When Emily Mills – founder and CEO of #HowSheHustles, contacted me early on this year and asked if I would assist her with a project she was organizing…ummm, I didn’t really need to think twice about it. All I asked was, “when and where?”
When I received her email, Ms. Mills shared with me that she wanted to arrange a photoshoot to celebrate 150 trailblazing black women from Toronto and GTA, who have broken down walls by excelling in their careers, and entering fields that were not “traditionally” held by women – much less women of colour. She wanted to honour these women who are creating new narratives. The event would be called #herstory – a celebration of black women who are making history.
My role was to meet and have short interviews with some of the ladies. Seriously, I had to pinch myself – y’all know that’s what I love to do! So after we spoke, I literally started counting down the seconds to the monumental day.
#HERstoryinblack – JANUARY 2017
On a crisp, chilly, Sunday morning, I walked into the District 28 studio in downtown Toronto, and I honestly had no idea what would take place over the next 8 hours. I just knew that it would be epic.
Throughout the day, elegantly dressed women sashayed in and out of the space. I watched as they came in looking fabulous, posed for pictures, and mingled with the other attendees. It was the definition of #blackgirlmagic.
I silently freaked out as I chit chatted with women that I’ve only heard of, reconnected with women I have previously interviewed, and sat with women I was fortunate enough to learn more about.
Everyone had a smile on their face and reflected on what the day meant.
The #HERstory INTERVIEWS
I wanted to share with you a snippet of some of the interviews and my fave quotes from the experience.
Angella Mignon Smith, Mechanical Engineer, Nuclear Industry
After contemplating leaving the Engineering field due to feeling isolated and constantly having to prove herself (being the only woman of colour in her workplace made it uncomfortable at times), Angella changed her mind and decided to stay in the field that she loved and worked hard for.
I asked Angella why it was important for her to be a part of #HERstory
“One of the reasons why I wanted to come out and do this would be that it would put me in touch with people who are in the community, and maybe in some way we could encourage women to go into fields that they may not have thought about.”
Dr. Nekessa Remy, Chiropractor
My fave thing about talking with Dr. Remy was that she is spunky, high energy chiropractor who loves her job. She realizes that when clients come to visit her, they aren’t expecting to see a black female, so she immediately tells them more about herself and what she can do to address their health issues.
Dr. Remy answered why she feels there are not a lot of black people in the chiropractic field.
“Growing up, I never went to a chiropractor. I think for a lot of families of colour that’s not their thought. We’re raised that if you’re in pain, you go to your doctor. You don’t search for alternative medicine.”
Tanya Hayles, Founder of Black Moms Connection & Hayles Creative Elements
Tanya is a successful Event Planner and the founder of The Black Moms Connection – an online environment for Black mothers, where they can share ideas, encourage each other and connect. She revealed that she started the group by casually asking friends if they were interested in being a part of a Facebook group.
I asked Tanya why she felt that there was a need for Black Moms Connection.
Having a safe space is the most important aspect of what I do for BMC (Black Moms Connection). It’s a place where people can go to vent, share, cry….whatever they need to do, so that the image of the “strong black women” could be put down for a brief moment, with people who know, understand and get it.
Though Phoenix is young, she is extremely wise and focused. She knew from a young age where her passions lay, and pursued them fearlessly. She proudly brings awareness of domestic abuse and other injustices through her music.
I asked Phoenix what she would like to tell future trailblazers.
“Find your passion and put it in front of everything because there will be roadblocks. There will be people telling you that you can’t. There will be people using your gender against you. There will be people trying to make you feel inferior. But you need to find that passion because every morning when you wake up and say you don’t want to do it, you have to find a reason to still get out of bed and actually do it.”
At the end of the day, I couldn’t help but feel GRATEFUL, BLESSED, and FORTUNATE. Thank you so much to Emily for giving me such an awesome memory.
Pssst – as you saw in the title, this is the first entry in a series of posts. In the next post, I will document what it was like for ME to be one of the 150 women featured!
* To read more about this historic event, please visit: cbc.ca/herstoryinblack