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How These 6 Women Are Using Their Gifts To Help Other Women

Workin' Girl

There are many gaps our generation is working to close. Whether it's the pay gap, the education gap, the wealth gap, or a combination of them all, the disparities that people of color face in their careers and education stem from years of inequality in our institutions.


Those institutions are vital to giving the next generation an opportunity to build and thrive in an equal competitive world, leaving many of us to wonder how we can create generational impact. More than ever, women are using their talents and gifts to make an impact through programming. Whether they are leaving their full-time jobs or creating side hustles, women are taking their underutilized talents in Corporate America and turning it into an opportunity to teach, help others gain access, become leaders, find jobs, and build their businesses. We are doing the work, by using our influence, our talents, and our God-given gifts to solve problems and help others.

Here are six women who have created programs and organizations by using their gifts to help create space and opportunities for other women:

Nicole A. Tinson, 27, Los Angeles/Atlanta

Nicole Tinson's organization is HBCU 20x20, which is working to prepare and connect 20,000 HBCU students and graduates to jobs and internships by the year 2020. It was launched on Labor Day of 2017 and is approaching its one-year anniversary. Nicole is a HBCU graduate of Dillard University and she attended Yale University, an Ivy League, for graduate school.

After graduating from Yale, she moved to her hometown of Los Angeles to find a job but experienced a rough job search. "I began applying to jobs only to realize that securing a job was much more difficult than I would have imagined. I struggled in securing employment, despite having the work experience and a great educational background. After one month of applying for jobs, I was finally able to secure a job in my field. I realized that if I did not have my social capital, I would not have had a job," she shared.

Six months later, she quit that job to create her non-profit Jobs R 4 U.

"We began partnering with local and national organizations to host workshops and career fairs for free in LA. In doing this, I realized so many colleagues and friends of friends also struggled in finding opportunities, particularly people who graduated from HBCUs. I would come across people with high GPAs, internship experience, campus and community involvement -- essentially everything we are told we need to secure a job in the 21st century, but for some reason, it still wasn't enough," she explained.

After doing some research and investigating, she wondered what diversity and inclusion looked like in action. From there, HBCU 20x20 was born.

Nicole is using her non-profit grassroot experience and the art of hustling to make Fortune 500 companies aware of the talent that's bred at HBCUs and connecting HBCU students with opportunities. The organization offers a plethora of resources to its members, from social media and text messaging software that keeps you up to date on opportunities, to an HBCU 20x20 GroupMe. "HBCU 20x20 is disrupting the way companies recruit and engage with a diverse talent pool by allowing us to do a lot of the heavy lifting so they can't say 'no.' We review resumes and forward them to hiring managers like a headhunter without the cost. We are disrupting the ways students and graduates prepare and connect to opportunities. We aren't just a job board. We are truly interested and [we are] meeting people where they are, and assisting them in getting to where they need to go," she shared.

Leigh Lovett & Kay White, 30, Nashville, TN

Six weeks prior to their first event, Leigh Lovett and Kay White met at a burger joint in Nashville to discuss how to bring the budding Nashville blogger and create a supportive environment that empowered the area's bloggers. That meeting birthed The Blogger Xchange, which focuses on collaboration over competition. It's a group that provides bloggers, creatives, and entrepreneurs classes, social events, and various art and workout experiences in Nashville, Memphis, and Minneapolis.

They noticed many prominent black bloggers in the city were being excluded from brand events. Those that were occasionally invited to brand events would comment later on being the only person of color in the room. "Kay and I decided we need to show that bloggers of all ethnicities have the same power to be influential as their white counterparts," Leigh explained.

Through their individual skill-sets in marketing and communications, and their social media influence, the Blogger Xchange has secured high quality local and national partnerships including Bud Light Nashville, Google Bulletin, Macy's, Forever 21, Lyft, and Cracker Barrel. This month, they are hosting their first Blogger Xchange Xpo, bringing 11 speakers together to educate bloggers with branding workshops, informative panels, and fun breakouts.

Tola Lawal, New York, NY

Ursula Stephens' former position as CEO of Xerox was a great stepping stone for black women in C-Suite positions, but since her departure, there's been little to no improvement on the presence of black women and women of color in leadership positions. Gyrl Wonder was created by Tola Lawal to change what the vision of success in our country looks like. "Our call to action from the beginning was to create lasting, proven, inspired and sorely needed pathways to success for our young girls of color. Statistics show alarmingly low numbers of women of color in leadership positions in our country. And in order for our younger generations to challenge that trend, they need the opportunities, programming, mentorship, and guidance to launch themselves as leaders in a world that desperately needs their presence," Tola shared.

