When Dr. Hazel W. Mahone and Constance F. Gipson decided to write a book, they wanted to author a book that could be used as an empowerment tool for young women aged 12-22 to foster their personal, social, academic and professional development while encouraging them to take full advantage of their educational opportunities. The result was Legacies: A Guide for Young Black Women in Planning Their Futures. Legacies is an interactive book that includes essays from 40 successful contemporary African American women, profiles of the distinguished achievements of African Queens, along with poems from critically acclaimed poets such as Sonia Sanchez and Maya Angelou. It is all in an effort to inspire young women and provide an example of successful women that came before them–from African Queens to accomplished contemporary businesswomen.
The inactive feature comes through exercises and activities cover such issues as decision-making and self sufficiency; skin color and so-called “acting white”; early teen pregnancy prevention; wise health practices; workplace and domestic abuse; STEM occupations and sexual harassment.
Gipson served as the Gender Equity Consultant for the California Department of Education for more than 20 years. She co-authored Visions for African American males and wrote the Visions Activity Guide. She is also the author of The Black Man’s Guide to Parenting and A Different Kind of Hero, a three-volume collection of biographies of over 400 people.
Mahone is a full-time professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University Sacramento. She is also President/CEO of Vision 2000 Educational Foundation and directs the College Prep Math & Reading Academy that she founded 15 years ago.
TNJ.com interviewed Dr. Hazel W. Mahone and Constance F. Gipson about Legacies and their goals with the book.
TNJ.com: Why does the age group of 12 to 22 need to start planning their futures?
Dr. Hazel W. Mahone: Many of our girls and young women in this age range don’t know what they don’t know and in too many instances, there appears to be no role models or anyone in their lives with whom they can relate or trust. The need exists to share their thoughts, feelings challenges and desires. Because of poor choices, fractured home lives and a lack of self esteem some of them have already been robbed of their youth. Whether young people emanate from middle school, community college or homeless on the streets there has been no escape for far too many that suffer from self-hate and anger, teen pregnancy, betrayal by family members or the opposite sex. Addictive or other self-deprecating behaviors are also prevalent that lead to broken, vulnerable and toxic relationships. This book is designed to help them determine what they can do to up their odds. This age group needs to know, at a deep level, just how valuable they are and how much African American females have to offer. Time is of the essence, but with good decision-making they will be positioned to utilize sound information, link in to people who can be trusted and prepare to step into critical leadership roles with poise, confidence and with their heads held high.
Constance F. Gipson: Success in school is by far the greatest opportunity provider for the age group 12-22. Taking the requisite courses prepares young women to enter college with a strong foundation for their chosen occupation. Many careers in STEM occupations, for example, require a greater number of classes in science, technology, engineering and math beyond meeting basic graduation requirements. Not having the prerequisite courses to advance in school requires young women to play catch up when entering college, or perhaps worse, discourages them to pursue their true passion and interest.
Many young women advance through their junior high and high school years never contemplating their strengths, interests or even take time to consider a plan for their future. Legacies provide thought-provoking activities and worksheets for young women so they can begin to think about their career path. Planning early is critical. Young black women should be encouraged to give constructive thought to what they would like to do as a career as early as possible. Undoubtedly, choices and direction may change, however, it’s important that young women identify a career path and maintain focus on the goals which they are working toward. Studies research and statistics have proven that successful women are women who began preparing for their future, early in life.
TNJ.com: What are some of the most common threads running through the careers of the women included in the book?
Constance F. Gipson: Legacies bring the background, experience and personal triumphs of nearly 40 successful contemporary black women to its readers. These women are successful police officers, astronauts, ambassadors,construction managers, engineers, university professors, scientists, and television personalities. The common thread among the contemporary women featured in Legacies is the significant influence their role models, mentors and teachers had on them. Another common thread throughout the mentor essays is the mention of the tremendous parental support they received which helped shaped their future.
Dr. Hazel W. Mahone: The mentors in this book continually exhibited perseverance, resiliency and tenacity regardless of the challenges and roadblocks they encountered, both during their academic preparation and throughout their prestigious careers. Both the mentors’ subtle and overt messages to our young readers is to display confidence as they establish goals, to move forward with vigor and strength as they carry out their life’s work and to never give up on their goals and dreams. Attention to academic achievement, the work ethic and integrity is interspersed throughout the book and paramount throughout the lives of these accomplished women.
