Voices of Impact Inspiring the leadership of girls of color

In celebration of the 21st Century Urban Boarding Program BHGH Detroit welcomes the voices of community leaders who share their lessons in leadership and inspiration for the next generation of women leaders.

Rochelle Riley

Director of Arts and Culture, City of Detroit Award Winning Journalist

Leadership is learned. If we are not teaching leadership to a new generation of women, we will not have a new generation of leadership. You know who our future leaders are? You. You are the senators and attorneys and governors and teachers and poets and mentors who will be a bridge from where we are to where we need to be. To make sure that leadership represents everyone, it must include everyone -- especially women from different backgrounds, opinions and, most important, races. America's problems in the past have been because it did not embrace all of the people who make up our country. It is so vital for women to lead, for Black women to lead, for us to stand up. It is why I stood up. I knew people that I never met stood up before me. It is why you must stand up in the future. You must be the leaders. We are counting on you. And so are little girls coming behind you."

Michallene Thacker-Mann

Managing Director, Development City Year Detroit

As a woman of color in leadership, I've learned that you must be true to yourself first, give yourself grace second, and, third, always find a way to prepare the way for others.

Brenda Belcher

Retired Assistant Superintendent and Principal, Detroit Public Schools Community District and Consultant

Why is the leadership of women of color so important for our world?

I recall saying to my team “lead where you are” and going on to say that each of us has the power to influence others and make a difference in our own space(s). The need is great for women of color to not only practice leading where they are, which is often the case but to also have the opportunity to serve in significant leadership roles resulting in influencing organization strategies, leading change, and advancing the goals and values of the company.

What lessons have you learned as a woman of color in leadership?

Never underestimate the power of coaching and mentoring, especially with influential people. Talented and wise professionals helped me fulfill my career goals through structured and sometimes unstructured engagements. These lifelong relationships inspired me to also help women of color develop in their roles and thrive in the workplace.

Another important lesson I learned is to listen well and ask good questions. I am still practicing this important lesson. Listening is hard but it is important to focus intently on what is being said at the moment and not think about how you want to respond or are being perceived. I have discovered that active listeners ask better questions that result in productive conversations and advances the work.

Dr. Kimberly Bland

Chief Academic Officer, New Paradigm for Education

The Leadership of women of color is crucial because it is critical for young girls and young women to see women of color as leaders to have hope for the future. Even the bible talks about the hope in the word of God and how it comes from hearing and how can we hear without a preacher. I see women of color leadership the same way. Hope comes from hearing (about leadership of women of color), and how can we hear without a leader (a woman of color).

When girls hear the stories of women of color, how they advanced, and how they had to persevere but still made it, it gives them hope. Women of color are providing hope for the future generation. Once upon a time there were women of color who were slaves, and maids. Now, our story is once upon a time there were women of color who owned their own company, who ran for President of the United States.

I have learned to go after and fight for your dreams when you are young. I have also learned that I can do it all….. just not all at the same time. Lastly, I learned the I must be true to myself by being the best version of myself as a child of god, wife, mother, sister, daughter and mentor

Tiffany Taylor

Vice President, Deputy Chief People Officer, Teach For America

I’ve learned that you can . . .

  • Walk with confidence and still maintain a posture of humility.
  • Listen intently and still speak with boldness.
  • Lead at every stage of your life – age, experience, and proximity to power should not limit you.
  • Lead and be a committed partner –deep and authentic partnership is truly what moves work forward and leads to meaningful change.

But the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to trust my own voice and to never allow anyone or any circumstance to define it. Your gifts and talents are yours to share. You decide how you show up in this world. You decide the impact you make. Wake up each day and dare the world to see you as anything other than how you see yourself. Lead! Our community, our city, and our world needs you! #DoIt4Detroit

Lauren Clayborne

Event Planner, Philanthropic Advisor, and Author

Historically, women of color have been simply inspiring and relentless. We’ve made countless contributions to our country and our history and continue to do so. We’ve broken barriers in politics, sports, science, health, and the arts. Our leadership is so important because honestly, it’s nothing new to us. We’ve been resilient, agile, intelligent, self-aware, and creative. Our experience, voice, and wisdom, must be acknowledged and heard.

I can no longer just be happy to be in the room. I’ve earned my seat and I have to sit at the table with boldness and security.

Rebecca Limbaugh

Deputy Director of Scholar Support and National Consultant, Boys Hope Girls Hope Detroit

I’ve learned to live by three important leadership qualities humility, integrity, and cooperation. Remain true to who you are, practice what you preach, give back to your community, and be uniquely you.

The New Hope House

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