10 Talks by Women of Color to Empower Your 2016

A recent realization that the most influential voices shaping my world view were that of white men and women, I embarked on a journey to seek out books, articles and talks by and for Women of Color.  This has been a powerful spiritual, emotional, and intellectual ride which continues to expand me every day.  So I felt compelled to share with you: both women of color and my white friends. These voices have wisdom, power, perspective, and passion.

Here I share 10 TedTalks and TedxTalks about topics such as self-love, education, success, social change, race, religion, disabilities, and parenting.  Bookmark it. Keep it as a reference. Come back to it throughout the year. I hope these talks speak to you as much as they have to me.

Happy 2016!!!

Caira Lee: I search 4 it blinded: the power of self-love and self-esteem 

“What is radical self love? Well, to Sonya Renee Taylor and her organization, The Body Is Not An Apology, radical self love is the lifelong commitment to the belief that your body, size, race, sexual orientation are assets that don’t need fixing yet are advantages to build your life around and capitalize on …it’s also looking in the mirror once a week and saying: I am the most important person in the world to me. I accept that person. I admire that person. I will do everything in my power to see that person’s dream come true.”

Thandie Newton: Embracing otherness, embracing myself

“But there is something that can give the self ultimate and infinite connection — and that thing is oneness,our essence. The self’s struggle for authenticity and definition will never end unless it’s connected to its creator — to you and to me. And that can happen with awareness — awareness of the reality of onenessand the projection of self-hood. For a start, we can think about all the times when we do lose ourselves. It happens when I dance, when I’m acting. I’m earthed in my essence, and my self is suspended. In those moments, I’m connected to everything…”

Mellody Hobson: Color blind or color brave? 

“So I think it’s time for us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable conversation about race: black, white, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, all of us, if we truly believe in equal rights and equal opportunity in America, I think we have to have real conversations about this issue. We cannot afford to be color blind. We have to be color brave.”

Isabel Allende: Tales of Passion

“I think that the time is ripe to make fundamental changes in our civilization. But for real change, we need feminine energy in the management of the world. We need a critical number of women in positions of power, and we need to nurture the feminine energy in men.”

Alaa Murabit: What my religion really says about women

“As a young Muslim woman, I am very proud of my faith. It gives me the strength and conviction to do my work every day. It’s the reason I can be here in front of you. But I can’t overlook the damage that has been done in the name of religion, not just my own, but all of the world’s major faiths. The misrepresentation and misuse and manipulation of religious scripture has influenced our social and cultural norms, our laws, our daily lives, to a point where we sometimes don’t recognize it.”

Maysoon Zayid: I got 99 problems…palsy is just one 

“A lot of people with CP don’t walk, but my parents didn’t believe in ‘can’t.’ My father’s mantra was, ‘You can do it, yes you can can.’ So, if my three older sisters were mopping, I was mopping. If my three older sisters went to public school, my parents would sue the school system and guarantee that I went too, and if we didn’t all get A’s, we all got my mother’s slipper.”

 Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter…

“If I should have a daughter…she’s going to learn that this life will hit you hard in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by Band-Aids or poetry.”

Sheryl Wu Dunn: Our Century’s Greatest Injustice

“So then, I ask, what’s in it for you? You’re probably asking that. Why should you care? I will just leave you with two things. One is that research shows that once you have all of your material needs taken care of — which most of us, all of us, here in this room do — research shows that there are very few things in life that can actually elevate your level of happiness. One of those things is contributing to a cause larger than yourself.”

Dr. Shefali Tsabary: Conscious Parenting

“Because nothing like parenthood that needs to be at the forefront of our global consciousness. It’s the call, the linchpin that affects how our children will thrive. Everything: how they tae of themselves, each other, the earth, show compassion, tolerate differences, handle their emotions, create, invent, innovate. This is where global transformation begins.”

Michelle Obama: A plea for education

“Your success will be determined by your own fortitude, your own confidence, your own individual hard work. That is true. That is the reality of the world that we live in. You now have control over your own destiny. And it won’t be easy — that’s for sure. But you have everything you need. Everything you need to succeed, you already have, right here.”







Circles 1

Circles. When I heard this word in a keynote delivered by Gyasi Ross, it met my story in a way that few words have…ever.  I guess I had never acknowledged the gravity of walking through the halls of my white education without a face that looked like mine.  Overwhelming grief enveloped me like the blanket that keeps my convalescent body warm after a fever.  Suddenly those halls that were once filled with memories of skipping class and playing my saxophone instead of doing homework were empty.

Circles. This word was an invitation. It was a moment. It was an opportunity.  For the first time, in that space shared by a few thousand other beautiful people, I sat with a great sense of loss and sadness for something I never knew I was supposed to have.  I ached for belonging and the incomparable feeling that someone cares for me and has my back. I searched for a guiding light, an example of what I could become. I longed for solid ground to stand on and a soft something on which to land.  I grieved for the teacher I never had.

In his discourse, Gyasi told the story of a researcher whose name fails me at the moment.  As the story goes, he discovered that human beings have a lot of trouble walking in straight lines. He placed blindfolded people out in the desert in hopes that they would have enough inner navigation to trek in a direct path. The overwhelming human response to being out in the middle of nowhere with no sight was the tendency to walk in circles and end up right back where they started.  As I listened, my mind created very vivid imagery and I found myself leaning into the intense discomfort that the familiarity of this story brought to my body.  All I could think was: I’ve been here before.

The concluding thought was a sudden breath of life: “People who are walking, even when they desperately want to walk in a straight line, without guidance or assistance will end up right back where they started. We need strong visual cues. Without these cues all you’re doing is tracking whether or not I end up in the same spot.”

There it was! The teacher who called me stupid. The teacher who told me they must have let me in the school because “they needed to make the numbers.” The guidance counselor who didn’t know my name…despite my troublesome behavior and failing grades. The music program that only included white shows with white leads.  Everything said and unsaid that reminded me on a daily basis that I did not belong. All of it came together in a split second.  I had no visual cues. No face like mine. No abrazos or ¿Como estas?  No one to tell me “Le voy a contar a tu mama!”  No Latina model of success inside the walls on my school.

My middle and high school years in an environment that, while promoting diversity in numbers still upheld white norms and blatantly made me feel invisible every day, were a vacuum of frustration and confusion. But I’m clear now. I’m clear that I am grieving an education that wasn’t designed for me.  And educational system that failed me. It made me walk in circles. But I didn’t die. I’m still here.

Circles. Tenacity and persistence shrouded in shame and invisibility.  Intelligence grasping for validation.  Passion confused for loudness and anger.  The liberating realization that I made it this far on the very attributes that those circles were designed to enclose.  The responsibility to be a guiding light for my daughters. The willingness to see the blindfolds on my students.  The courage to take them off.  This is what my trek was for…

May we be the guiding light.

May we be the face that looks like them.

May we provide the visual cues that our students need for their journey.