Women of Color Leadership Conference Empowers Girls

Poet Azure Antionette spoke with young women at UMKC's Women of Color Leadership Conference. Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications.

Nationally Celebrated Poets Encourage Girls to Follow Their Dreams

“Did you know you’re a brand?”

Lisa Goshon, president of the hosiery company Seduzione Leggs, looked expectantly at her audience. The question was too important to be rhetorical.

Slowly, she got her answer. A chorus of hesitant “no’s” rose from the group of high school girls. They’d all gathered to hear Goshon’s “You Are Your Brand” presentation, and over the course of an hour, they learned exactly that.

They ran mock interviews and phone calls. They laughed when one girl showed up to her “interview” with a crumpled resume and distracting aviators, then nodded with approval when another spoke with poise and wore a blazer.

Elsewhere in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Student Union, high school girls from around the Kansas City area participated in sessions on everything from leadership to poetry to college preparedness. It was all part of UMKC’s annual Women of Color Leadership Conference, which aims to empower young women of color. The event is sponsored by the Division of Diversity, Access and Equity.

The conference brought together local professionals like Goshon and nationally recognized poets Mayda del Valle and Azure Antoinette.

Listed in O Magazine as one of 20 on “O’s First-Ever Power List,” Antoinette is a poet, spoken-word artist, freelance photographer and youth and arts advocate. In 2012, she was named a global ambassador of 10×10, a global campaign dedicated to the education of girls.

del Valle, a poet, spoken-word artist, writer and performer, was listed as one of Forbes magazine’s 100 Most Powerful Women. She was named the 2011 National Poetry Slam Individual Champion and has performed at the White House.

Antoinette delivered the keynote address to a group of hundreds. In a speech that was equal parts funny and poignant, Antoinette told the young women about her own journey — from working in human resources to eventually pursuing her true passion, poetry.

“My journey isn’t going to be your journey, but if there is something that you feel passionate about, you should find out what that is and think of a way to make that sustainable,” Antoinette said.

In many ways, the day had been about finding concrete pathways to success. Antoinette encouraged the young women to look at the big picture.

“It is very important to do what you love. Find it, hold onto it, and run with it, because the world absolutely needs your passion,” Antoinette said.


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