Saturday May 21st I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn, cleaned up, put together a cute makeup look, and headed to NYC for Blavity.com’ s first EmpowerHer Conference. Let me tell you. It was well worth the ticket price (even though I stumbled upon a coupon code) and the early morning drive into the city. The conference recharged my battery and got me excited about just about everything again. Due to my memory not being what it used to, I took notes, lots and lots of notes, but they are mostly the quotes that stood out to me the most from the different speakers. Here is a rundown of the day’s events and some of the most memorable parts for me.
First off was the introduction and welcome by Danielle Leslie @DanielleLeslie and Blavity’s founder Morgan DeBaun @MorganDebaun or as she was so lovingly referred to, #MorganIsBae. I never expect founder’s of anything to be so damn young when I see them, so she was a refreshing surprise. Something that stuck out that Morgan said was, “When’s the last time you went to a conference and all the keynotes and panelist were Black women?” That received an enthusiastic round of applause because we all know what the makeup of conferences usually are, and they aren’t us. Oh yeah, we also found out what Blavity means. It refers to that moment when Black people are drawn together. Black + gravity= Blavity. You know you’ve seen it. At the lunch tables of predominately white schools, in the office, at parties with a mix of various races and ethnicities. We gravitate towards each other no matter what.
Next up was the keynote from one of my favorite Internet/ social media personalities, Luvvie @Luvvie. A fangirled just a little. Especially, since I didn’t realize just how sweet she is in person. Anywho, back to her keynote. The topic was “Building Your Brand.” I wish everyone put together PowerPoints like Luvvie. She had a cornucopia of GIFs that tickled me ever so. (However, she does pronounce GIF like the peanut butter, which reminded me that all our faves are problematic.) Two things she said that stood out to me was, “Be authentic, be accessible, be consistent.” Now while I am totally the first two, I have to work on my consistency (as seen in the infrequency of my posts.) The second thing she said was, “Honor all of your sides.” This is just what I’m trying to do with this blog.
Up next was the panel “Putting myself first: Learning self-care from the inside out.” This was one of my favorite discussions of the day. The panel included Gabi Fresh @gabifresh, Francheska @heyfranhey, Lauren Ash @blackgirlinom, Ofunne @cocoaswatches, and as lead by the first Black editor in chief of Teen Vogue Elaine Welteroth @elainewelteroth. Swoon. So much #BlackGirlMagic onstage at one time. This panel gave me the most quotables of the day:
- “Finding other women like me, changed my life.”- Gabi Fresh
- “Learn to say no.”- Gabi Fresh
- “Turn your phone off”- Francheska
- “My depression is greatly tied to the Internet.”- Francheska (I related to this one so much)
- “I never hesitate to treat myself.”- Ofunne
- “Unpack those loads myself.”- Francheska on why she doesn’t vent to others often. She knows that everyone is going through their own struggles and doesn’t want to add to them, and it’s important to know how to take care of yourself at times.
- “Determine what your boundaries are.”- Lauren
- “You’re a vessel and exactly where you’re supposed to be on this trajectory.”- Elaine
- “I can only continue working on myself and making what I do better.”- Ofunne
- “Using imposter syndrome to ask how you can be better.” – Gabi
- “I’m very honest with myself about what I can and cannot do”- Francheska (Listen. Fran was speaking my heart on this day)
- “Go with your rhythm.”- Francheska (I need to work on this in terms of how often and when I put out new content)
- “Operate below my means.” – Elaine (My bank account slow clapped on this)
This panel made me so happy because it focused so much on mental health. The panelists were so open about their own struggles with depression and anxiety. They were also so down to earth about self-care. It wasn’t all scented oils and massages. It included basic things like just turning off your phone, eating a healthier diet, soaking in a bath, meditating, and other simple things that don’t cost much or take a great deal of time. They gave some really good suggestions on apps to help with meditation, Headspace and Stop, Breathe, & Think. I personally prefer Stop, Breathe, Think over Headspace because you can get a more customized guided meditation. I think no matter who was listening or what their lifestyle was, they took away some really good advice from this panel. We broke for lunch after this and I linked up with a couple of friends that arrived after I did. You’ll notice how my pictures after this point were a little further away, because I decided to join them so we could chit and chat.
After lunch they had a fireside chat with Netta @nettaaaaaaaa and Morgan DeBaun @morgandebaun. Unfortunately, after moving further towards the back to sit with my friends I couldn’t really hear much of what was said during this talk. What I was able to take away was Netta saying “You have everything you need already.” This was in reference to a loss of a job, but realizing that it was the best thing that could have happened for her. Also, “Have all your receipts.” No matter what it is your passionate about, know it inside and out and have the proof to back it up. It may not stop those that want to come for you, but you and everyone with sense will know who is in the right. If you follow Netta on Twitter you know she always comes with facts. Something Morgan said that spoke to me in regards to building your brand and business, “Saying what you’re not going to do is very important.” Just as important as knowing what you want to do, knowing what you won’t do will help guide you.
