This week (June 10th 2014) in the distinguished Pearson building were some equally distinguished guests gathering for the annual I’mPossible Conversation the only event to solely focus on the life stories of women of colour globally as established by Simone Bresi Andoh and supported by Mizani.
These women were sat before us as consummate professionals, strong black women who are present and able and smashing glass ceilings through their hard work and determination
Journalist and curator Hannah Pool (a regular on panel discussions and this event's chairperson) acknowledged her gratitude that for once she was not the only black woman on the panel and by contrast was flanked by 5 accomplished and inspiring others, namely: Tameka Empson - perhaps best known for her role as Kimberly Fox on EastEnders but also a writer, voiceover artist and her new most important role as a mum to a 12 week old baby girl; Melanie Eusebe - a management consultant formally of Ernst and Young, lecturer, mentor and co-founder of the Black British Business Awards; Ijeoma Hunter - a proud mother and lead on marketing and business development for Africa at Denton’s; Charlotte Mensah - owner of Hair Lounge and the London and Afro Hairdresser or the Year 2013; and last but by no means least, Arieta Mujay - fashion creative with credits including the Rihanna Collection at River Island who is now going at it alone, promoting all things African culture and style.
These women were sat before us as consummate professionals, strong black women who are present and able and smashing glass ceilings through their hard work and determination. However early on we were reminded through our conversations on health, support networks and self-sabotage that even the most adept are ultimately just human and like the rest of us can be vulnerable. For me vulnerability seemed to be a cornerstone to the conversation - as stories highlighting difficulties and how they were overcome were shared. We rejoice successful women of colour but often only get to see the end result of these inspirational figures and peers, we don’t frequently hear about the stumbling blocks perhaps due to pride of fear of being judged. However in not gaining access to the truth, we fail to recognise the commonality of our difficulties, so it was a real privilege to gain such insight and take comfort in shared experiences.
Mujay was adamant that the real change-makers in the world are women
There were so many pearls of wisdom and the conversations were honest. I’m sure we’ve all had moments where we observe the success of another online and compare our own journey which ends with feeling a sense of inadequacy, so simply hearing the statement “Don’t let social media get you down” reminded us that appearances can be deceiving, staying in your own lane is essential because digital snippets never really paint the true picture. Remember to put your oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else because as per the aeroplane theory, if we can’t breathe how are we actually going to be of any use to anyone, including ourselves. Out of our darkest moments we find our most strength and as the statement suggests – when you hit rock bottom and think you can’t get up, the fact that you do, demonstrates just how strong you are. To remember the importance of your team be it family, friends, colleagues or counsellors, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. There were very practical gems too – Eusebe was able to identify a potential 40 contacts for an attendee struggling to find a suitable mentor simply through her brilliance at lateral thinking; while Hunter described the opportunities in emerging markets and how if that’s where your area of interest lies you can make it happen very simply.
The I’mPossible Conversation presents an opportunity to recognise that as women of colour, we are many, yes we have struggles but look at what we can achieve with tenacity, belief and the right team be it personal or professional and it doesn’t stop there. On the first Tuesday of each month #TalkingTuesdays (a live monthly Google Hangout debate with a rotating, well-informed, opinionated panel) takes place of which I had the pleasure of being a guest panellist on this time around; we talked about surgery, Bieber, body criticism and Dr Angelou – nothing is off limits. Other events include I’mPossible Youth which comprises of workshops and talks for local schoolgirls to help them to visualise, empower and protect their POSSIBLE. And earlier this year the Conversation was extended to NYC for its first international edition.
Mujay was adamant that the real change-makers in the world are women and at every juncture Simone and her team are providing the platform which reminds us of that and that as women of colour we really are Possible.
Find out more here http://www.i-am-possible.com/