I grew up experiencing many, many situations where I was the only woman. Where I was the only person of color. Where I was the only one that came from a working class background.
The only one.
Do you have any idea how awful it is to know that when you speak some folks think you are speaking for an entire community or race of people? I was never allowed to make a mistake. I was being judged by different standards.
It was exhausting…but speak I did.
Walking in the room was not enough. I also sat my ass down at that table and got comfortable. I did not sit at any table, I sat at the big table. The table where all the decision makers were. I sat down like I belonged, because I did.
I had vison, but I needed an influential voice so I could help get stuff done. – So some other brown girl could come in after me. – So some first generation college grad would understand they had a right to sit there beside me.
I needed my voice, the voice of a black woman, to be heard and respected. I needed the faces of the lower-middle working class to be seen and acknowledged. I needed my face, voice, and history to be made known.
For that to happen, I had to have a seat – and not just any seat. I needed THE seat. Where you sit once you walk into a room can matter just as much as how much prep you’ve done. I needed to keep the right seat warm and at the ready for the next leader with voice and vision. I was never “grateful” to be at the table. I deserved to be at the table. They wanted me at the table. They needed me at the table.
I knew my worth before I entered the room. I was not there for myself. I actually couldn’t care less what they thought of me. I did not need nor desire accolades. I was there for my mom. My grandma. My daughters. My granddaughters.
Women and leaders of color don’t have as many role models and mentors as other folks. They don’t have as many people to help enable them to see what is possible from their unique perspective – through their eyes, their gender, their race, and their experiences. Women and leaders of color who have “made it” need to be committed to paying it forward.
The way I see it, I have one job. My job is to use my seat – THE seat – in the most effective and strategic way possible so as to benefit all those who will follow.