“Black Women Speak” Event to Empower the Community

Screenshot of panelists and Women’s Center staff during Black Women Speak seminar. Yansall Rasquides / PantherNOW.

Yansall Rasquides / Staff Writer 

Black women are often left out of conversations affecting politics, business and social justice industries. The FIU Women’s Center welcomed these voices in a recent panel discussion.

The first annual Black Women Speak webinar, held on July 28, gave four Black women five minutes to share their triumphs and challenges as Black women.

Sonya Anderson, who works as the office coordinator for the office of Social Justice and Inclusion, co-hosted the webinar alongside Marquise Steward, graduate assistant for the Women’s Center. 

“If Black women were given the microphone to speak to the world, what would they say?” asked Anderson as she opened the discussion.

Black women earn 37% less than white men due to occupational segregation, according to Lean In, an activist organization for women’s equality.

The event provided space for panelists to have their voices heard, including FIU alum Kassandra Timothe, who is the councilwoman of North Miami District 2.

Headshot of Councilwoman Timothee. Photo Courtesy of FIU Women’s Center Social Media.

She is the first Black woman, the first woman of Haitian descent and the youngest person elected to serve in this position.

Timothe acknowledged Vice President Kamala Harris’ powerful quote “I’m Speaking,” which she said during the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate. She voiced the importance of allowing yourself to speak freely and clearly. 

“It’s time for us as Black queens to rule like the queens that we are,” said Timothe. “It’s time to walk and take your seat, and sometimes take the whole table and forget the seat because we have the power and we have the ability to do great things. It’s in our DNA.”

Timothe shared a photo of Ruby Bridges, the first Black child to desegregate an all-white school in 1960.

Timothe discussing the history of Ruby Bridges during Black Women Speak seminar. Yansall Rasquides / PantherNOW.

“This picture resonated with me throughout my entire campaign because it reminded me, don’t be afraid to walk alone,” said Timothe. “Your only competition is yourself. Take time for your mental health, moisturize daily and be the best version of you because you are beautiful, kind and you are very important.” 

Another panelist, Lajoy Ervin, served in the U.S. Air Force. Ervin mentioned the struggles she faced while serving.

“The first time I experienced any type of stereotypes was when I was in the military,” said Ervin. “People were judging me before I even got there but I didn’t let it stop me. I came in there and did what I had to do.”

Screenshot of Lajoy Ervin’s presentation. Yansall Rasquides / PantherNOW.

Ervin also discussed what inspired her to move to Miami alone from her hometown Waynesboro, Georgia. 

“I would say to any woman if you want to see the world, even if you are a Black woman and you travel alone, do what you have to do,” said Ervin. “Don’t let anyone stop you from being who you want to be.”

Chloe Little, an artist and a senior majoring in international relations, mentioned Maya Angelou’s poem “Our Grandmothers.”  

“[The poem] is such a powerful trajectory of a Black female experience and it ends in this notion of with all else being mentioned, don’t you dare think that I’m going to be rattled or move the sense of perseverance,” said Little. 

Little concluded her five minutes by explaining what motivated her to participate in this event.

“I’m thinking about igniting other young Black brilliant girls out there, and in doing so I know that brings up so many other people who may not feel that light and power yet,” said Little. “I’m so happy to be here.”

Brianna Watts, an FIU alum and founder of Brianna Watts Consulting and Services, echoed a similar passion.

Watts explained her goal in empowering others to take the same risks she did such as investing all of her savings into her business. 

“I learned to bet on myself, because otherwise I would not experience life how I experienced it now,” said Watts. “I would not have been able to explore and see the world as I see it now.”

She shared a message of hope to the FIU community.

“I just want to encourage people to believe in yourself, believe that the world is yours and believe that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to,” said Watts. “There is so much to accomplish in this world and you just have to discover it by betting on yourself.”

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