I am the CEO of a global Public Affairs firm, DPBell & Associates, with associates in NYC, NJ, Tel-Aviv, CA, DC, and throughout the Continent of Africa.
I am driven by purpose, not position. I have often been the youngest, brownest, and only female at a decision-making table in politics, government, and entertainment for over 25 years. And trust me when I tell you, it has not been easy. But, it hasn’t stopped my desire, or my drive to be in politics and government, to make an impact by purpose and not position. That means I operate to make an impact in the world and my community and I’m driven by that every day.
We carry the torch.
Black women continue to build, change and influence the world in massive ways that are either outright ignored, minimized, or stolen intellectually. Black women are often imitated, disregarded, underestimated, tone policed, silenced, controlled, over-monitored, underpaid, unsponsored, misrepresented, unprotected, not believed, then conveniently labeled angry and difficult. When you look around and do not see us, it is not because we do not exist. We are simply not invited, but anyone in that room can change that if they really want to. If we are not in your leadership teams, be uncomfortable and ask questions. Shirly Chisolm said, “When they don’t give you a seat t the table bring a folding chair.”
But WE are the torch bearers, the trendsetters, the fixers, the bosses, and we carry the torch.
Maya Angelou once said this about black women “There is a kind of strength that is almost frightening in black women. It’s as if a steel rod runs right through the head down to the feet”.
When you reach the age of 45, you also reach a certain stage and phase in your life where there’s no pretense, there is no pettiness, just realness, and so I want to talk to you all today in this room. Can I be real with you for a brief moment? OK, so when we talk about carrying the torch, that is also about a responsibility that we have for carrying the power within us, that it’s come before us, and that it will come after us.
Throughout my career in government and politics, there have been some who questioned why I was even at the table. How could I be at a table making decisions and not yet 40 years old, many wondered. There were even some who sought to be impediments to progress because of their own insecurities around my age, my seemingly powerful role, my race, or simply because of my gender. The idea that I had power, influence, and access didn’t sit well with some who wanted nothing more than for me to either ‘wait my turn,’ kiss the ring, or disappear completely because they couldn’t handle my presence and my lack of acquiescing.
But this story isn’t new.
I come from a long line of ancestors who have paved the way for me so that I can be at the table. I wear it with pride and affirmation. My great-grandmother was one of the first Black women on her block to buy her house in cash after cleaning white people’s homes. My mother was chased home from school every day by young racist white boys who told her she didn’t belong. My family taught me never to allow others to chase me away because I had purpose, and that purpose led to impact. So every time I sit at the table and others question why I am there, I say my piece related to the issue at hand, and then I end with, “I drink deeply from wells I did not dig; I have more than earned my spot at this table.”
Black women are often tested in ways that seek to devalue their roles and their existence, and in some cases, even try to silence us; just ask Auntie Maxine. We are often having to “Reclaim Our Time,” which means we wont be silenced or ignored.
WE have a duty as Torchbearers to ensure that our voice, our power and our presence is never ignored. And that we stand firm in who we are and whose we are.
Carrying the torch means not being silent, disrupting the status quo, challenging the system, and sometimes even – just maybe having a few haters.
Carrying the torch should not only be seen as a burden to bear but should allow us to live, breathe, have, and deserve ease….Without fear of retribution
The reality is Carrying The Torch is HARD. It means you are often the first, the only, the one….but it doesn’t have to only be those things.
I want to offer up a new expectation for those who not only carry the torch and are preparing to pass the torch. Black women, YOU deserve respect, ease, and the promise not to be diminished.
Every now and then, pause.
Acknowledge your power, your voice, your spirit, and your worth
Sit in silence and
Enjoy and protect your peace.
There are people who will try to stand in your way, mainly because of their own insecurities, to challenge you. As you carry the torch, they will try to deter you, question you, and they may even try to break you. There are those that will try to test your resolve, but they can’t crush your spirit, and they cannot take your torch – your fire. You are a force to be reckoned with….who deserves and has earned EASE.