On the morning of Thursday, July 30, DJ Beverly Bond, Founder/CEO of
Black Girls Rock!, took her empowering nonprofit to the next level. She
rolled out her first-ever BLACK GIRLS LEAD conference at Barnard
College. Avis Hinkson, dean of Barnard, and First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray were on-hand for opening
remarks at the Welcoming Address.
?On behalf of my husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and as a proud mom of a black girl who leads, we salute you for leading this organization,? McCray told Bond.?
Later in her speech after speaking about her own struggles growing up, McCray addressed the girls. ?The world is not very kind to black girls. So my advice to you is to look out for each other and lift each other up. And when you?re in a room, look for the other black women around you who rock,? she said.
For Hinkson’s part, she highlighted Barnard College alumnae such as June Jordan, Ntozake Shange, Dr. Helene Gayle and others and asked the girls to reflect on their contributions so that they might be inspired to do great things, too. “As a Black girl growing up in Brooklyn, I did not know I would be the first African American dean of Barnard College. Know that the future is bright – and it’s yours,” she said.
What followed over the next four days was a true testament to Bond?s mission for BGR! There were intensive panel discussions led by world-class speakers and leaders from a variety of industries from media and entertainment to the legal field, STEM, culture and more. There were financial literacy and creative writing sessions, poetry and spoken word performances and blogging lessons. The girls were also treated to valuable career prep advice and even a yoga and meditation session.?
Our favorite panel was ?Boss Up!? where Tiffany Dufu (CEO, Levo League), Dr. Helene Gayle (CEO McKinsey Social Initiative), Ellen McClain (CFO, Year Up), Lisa Davis, Esq. (Partner, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz), and Kimberlyn Leary, PhD (White House Council for Women & Girls) teamed up to share their boardroom wisdom and encourage the girls to be ?ceiling breakers.?
?I think what inspired the ?Boss Up? panel was Cheryl Sandberg?s book ?Lean In.? There was talk of banning the term ?bossy? which was a pejorative term keeping girls from embracing leadership. There is nothing wrong with being a boss, so Beverly [Bond] and the other panelists said, ?Let?s re-appropriate the term? and the panel of women leaders talked about what that means and what that looks like,? Davis told TNJ.com.
Davis, a 2007 Network Journal 25 Influential Black Women in Business honoree, said she hopes the girls learn ?to fully inhabit their awesomeness and their leadership qualities; to cultivate those qualities and strive for excellence, and to keep honest people around them and maintain their integrity.?
Other superstars who had leading roles in the program?s panels included journalists Soledad O?Brien, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill and Keli Goff; financial specialist Ryan Mack; NYC Public Advocate Letitia James; ESSENCE Magazine?s former beauty director Mikki Taylor; and songwriter-entertainment business executive Angela Beyince just to name a few.?????
Here, we caught up with Bond for her take on the big event.
TNJ.com: This is the very first Black Girls Lead conference. What prompted you to launch it?
Beverly Bond: I founded the BLACK GIRLS LEAD conference to create a space for emerging leaders to convene, to acquire information and to garner skills that will help them on their journey as leaders and innovators. I also wanted to give dynamic Black girls from diverse communities and cultures around the world an opportunity to meet like-minded peers forming an international mastermind alliance of young Black women who lead.
TNJ.com: There were wonderful leaders on the panels talking about very important topics. Was it a challenge to get everybody together and how did you decide on the panel topics?
B.B.: I am humbled that a cohort of prominent leaders from diverse sectors lent their time, knowledge, and expertise to support the inaugural BLACK GIRLS LEAD conference. As a mentor and as a Black woman entrepreneur who found success in non-traditional careers, I am constantly thinking about the character, education, soft skills, critical literacy and positive reinforcements that Black women and girls need in order to tap into their greatness. I curated a series of topics that I thought would support the development of thought leaders and trailblazers including workshops, master classes, lectures and empowerment panels on media, critical cultural literacy, business, entrepreneurship, social action, technology, financial literacy, self-care, positive identity development and more. The conference was designed to educate, affirm, support and empower girls who desire to become leaders of our future. Ultimately, BLACK GIRLS LEAD is a call-to-action for the mentor and mentee. It?s a charge for leaders in various sectors to reach back and pull forward. It?s also a charge for young Black girls to see themselves as capable leaders, innovators and change-makers.
TNJ.com: Looking back on the event, are you happy with how it turned out?
B.B.: I am thrilled with the overall outcome of the inaugural BLACK GIRLS LEAD conference. We had dynamic and driven program participants from Ghana, South Africa, Canada, the United Kingdom, and cities all over the United States! The sixty-five girls who attended the conference expressed sincere gratitude for the knowledge they were privy to, but more important they processed the information and developed strategies for incorporating it into their own business, leadership, and community organizing ventures at home. The girls also expressed that they gained a clearer and more diversified notion of what it means to be a successful, powerful, and accountable leader.
TNJ.com: What do you hope the girls got out of it? ?
B.B.: The purpose of the conference is to mobilize and teach girls to lead, innovate, and serve boldly. The conference participants completed a rigorous application process in order to be selected to attend, yet many were still timid about their ?leadership? capacity. I believe their modesty is a result of gender and race-based socialization. There are countless media and music messages that teach Black girls that their voices don?t matter or that they are not valued. It is my hope that the girls who attended this conference have internalized the lessons taught by dynamos and ceiling breakers like First Lady Chirlane McCray, Dr. Helene D. Gayle, Mikki Taylor and many others. I hope that they will begin to acknowledge their capacity to lead with utmost courage and fortitude. I hope that they will inspire girls at home to explore leadership opportunities or to traverse career paths where women are anomalies. That?s the ultimate vision for BLACK GIRLS LEAD!
TNJ.com: What?s next for Black Girls Rock!?
B.B.: BLACK GIRLS ROCK! will continue to expand our platform, programs and initiatives in order to positively impact women and girls across the Black Diaspora.
CLICK HERE to read our one-on-one 2013 interview with Beverly Bond.