Be Bold and Brave in all my endeavors as a woman in the world.
As promised, here is a summary of key takeaways from this awesome event:
Kelli Lemon was the MC for the event, and her passion to truly hear the stories of others and offer them a platform to share their thoughts and ideas through social interactions was as authentic as she is fun to be with for the show.
Sgt. Carol Adams shared a story that weaved together three moments in time that irrevocably changed a person’s life, including her own. Her vulnerability to share such a deeply personal story that includes extreme domestic violence left me in tears. She issued a bold reminder that we truly should give each person we encounter a chance to be heard, because we never know all that has a person has endured.
Christina Bechhold provided research-based insight into the powerful role women should be playing in today’s investment world, and in the future of the financial markets. Her comment that women have the least hubris and also the most humility reminded me that as women in positions of leadership and influence, we should harness our power bravely and with compassion. I especially loved her favorite piece of investment advice, “imagine the world as it should be, and invest in that.”
Emily Kimball is an 85-year-old woman who truly lives life to the fullest every day. Emily’s experiences are vast and she uses them to lead others, often half her age, to live an active and engaging life. She says that she lives by a set of simple guiding principles: get outside and try new things and don’t be afraid to take risks because so much of our growth as a person comes from learning from our failures.
Hannah Standiford is a local Richmond folk musician, having come by way of Baltimore originally with a stint in Indonesia. Hannah shared that it was in this Indonesian part of her journey and education that she came to truly be with her music and her community of fellow musicians. As part of a unique Indonesian music group, she discovered how to let time pass in the most natural way and allow the music that accompanies her life story to be written.
Jennifer M. Fettweis, PhD is a molecular biologist who introduced her unique field of study as the Project Director for the Vaginal Microbiome Consortium at VCU. She shared some incredible research about the importance of the “good bacteria” that we as women posses and how as mothers, women likely have a direct and important impact on the immediate and long term health of our children, including their risk for things like obesity and chronic disease. It was a challenging and enlightening perspective on the important role of new research in the future of human health.
Joy Crump is a renowned chef and restaurateur who spoke from the heart as she regaled stories of being raised by a kind, generous, deeply loving mother. Her discussion wove together themes many female leaders know well – how can I be a strong, good leader while also being kind and loving like my mother? Ultimately, Joy realized that while her mother had taught her to always love and to always show kindness, she was also a firm parent with strict rules. And that’s where the magic was found: “Be responsible; color inside the lines; make no excuses, because rules are loving too.”
Keisha Howard, who is a self-proclaimed loser, introvert, and geek of all trades was a study in ironies on the stage. She rocked a leopard print dress and sported heels that made my shin splints scream just looking at them. To imagine her a shy child hiding out from the violent streets of Chicago behind the screen of a video game is almost unimaginable. As she walks you through her story of finding strength and courage in learning the gaming world and conquering her expert player older brother, the lessons become all too clear. Keisha learned that losers are only losers because they don’t engage in the game. She urges moms today to help their daughters explore all their possibilities and truly engage in the game!
Michelle Dodd might have been on stage for a mere 3 minutes. Her powerful poetry was infused with a deep velvet voice that interspersed haunting verses of Blackbird. With the gentlest tone you can imagine, Michelle decried the injustices facing Black American youth today. Her poetry is her freedom and with her beautiful words she urgently uses her gift to move people to both hear and act on these injustices. A young, beautiful and powerful female artist, Michelle is definitely doing her part to change the conversation in Richmond and beyond.
Mona H. Siddiqui was born in Pakistan and raised in Richmond. Now, she is raising her own family in our beautiful city, and she bravely shared her personal story of being a member of the Muslim community in Richmond. Mona started her TED talk by quoting Thurgood Marshall, “the legal system can force open doors and sometimes even knock down walls, but it cannot build bridges.” As Mona described the various ways members of other faith communities and ethnic groups have reached out to her personally and offered authentic support and stood with her in solidarity, she suggested that these bridge builders in our communities are the brave civil rights leaders of today.
Monsterrate Fuentes, PhD is the Dean of the VCU College of Humanities and Science. Even as she enchanted the audience with her wit, she did not let us forget that she is one smart woman who can and does lead in the areas of science and technology. She gave moms in the audience great encouragement to follow their daughters’ interests in science, math, and technology, because it is definitely time for women to lead in these fields.
Patricia Herrera, PhD took the stage by reenacting the scenes of her youth – watching telenovelas with her abeula. She captivated the audience as she told the story of her family’s quintessential voyage across America this summer. She intertwined memories of her beautiful Latino heritage with her current American adventures as a mother. Simultaneously, she created the image of her beautiful children living the American dream against the harsh reality that her own young daughter might already be naively under the impression that we are there, to a place where our diversity is our strength. As she walked us passionately through that heartbreaking realization she had as a mother, she urged the women in the audience to keep doing the hard work of getting there.
“IT IS TIME,” each of the women urges us to hear these words. It is time, Richmond. It is time, Women. It is time to be Bold; It is time to be Kind; It is time to be both Strong & Loving. And no one is more well-equipped than a woman to do this work!