SPEAK: There is Undeniable Power in Our Personal Truths

I continue to reach for my dreams.

From the social extreme of a young South African girl losing her mother to HIV & AIDS and being orphaned at the tender age of nine, to speaking across the United States at conferences, panels, fundraising events and being listed among motivational speakers such as Gloria Mayfield Banks, Schroeder Stribling, and the media mogul powerhouse Oprah Winfrey herself – I continue to reach for my dreams.

In May of last year, I was fortunate to co-keynote with 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Peace Activist, Leymah Gbowee at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was so inspired by her work that I chose to use her book, Mighty Be Our Powers, as a part of my senior investigate paper. The more I learned about Ms. Gbowee, the more I gained strength in her courage, compassion, and contributions during the Liberian civil war. I learned that our inaction, even during times of turmoil, is not an option. Her bravery further instilled a fierce inspiration in me to continue this journey of education and sharing my story.

While I was browsing around at Cape Town’s International Airport’s Exclusive Books Store, waiting to catch a red-eye (a.k.a late-night flight) back to Washington, D.C., I came across another book that recognized and acknowledged Ms. Gbowee’s tenacity and resolve. The book, Lean In by Sheryl Sanberg, peaked my interest and as I browsed through it, right there on page #7 I was transformed ( I will never forget this moment as my eyes set focus on the last paragraph):

 “The night before Leymah Gbowee won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for helping lead the women’s protest that toppled Liberia’s dictator, she was at a book party in my home. We were celebrating the publication of her autobiography, Mighty Be Our Powers, but it was a somber night. A guest asked her how American women could help those who experienced the horrors and mass rapes of war in places like Liberia. Her response was four simple words: ‘More women in power.’ Leymah and I could not have come from more different backgrounds, and yet we have both arrived at the same conclusion. Conditions for all women will improve when there are more women in leadership roles giving strong and powerful voice to their needs and concerns.”

I thought to myself “I must to be that voice.” This was around August and by the end of November 2015, I was giving a keynote for World Aids Day at The Give a Day campaign, under the commission of Dignitas International & Stephen Lewis Foundation in Toronto, Canada. For, me, this was a manifestation of the power of intention because I, at the beginning of the year, had set the intention to work hard and expand my speaking horizons internationally. I had set my mind on not only breaking new ground but to also be a stronger and bolder voice for young women across the globe. A few days later, I found myself in Boston where I stood before Dana Hall College as the youngest Wannamaker Speaker. This is annual series that had brought many distinguished speakers to Dana Hall but never one as young as I.

I pinch myself at times, usually when I’m in an airplane gazing out at God’s splendor; high at the earth’s zenith where I feel the most empowered – I wonder if my mother can see what an amazing grace our story has turned out to be? My only hope is that her spirit is as proud of mine, as mine is of hers. I feel tremendously fortunate to have earned such extraordinary opportunities, however, I must pay it all forward to many other young people who may have lost hope. I came from having nothing and education transformed my life; I would like the same for many others as the words of the late, and deeply beloved Dr. (Auntie) Maya Angelou sincerely acknowledged: “I come as one, I stand as 10,000.”

Join the movement, step forward and speak out; I dare you to #ShareYourStory – Inspire Courage; and see what God will do.

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