Through intimate conversations with professionals, programming, and constant reminders of the power of self-love, Gyrl Wonder equips their participants with the tools they'll need to shine in a world that may want to dim their light. This summer, Gyrl Wonder hosted its first Summer Leadership Academy where students were able to visit some of the top media and entertainment companies to hear from women in leadership within an intimate setting, and they plan to host another one during the winter season. "On all fronts, the images that our young girls receive from popular media and our national representation has grown more diverse, but the underlying messages are still clear: women who look like them are still too scarcely seen as leading figures in our culture and our national history. This is the narrative that has fueled our work and urgency to ensure that our young girls see and remember that they are in fact, Gyrl Wonders."

When it comes to getting the resources she needs for programs or finding mentors to spend time with her participants, Tola has been able to manage and grow Gyrl Wonder with her attribute as a connector. "I'm a connector, marketer, and entrepreneur by nature. I love connecting with like minds and have no problem sliding into someone's DM or sending a blind email. It's ALWAYS worked for me. LinkedIn is my best friend," she revealed.

Milan Rouge, 29, Philadelphia, PA

This founder took her apparel brand, Milano di Rouge, and turned it into an empowerment movement to remind women they can make their dreams a reality by creating the Womanaire Club. "After building Milano di Rouge to the level of success it has reached today, I would get so many inquiries from women, notably women of color, on how to launch a business or get to the next of level of success that I decided I wanted to launch the Womanaire Club as a way to help other women entrepreneurs. A space where fellow women building brands and businesses can connect and gain knowledge from each other," Milan Rouge explained.

The Womanaire Club hosts a variety of programming, including meetups, sleepovers, workshops, and retreats. She used her journey to success to help educate other women on how to manage and grow their businesses. "It's not just that t-shirt anymore, I have an entire brand," she said.

Michelene Wilkerson, 24, Staten Island, NY

@michelene_j

Michelene Wilkerson used her experience working in book publishing to find talent and her love for culture and art to create a community for young, emerging black creators. That community is called Soul Elevated, an arts and culture hub created in 2017. "When I started it, Soul Elevated was a retro-minimal moodboard. Fast forward a year later, the page is evolving into a creative community, multidisciplinary forum, and discovery platform," she explained.

The moodboard that started Soul Elevated featured thousands of inspiring visual works Michelene had screenshotted and hoarded on her phone. "When I finished the first moodboard, I had this exhilarating aha moment. I saw a space, a fresh world. I saw what I believe is a new lane, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it."

What she envisioned was a community that highlights emerging artists and other cool creators, solely focusing on emerging talent instead of established names and trending artists to showcase fresh faces and content. "More people deserve to eat--- but are we willing to give them a seat at the table? Or are we going to leave the reserved signs up and keep the feast exclusive? There's space for bloggers, but what about the experimental photographers, designers, stylists, musicians, and video creators? What about the fresh entrepreneurs and publishers who are working towards their big break?"

She began curating Soul Elevated's Instagram page and worked her way from there. "I'm familiar with the Black creative ecosystem on Instagram, so it just made sense to stay in my lane and use Instagram to create the world I wanted to see," she explained.

From there, pure, genuine relationships started to form and her followers wanted more so she started to brainstorm offline opportunities to bring Soul Elevated. As a result, Michelene created the first quarterly event series Young, Black and Rising. She never put together event before, but since the first YBR, she's had over 100 attend each event and has partnered with brands like Urban Outfitters and Penguin Random House. "I think it shows how necessary this work is. It's bound to go far."

Her future goal is to turn Soul Elevated into a digital media production company and editorial website. "Right now I'm building my community and building my external network. If Donald Trump can be elected president, you cannot stop me from living and fulfilling my best Black life. Never."

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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
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Every day, Black women elevate the world. We are trendsetters and visionaries; the shapeshifters that lead by virtue of presence alone. In a world that sells our identities for consumption, we remind everyone that joy is our birthright and the grace we carry will always be authentic. Our existence is not a social experiment but a crafted emblem of perfection. And for that, we deserve everything good this world has to offer.

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Sometimes, when things are a little "off" when it comes to our health, there are simple steps that we can take to get ourselves back on track. For instance, did you know that around 92 percent of Americans are considered to be vitamin or mineral deficient in some way? And since there are core nutrients that all of us need in order to function properly, it's important that we're aware of what certain deficiencies are directly linked to.

Today, that is the focus. Here are eight health-related issues that, oftentimes, if we'd just add more of a vitamin or mineral into our system, we will start to feel better in no time (technically a couple of weeks but you get my drift).

1. Muscle Cramping

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Something that happens randomly to me sometimes is I'll have a muscle that cramps up, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I'll snack on a banana and start to feel better. You know why? It's because bananas are high in potassium and potassium is a nutrient that our system needs in order for our muscles to easily contract. If you sweat a lot or don't have enough fluids in your system, you can become a high candidate for being potassium deficient. As far as how much your body requires on a daily basis, it's somewhere between 3,000-4,000 mg a day. Foods that are a good source of this mineral (that is also an electrolyte) include mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet potatoes and lentils.

