In case you didn't know, March is Women's History Month. I wrote last year about how blessed I have been to have so many powerful and influential women in my life through the years and their impact on the woman I have become cannot be denied. One theme that has been reiterated in my life over the years is that there is something to learn from everything and everyone. The most unexpected situations often teach us the greatest lessons. Having had this theme drilled into my brain at this point, I try to keep an open mind and expose myself to as much as possible. So, when a dear friend of mine asked me to assist her in the production of a news piece with Congresswoman, Maxine Waters, I jumped at the opportunity. Considering I'm in currently in a different field of work, I wasn't super thrilled about putting my journalism hat back on but the opportunity to be in the room with some of the most powerful people in the world was one that would be silly to pass up.
Regardless of your political leanings, you have to respect Congresswoman Waters for passionately standing by what she believes in. She is fearless. She is women's history in the making. When she entered the venue, she was much smaller than I realized, her personality is much larger than her stature. She had a presence about her, a warm confidence if you will. Since I didn't have a news outlet affiliation, I was unsure of whether I'd be able to engage with the Congresswoman but she happily agreed.
So, we had a little chat, Dreams of Jasmine style.
DOJ: I saw an interview on Youtube that you did with Elle Magazine where you spoke about the influence your mother had on your life. A piece of the interview that stuck out to me was a comment about how your mother 'believed in struggle.' Could you explain to me what you meant by that?
MW: I have come from a time in history where I’ve known poverty, I’ve seen poverty and I’ve seen whole communities struggle. To me, struggle means that no matter what the obstacles are, you fight to get over them and with struggle you can achieve. If you don’t struggle, you’ll never know whether you can overcome certain obstacles, whether you can overcome impediments to success.
DOJ: You have such a passion and drive for everything you do, you seem to be fearless and unafraid to ask for what you want. Where does that gumption come from?
MW: I really cannot define every individual thing that had an influence on my life but I can tell you this, my mother was strong. Because I came from a large family, we were quite competitive, so you had to fight to be recognized. I also had some strong teachers, many of them were African American and they embraced us. For them, it wasn’t just about coming to school and leaving, it was about staying after school, they got involved with your family etc. Also, I have a strong church background, I was in Sunday school every Sunday and then I was in BYP in the evening, so church and Christianity played an important role in my life. My gumption comes from a combination of all of those things.
DOJ: I find that many young women, young people of my generation are often plagued by imposter syndrome or a spirit of comparison. I've dealt with this myself and I've spoken to many people, especially young women who feel that what they have to offer isn't good enough or that they will never be as good as those we see on television, social media etc. What would you say to those people?
MW: I am really surprised to hear this…. I feel that there are some lessons that have to be taught. When I came along as a black girl, we were ugly, our lips were too big, our noses were too wide and so that could have stifled us but the this ‘black is beautiful’ movement came along and in that movement, we began to look at ourselves differently and then our mothers and fathers started to tell us these same things. And that’s important, for parents to tell their children just how wonderful they are, how beautiful they are and to build self-confidence in them.
For young ladies who have come this far and still don’t have that confidence in yourself, if you are comparing yourself to others: STOP. Just stop and focus on yourself. Even if you have to get in the mirror and talk to yourself. Tell yourself you can do whatever you put your mind to. Join other people who are accomplishing things and don’t ever let anyone discourage you or take you down!
DOJ: Do you believe you are living your dreams?
MW: Oh yes, and I have been for a long time! When I go to bed at night, particularly after a successful day, I feel so wonderful. And there are most certainly days when I go to bed and I think ‘Oh my God, not a lot happened today.” but I’ll evaluate that and simply try to learn from my mistakes and you just go forward trying to be the best person that you could possibly be.