"A Seat at The Table" Baltimore Girls Rock 2018
Last month, I received an email from Dr. Shaeeda Mensah, a member of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College (NAASC) with an invitation that lit my soul on fire.
“I am writing to ask if you would be willing to participate in our first career crawl,” she said. “It is predicated on the notion of a bar crawl but without the drinks. Students will go around to different tables that will be occupied by Black female entrepreneurs and career women. They will ask you questions about your career path, trajectory, and seek insight about how they might pursue their own career goals.”
The theme for the event was titled “A Seat at The Table.” She needed not say more. Just like that, I was sold.
I participated in the career crawl, held at at Morgan State University, and the experience was delightful, though it didn’t come without challenge.
You see, in order to arrive at the event, I first needed to travel through some of the most impoverished areas of Baltimore. Between the red bricks, the Black faces, and the police lights swirling on this and that corner, I was ever reminded of the importance of this work. Every corner store, every abandoned row home, and every young boy playing ball I passed served as a reminder of why Black mentorship and engagement means more than just the warm and fuzzies of volunteerism - it means taking an active role in rewriting the would-be stories of those who you impact.
During the event, I had the opportunity to share about my experiences as a creative entrepreneur, sharing with the girls how my life has changed over the course of my career as a professional henna artist. While many of the girls had their eyes set on the more traditional professions - healthcare, law, and even chemistry - a select few expressed interest in pursuing careers in the writing and visual arts space.
I recall when I started my business - coming out of work in the non-profit environment - I felt as though a creative career path was not only unrealistic, it was also unattainable to me as a woman of color. After all, so many of the great artists celebrated today are a fair share of shades lighter than me. The idea of making a career from art was both rebellious and empowering. As I look back, I can only wish that I would have had access to a creative professional who I could have looked to for affirmation and reassurance that it was possible for someone who looked like me.
It was my absolute pleasure to spend the afternoon sharing all about my work, my story, and the fact that they too can choose to do or to be whatever their heart desires. Today, as an occupant of a seat at the table I’ve been blessed to build with my own two hands, I hope nothing more than to witness the arrival of the next generation of Black, female creative professionals, and I’m holding their seats until they’re ready.
For more information about the Baltimore Girls Rock Conference or the NAASC, please click here.