2. Lip Cracking

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If your PMS is off the chain or you've been catching a lot of colds lately, it could be because you need some more Vitamin B6 in your life. However, a telling sign that this is almost definitely the case is if the corners of your lips are cracking or even if your tongue feels a bit swollen.

The main thing to keep in mind with this point is if you're noticing indications that you could stand to have more Vitamin B6, there's a pretty good chance that your system has gotten close to totally running out. And just how much does your body need of this vitamin on the daily? About 1.3 mg. Up it up to 1.5 mg if you're over the age of 50.

Foods that are loaded with Vitamin B6 are peanuts, poultry, oats, avocados and pistachios.

3. Brittle Nails

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If it seems like no matter how much pampering you do to your nails, they are brittle and breaking, that could be an indication that you are low in iron and/or Vitamin C. The reality is that just our periods alone can make us vulnerable to having lower iron levels. And just how much should you be getting into your system? A lot of healthcare professionals recommend somewhere around 14.8 mg each day. As far as the Vitamin C goes, not only can you have brittle nails when you're not getting enough of it, this is a nutrient that makes it easier for your body to absorb iron too. 75 mg per day of it is recommended (120 mg each day if you're pregnant or are breastfeeding). Foods that are high in iron include beef, dark leafy greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and broccoli. Foods that are a good source of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, berries and Brussel sprouts.

4. Allergy Symptoms

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If you've got allergy symptoms that are driving you totally up the wall or you're someone who deals with asthma or eczema, these things can be so much worse for you if you are low in omega-3. Long story short, they're fatty acids that pretty much every part of our body needs from our skin and hair to our reproductive system and our heart. Matter of fact, I actually read once that if you tend to have an excessive amount of earwax, that can also be a heads up that omega-3 is lacking. As far as how much is good for you, 1.1 grams daily is enough. And as far as foods that have omega-3 in them, those would be walnuts, spinach, salmon, chia seeds and eggs.

5. Weakness

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Magnesium is both a mineral as well as an electrolyte that helps to regulate muscle and nerve functions and keep your blood sugar in balance. Well, when you don't have enough magnesium in you, it can cause you to experience extreme amounts of fatigue and weakness. A part of the reason why is because magnesium is what helps to keep your potassium levels where they should be. So, when your potassium levels are low, your muscles will not perform with as much strength as they should. Somewhere around 315 mg each day is what your system requires. Foods that are loaded with magnesium include whole grains, pumpkin seeds, halibut, bananas and dark chocolate.

6. Hair Loss

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One of the main things that all of us need in order for our hair to flourish is zinc. It's a mineral that assists with hair tissue growth and repair, fights dandruff and, it also helps your scalp to produce the sebum that it needs for your hair follicles to remain healthy. That's why it makes a lot of sense that if you're low in zinc, you could possibly suffer from some hair loss or, the very least, hair breakage. What can keep your tresses in good condition is if you consume around 8 mg of zinc daily. Foods that are high in it include Greek yogurt, cashews, black beans, sesame seeds and kale.

7. Sleepiness

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OK, if you're out here getting less than six hours a night on a consistent basis, that's probably not an indication that you are lacking a nutrient; what that probably means is you are sleep deprived.

However, if it seems like no matter how much sleep you get at night and/or naps you take during the day, you are still sleepy as all get out, what that could be telling you is that you are low in Vitamin B12. I can personally attest to this because I was sleepy a lot (and I get no less than six hours a night and sometimes a nap) until I started taking a B12 supplement. When you're low in this vitamin, it can trigger sleepiness or even sleeplessness because it plays a significant role in maintaining your energy levels.

It's kinda crazy that a lot of us are Vitamin B12 deficient when most of us only need .002 mg a day of it. Anyway, foods that are a good source of this nutrient include liver, fortified cereals, shellfish, nutritional yeast and milk alternatives (like almond or oat milk).

8. Food Cravings

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Last fall, I wrote an article about signs that you've got a sugar addiction going on (you can check it out here). One indication is if you're constantly wanting to eat sweets all of the time. Well, along these same lines, if you're experiencing food cravings, that too could mean that you've not some nutrient deficiencies happening. Sweets typically mean that you can stand to have more magnesium or tryptophan. Fatty foods mean you need more calcium. Red meat, caffeine or the desire to chew ice means you're low in iron. Salt is oftentimes connected to dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance.

Wanting to eat bread all of the time could also mean that you could use a tryptophan boost (because you are looking for something to make you feel better and bread is a comfort food. Tryptophan helps to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin so that you don't want bread as much). Foods that are high in tryptophan include tuna, cheese, turkey, milk and apples.

While I certainly wasn't able to tackle all of the nutrient deficient-related issues that exist, take this as a bit of an intro cheat sheet. Again, if you are currently experiencing any of these issues, try getting more vitamins and minerals into your system. You might be surprised just how big of an impact...a little bit of tweaking can make.

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