TNJ.com: Why is it important in general for women to take charge of their financial futures?
Dr. Hazel W. Mahone: Gone are the days when young women run off to college to find a man to take care of them. Independent women are financially secure and know how to establish and manage budgets and know how to survive during both the good and lean times. They are the bread winners and are not looking to marriage for a mate to complete them financially. Whether married, single, ill or the victim of being laid off or fired, smart women are money wise and will not easily fall victim to unfortunate circumstances. Because of her ingenuity and the processing of reliable data, she will always be the child “who has her own”.
Constance F. Gipson: It is important young women not abdicate their finances to others. It is essential for young black women not to fear learning about their finances, financial markets and the various potential options available to invest their money.It is equally important young women learn to save money. Regardless of the amount of money earned or received, a portion should be set aside towards savings. Just as young women should have career and academic goals, they too should have financial goals and establish a savings plan to reach those goals. An early start on that part of her education can prevent many financial problems in their young adulthood and beyond.
Legacies provides exercises that walk readers through how to write down all expected income,expenses and savings and see how money has to be portioned out in a budget. This introduction to budgeting helps young women grasp the basics of managing money which is necessary so they do not live beyond their means. Learning to budget lasts a lifetime no matter how complex the income, expenditures and investments become.
TNJ.com: What are three top tips you could provide to a woman on how to start the process?
Constance F. Gipson: First, it is important to identify income and expenses through the budgeting process.
Second, young women should be encouraged to read and research. This is critical. Each time she is faced with making a purchase such as a gift for a friend, entertainment or items for her personal use, young women can begin the process of comparing prices and making wise purchase decisions. Clipping coupons can be fun and saves the family money on ordinary household items. Researching products on items the family plans to purchase, like a vacuums, hair dryer or a flat screen television is good training for young women to begin thinking about dollar value.
Third, it is essential that young black women consider attending an institute of higher education. Universities and community colleges offer both an introduction and advance educational opportunities to gain a strong financial acumen.
Dr. Hazel W. Mahone: Set financial short and long-term goals, review progress on a quarterly basis and Pay Yourself First. Learn some hard and fast rules – NO DEBT IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL!! Don’t spend what you don’t have. Spend wisely and if possible, never use a credit card and make monthly payments for what has been expended. If you can’t pay it off completely in 30 days, perhaps you can’t afford it and shouldn’t use it. Position yourself to pay cash for your cars, your homes and all luxury items. If credit cards with balances are a part of your financial plan, you should understand how interest rates are calculated on accounts, the length of time it will take to pay off these balances and the user’s projected age at time of pay-off.
TNJ.com: What are three most common mistakes women make financially?
Dr. Hazel W. Mahone: a) Not understanding the relationship between poor financial planning and stress, self-esteem issues, depression, ruined relationships, desperation, health issues, job-related problems and a cycle of poverty that is difficult to overcome; b) Not understanding the value of delayed gratification, credit scores and establishing financial goals as a means toward self-sufficiency and a life well lived; c) Lack of knowledge about the importance of planning early for a secure retirement, scams and get-rich schemes versus credible investment opportunities, how money management affects income, out-go and rainy day funds, and the correlation between education and income.
Constance F. Gipson: Leaving others to make financial decisions is a common mistake young women make financially. It is important to teach young women that it often takes months or even years to correct being financially over-extended. A missed payment often negatively affect her credit rating and decreases her ability to buy a car, house or even get that much coveted job.
It is also important that young women not rely on the notion that budgeting and making plans financially can be postponed until after college, after landing her dream job or when she gets married. Every young woman must take responsibility and control for their financial future in her teens and beyond.
Another common mistake young women make is failing to budget. It is critical to know how much money comes in and devise a plan as to when and how those funds go out. Without a solid plan it becomes easy to over spend or purchase items she wants without considering if there will be money for what she needs.
Last, young black women must understand living beyond her means is a recipe for stress, anxiety and often failure. Legacies provides worksheets that discuss the negative consequences of instant gratification. It is important young women understand the importance to sacrifice and fund for retirement early, pay for college with scholarships first, then financial aid, spend in accordance to a well thought-out budget and save for a rainy day.