Months ago when I first learned about Summit21, I knew I had to find my way there. I have been on a journey of self-improvement for the last year, seeking ways in which I can improve my wellness and further my entrepreneurial creative career. I actively sought out articles, books and podcasts by women of color because of a yearning to hear stories and inspiration from other women like myself.
As soon as ticket sales opened for Summit21, I snagged an early bird ticket and marked my calendar for the trip to Atlanta. Although I’m from Los Angeles and currently based there, I have family that lives in Atlanta including my mother who relocated there a few years ago, so all I needed was my plane ticket. As the Summit21 date approached, I found myself extremely busy with mom life, finishing my master's degree, working my day job, freelance writing deadlines and running my art gallery, so I knew there was no way I could take the time off to make the trip.
My first thought was to offer the ticket to one of my friends who live in Atlanta. Then, it occurred to me to ask my mother. At first, she didn’t think it made sense for someone her age to attend. She’s 68 (sorry, mom, for telling the world your age), but a part of me wanted her to go and experience the energy of a room full of young women seeking ways to live their best lives. I wanted her to feel what I feel when I read the stories and social media posts about women who’ve launched businesses from scratch or overcome tough personal or physical challenges. Once I convinced her to go and transferred my ticket to her name, I told her to get there early, bring something to take notes and go with an open mind.
I was so excited for her, and after it was over we had a long chat about her experience. When I asked my mother about her overall impression of the event she said the main things that stood out were:
My mother was surprised to see so many young black women wearing their natural hair. As a teen and into her twenties, my mother and most of her friends would never be caught dead with their natural kinks and curls. They all either wore wigs or relaxed their hair.
My mother expressed how impressed she was by all the different speakers and attendees who exuded great confidence and intelligence during the speeches and panel discussions.
My mother also thought the event was extremely well organized. She noticed all the attention to detail and really felt like a special guest.
Since my mom is 68 and probably the oldest at the event, I asked her how she would have felt if her 28 year old self attended an event like Summit21. She said at that age back in the '70s, she didn’t know about events for black women to gather and build community. There may have been small groups of conscious sisters trying to make moves, but at 28, she was isolated in an abusive and dysfunctional relationship. Beyond her toxic relationships, her world consisted of night clubs, house parties and raising a young child (my older sis) on her own. She didn’t have the means and support to further her education or seek opportunities to become upwardly mobile and independent like women do today.
I also asked my mom what she would say if she were a speaker at Summit21. The first thing she said was "don’t waste your pretty" which is a phrase she loves to use after I bought her the eponymous book by Demetria Lucas who happens to share the same first name as my mom. Afterwards, we had a deep-dive conversation into what this means to her.
Me: Mom can you elaborate on what you mean by 'don’t waste your pretty?'
Mom: I would tell young girls, don’t think you have it all together just cause you’re cute and pretty. Time waits for nobody. You only have about 30 years (age 20-50 give or take) to pull it together. In that time, you need to do so much — have a career, get married and raise children (if you want that), travel, learn. Don’t waste your time, your looks, your energy on things that won’t add to you reaching whatever goals you set for yourself. Time and age sneaks up on you."
Me: Is there anything else you would share with your audience as a Summit21 speaker?
Mom: If you have a plan, don’t think you can do it alone. You need to recognize, honor, and obey divine guidance. Get on your knees and ask God to help you stay focused. Don’t let past abuse, neglect, or failure stifle you. Pick up the pieces and move forward. Stay focused — you gotta be aware of time.
Me: You’re really obsessed with time! I’m 35, so I better get a move on! At least I got marriage and having kids out of the way. But there’s still so much I want to do.
Mom: Yes! The clock is ticking. I want to make the best of the time I have left, so I keep a clock in every room. I wasted so much time in my youth. So I would tell the young lades, don’t lose who (you) are or get distracted because you’re with the wrong man or at the wrong job. Stay focused and be open to receiving things — wisdom, help, constructive criticism.
Me: Is there anything you didn’t like about Summit21 or wish they had done differently?
Mom: No, it was a beautiful event, and it was a pleasure to see all the young women there to learn and support one another. The only thing I noticed (is) that some of the talks didn’t get deep enough, just touched the surface. Or maybe because of my age, I’ve heard it all before, so some of the stories didn’t have as much of an impact on me. But girls to my left and right were taking notes during all of the panel discussion, eager to learn so I know it impacted them.
Me: Is there anything helpful you walked away with after attending?
Mom: Yes, in one of the beauty business panels, a speaker emphasized that you’re not just selling a product, you’re selling a feeling. You need to be clear in what that feeling is and understand how to deliver that message to your customers. I even met one young woman who offered to help with social media for my business.
(My mom is a serial entrepreneur with multiple businesses including Pillows from Heaven, a line of custom pillows, in addition to a body product line launching this fall).
So there you have it, my mother’s Summit21 experience. The last point she made during our phone chat was that I could be a speaker. She would have loved to have seen me on that stage sharing my wisdom and experience with a room full of women. Perhaps one day, but for now, I need to follow some of her other advice like focusing on my current goals, not wasting my pretty and ordering some more clocks to keep around my house!
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