The panel that I was super excited about was “Travel Hack: How to push your boundaries through exploration.” This was so important for me to go to because I’ve always wanted to travel, especially internationally, but circumstance never allowed for it until just recently. This panel consisted of Evita Robinson @nomadnesstribe, Lauren Miller @cantstayput_, Tracey Coleman @bktraveladdict, and Brittany Jones Cooper, @bjonescooper Editor for Yahoo Travel. After this panel I’m so excited and better prepared to start planning my own travels. Here are some great quotable’s from this breakout session.
- “Once travel enters your world, it’s never quite the same.”- Brittany
- “There’s a difference between traveling and vacationing.”- Lauren (This stood out to me because traveling is seen as more of a luxurious time as opposed to a tool for personal growth)
- “American’s forfeit $50 Billion in PTO every year.” – Brittany (This was a part of the conversation that focused on how American’s prioritize and romanticize working ourselves to the bone. We view taking our EARNED vacation time as a display of laziness and lack of dedication)
- “You don’t have to leave the US to travel.”- Brittany
- “I feel like a warrior when I’m backpacking and out on the road by myself.” Evita on solo travel
- “Everyone should take a solo trip, at least once”- Lauren
- “Apply for the STEP program through the US embassy” (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) “Always have travel insurance” – Evita
- “The more you do it, the less of a thing it is.” – Tracey
The panel also discussed using travel as a Black woman as a teachable moment for natives of other countries. In many places it’s a pretty big deal to see a Black person and the stares, pictures, and questions aren’t coming from a malicious place but of genuine curiosity. I think this is something we don’t think of living in the US, because of the racist history of this country. This was probably the panel I took the most away from and was most excited about before, during, and after it took place. The best part was that they acknowledged the financial barriers related to travel and gave real solutions. Not just “stop buying coffee every day and save the money” *insert eye roll.* I’ll list all of the great resources the suggested below:
- Hopper (app)
- Skiplagged.com (website and app)
- HotelTonight.com (app)
- Join travel groups online where members share travel deals and site glitches
- @TheFlightDeal on Twitter/ theflightdeal.com
- Airbnb.com over Hotels
- Bidding on Priceline.com
- Find a friend that understands the ITA matrix
Next up was the “Finding Your Tribe” workshop. The purpose of this workshop was to connect with other women with similar passions and goals. So if you were a blogger, in marketing, in tech, into fashion, etc… there was a tribe for you. In all honesty, I had my premade tribe there and we were pretty tired at this point in the day so we were the tribe for the tired. To pass the time we played some icebreakers and talked about different projects we were working on and what we could use to make them better. I didn’t expect it because I was with people I already knew, but this turned into a really great networking opportunity. So I networked for myself and some friends who weren’t able to make it.
The final panel was “Change The Game: How to use the internet to empower change. The panel included Sierra Jackson @changeorgs, April Reign @ReignOfApril, and Feminista Jones @FeministaJones. Putting this one at the end was a good idea, because it was heavy. I don’t think that the general public really understands what goes on day to day for activists who are prominently in the public eye. The emotional and physical toll that it takes. From receiving death threats, to being harassed daily because of lazy and irresponsible journalism, to having your intentions questioned by the very people you are trying to liberate, and an array of other soul-crushing realities. It is even more draining as a Black woman activists because you are now expected to be a work mule for everyone. As April discussed the backlash from other minority groups over the #OscarsSoWhite trending topic. She has said time and time again, this was an inclusive movement. Never did she say #OscarsNotBlack enough, and she expounded in numerous interviews that the hashtag was meant for all marginalized groups. But, other people of color continued to berate her and say “why aren’t you fighting for us.” They had a great springboard to fight for themselves, but instead opted to try and scold a Black woman for not doing their work.
The panel also touched on the co-opting of everything we create, how to protect ourselves, the political process, and what we need to do to actually create political change. It is not a top-down solution. You can’t expect to only vote in the presidential election and expect meaningful change. We need to be active in our local and state level political sphere. Feminista mentioned a political action committee that she works with called HigherHeights. It is a PAC focusing on getting Black women engaged in the political field and elected into office. Feminista brought the house down with her no holds barred truth telling. Just peep the #EmpowerHer16 for the reactions. The quotable’s from this are:
- “Give from your overflow, not from your well.” – Sierra
- “Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do and stop waiting for people to cosign you.” – Feminista
- “All my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk”- Feminista
There was also an expo with different vendors. I picked up a really interesting subscription box from CurlMix . It’s a kit that includes all the ingredients to make natural skin and haircare products. I got the Whipped Mango & Black Currant Hair and Body Butter. It smelled heavenly in the display and I can’t wait to whip it up and write a review for you all.
The #EmpowerHer16 conference was a beautiful and positive experience. The way it came together flies in the face of all those that say Black women don’t uplift and support each other. It was affirming and further proof that Black women are game changers and multifaceted. I honestly can’t wait for the next one and hope to be able to bring some friends along. I plan on keeping the positivity going and continuing to uplift my sisters.