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5 Gems From Summit21 That Elevated My Life

Workin' Girl

The #blackgirlmagic was real at Summit21. Created by women's lifestyle brand 21Ninety, the event brought more than 1,200 Black women together in Atlanta to network and discover ways to elevate their life.


I've been to a few amazing conferences over the years, but Summit21 transformed me in a way that I could never imagine. I laughed, cried, and said "yasssssss" more times than I can count.

Related: 10 Conferences Women Should Invest In For A Successful 2018

There were so many gems dropped by the speakers, but here are five that stood out most:

1. You can't afford to not take care of yourself.

Author Teyonna Lanez

Self-care was a big focus during Summit21. Each day began with meditation to set the tone for the day.

Celebrity wellness and lifestyle guru, Latham Thomas, shared that self-care includes doing check-ins to see how you're feeling and asking for what you need. Equally important is creating boundaries to protect your space and taking your time so you aren't rushing through life.

For branding mogul Karen Civil, self-care includes meditation and leveraging the power of crystals.

To close out Summit21, the founders of GirlTrek highlighted their goal to inspire one million women to commit to 30 minutes of exercise each day. Through their "Tubman Doctrine," a radical self-care practice for freedom fighters, they encouraged women to channel Harriet Tubman by saving themselves first and finding wellness practices that brings them joy.

Throughout the conference, these ladies and many others emphasized the need to take care of yourself to truly lead an enriched life.

2. Know your why.

"If you stand on your why and learn the lessons you need to know this season, you'll get where you need to be," said author and business executive Sarah Jakes Roberts.

She described how your "why" keeps you grounded. Whether it's for the culture, community, or your family, it's bigger than you and ensures that you stay committed to what's important.

A part of knowing your why is understanding your purpose.

"You can choose your passion but you can't choose your purpose," said actress Ashley Blaine Featherson during her fireside chat with comedian Robin Thede. "If you're living in your purpose, success is inevitable. You can't fail because God created you for it."

3. You are culturally wealthy.

Writer Alex Wolf helped me see the power in being a Black woman in a different way. During her session about capitalizing on your blackness, she showed how the people who make Black culture aren't the same people who make money off of Black culture.

Alex highlighted that as Black women, we are the mother of American culture, and we're sitting on a goldmine just for being ourselves. Her "Issa-Cardi Theory" showed an example of how to capitalize on our cultural wealth. Using Issa Rae and Cardi B as inspiration, Alex says that we can resonate with others by starting where we are, being unapologetically Black, and focusing on being relatable.

"The whole world is in love with our culture, and if you don't own it, someone else will."

4. Getting involved with politics is not an option.

"Our lives are literally on the line," said political strategist Angela Rye during her fireside chat.

She discussed the importance of identifying our top concerns (such as justice, prison reform, or women's rights), so we're prepared to raise our voices during the midterm elections this November.

Natasha Murphy of Black Girls Vote and Dr. Wendy Osefo of 1954 Equity Project echoed Angela during their impact session. Black votes are crucial because blood was paid through our ancestors. We owe it to them and ourselves to get involved with our local, state, and federal government elections.

5. Embrace the growing pains.

Author Teyonna Lanez

Singer Sevyn Streeter talked about how she gets excited when she feels things coming to an end because it signals a new beginning. She mentioned that it's important for us to understand that change doesn't have to be perceived as negative - instead view it as an opportunity to add different things to your toolbelt of life.

"Don't be afraid of transitioning," says Sevyn. "If God is tapping you on the shoulder, telling you to jump, don't be afraid of the water."

Summit21 helped me see my life more clearly and provided me with actionable steps towards making my dreams a reality. If you weren't able to attend, I encourage you to come to this transformative conference next year!

*Featured Image via Sistas In Stem/Instagram

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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