3 Inspirational Women Who Empower Me
- Michelle Thomas
- 25 Jan, 2018
“Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person…The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story…And the consequence of a single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather then how we are similar.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“It takes work to be a citizen, and being a citizen is your first job.” – Maya Wiley
Writers like Chimamanda and activists like Maya continually inspire me to embrace my identity as a global citizen.
3 Inspirational Women
At the inaugural Women’s Convention in Detroit last October, where more than 4,000 (mostly) women gathered to extend the activism of the January 2017 Women’s March, I had the good fortune to meet hundreds more. They now have a spot on my “women who inspire me” list. On this first anniversary of the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, I will thank three in particular.
#1. Alice Smith
When I first saw Alice Smith perform live, I immediately felt frustration at the establishment for not having centered this talent sooner. So kudos to the Women’s Convention organizers for being able to accomplish a “critique of the entire establishment” just by hiring singer-songwriter Alice Smith. What inspired me about Alice’s performance was her ability to let listeners share in the beauty an artist experiences while creating their art. Watching her, I felt I was a balloon being lifted to the sky, growing bigger and more powerful with every passing lyric. I knew I could take this feeling and channel it; I could use it to do my own creating. After 10 years with Mata Traders, the company I helped found, I rely on creative energies like Alice’s to fuel my momentum over the long haul. Doesn’t everyone?
*Alice Smith is a singer-songwriter and has put out two albums, For Lovers, Dreamers, & Me (2006) and She (2013).
#2. Rita Bosworth
I met Rita Bosworth at the Women’s Convention and by the end of our short conversation we were both crying. Just a few months before, Rita had a very different life as a successful lawyer living in the bubble of San Francisco. Now she had quit her job and was here fundraising for the Sister District Project. What inspired me about Rita was not that she had made a personal sacrifice for the greater good. It was rather that she had taken a simple belief and turned it into something concrete. Through commitment, strategic partnerships and (perhaps most mundane of all) prioritization, planning and execution, she created an organization that had become a viable, important part of a larger movement. If I’ve learned anything from helping to establish and grow a company, it’s that mighty things can be built from hundreds of tiny moments of just pushing forward. Creating anything really just starts with holding hands – reaching forward to those in a position to help and backward to those who need the assistance. And then holding on tight.
*Rita Bosworth is the founder of the Sister District Project, which helps Democrats win state elections by harnessing excess blue energy from volunteers and donors across the country and directing it toward strategic, flippable races.
#3. Ai-jen Poo
Unlike many of my peers, I had never heard of Ai-jen Poo before attending the Women’s Convention. Something she said on her panel stuck with me long after the Convention was over. She told a story about meeting a social scientist who, after years of study, concluded that our nation was on the verge of its next great social transformation. “And you are that transformation,” Ai-jen told us. What inspired me about Ai-jen was her ability to shape my perspective about my place, as an individual, within a larger social context. In my favorite panel discussion at the Convention, one of the speakers asked us to examine the extent to which our perspective is the root of oppression. This idea fascinates me. In my greatest version of happiness, we would all have the curiosity and strength to constantly challenge our own convictions.
*Ai-jen Poo is the Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Co-Director of Caring Across Generations