Raising a daughter to recognize her purpose and resilience in making an impact in this world
I am a mother, a wife, and an entrepreneur and I have strived to live a life driven by purpose despite my position(s). I haven’t always gotten things right. For example, it took a shake to my core to reveal I had been creating brands for men in politics and their families, before even being fully present for my own. My life has come with many lessons, but the greatest lesson thus far for me has been to let my daughter see me be vulnerable, uncomfortable, fail and get right back up.
I have often been the youngest, brownest, only female at a decision-making table in politics and government for over 20 years. And trust me when I tell you, it has not been easy. Politics is a full contact sport. An industry often susceptible to people driven by ego, grandstanding and protecting their legacy, you can run against considerable roadblocks trying to make a difference and impact. But the obstacles and those who have been tunneled vision opportunist, hasn’t stopped my desire, or my drive to help change the world. Being driven by purpose and not position means that I operate to make an impact in the world and my community and I’m driven by that every day. I don’t chase titles, accolades or roles. I chase impact.
I wake up every day wanting my daughter’s world to be better. I keep a journal of all the things I believe will help my daughter succeed in life, these are the issue areas I work on. Whether it’s fighting for her safety in school or outside; marching to make sure she doesn’t become a police brutality statistic; advocating for investments in clean water and climate change; encouraging investments in healthy food choices; lobbying for her right to choose what she can do with her body or when the time comes making sure that she has the right to love and be with whoever she wants to be with and most importantly that she can live the life promised to her under the constitution of these United States with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. This is why I work.
Throughout my career in government and politics there have been a few who questioned why I was even at the table. The intersectionality of the hierarchies of race and gender speaks to the challenges that Black women face both as women and as black people in politics and society as a whole. Some of the work that I have done and the people I have supported have put me in the crosshairs of injustice, hate and simply political pettiness. I don’t hide any of these experiences from my daughter, I want her to know that when you do try to make impact you may come in contact with those people and systems that may try to stop you- but you cant stop. You have to keep going.
In a world that is driven by a 24-hour news cycle, many of us are nervous about what alerts pop up on our phones. It can feel like the world has become so much more tense and scary. Turning on the television you would think that we all hate each other, no place is safe, and things are at a stalemate in Washington, D.C. But perspective is key when we are trying to explain the world and the state of affairs to our children. My recommendation for parents trying to raise a child in a world that may seem a bit frightening at times is to:
1) Be open and honest. Share your feelings as well and don’t deny that something, an event/tragedy actually occurred. In this day and age kids can find information often in a context that supports their fears and not their hopes, via the internet or hearing about it. It’s better to provide info and hear context and facts from someone they trust.
2) The reality is that there is more good and there are more good people in this world than there are bad people and bad things happening.
3) The question I always ask my daughter after one of these talks is, what can you do to help? How can you make a difference tomorrow? And, the answer could simply be being nice to someone who is different from them, smiling at the new kid in school or listening to their teacher.
In my work, my daughter Kaelyn has met (I have often had to bring her along with me to these meetings) congressional members, city council members, youth activists, Governors, foreign leaders and Presidents. Today, my daughter knows even at her young age she can speak truth to power and help to make impact in her world. She and I constantly have conversations about her desire to ensure that young women know they can be in any room and use their voice. She has already begun to do this on her own at school where she insisted after significant accounts of bullying were documented, that the school bring in and develop an anti-bullying curriculum so that students can feel safe.
I do the work because I want my daughter to know there are no limits to her vision of who she can be. My husband also knows quite frankly, what’s at stake for our daughter’s future and the necessity of seeing representation, believing in her own abilities and having confidence in who she can become.
I want young women of color particularly black women to know they have the power to make change. The trials and tribulations of life and the severe insecurities of others can be a bit overwhelming. But you can’t let the small-mindedness win. No one can take your power, you are a force to be reckoned with.
This is my contribution to the 4th Lose the Cape Book : The Mom’s Guide to Getting Socially & Politically Engaged (&How to Raise Tiny Activists). This piece was originally published in the book.