Raising Our Voices: Celebrating Women’s HerStory Month – ep.132

Artistic Expression   – ep.131
March 21, 2024
Restorative Justice – ep.133
April 18, 2024

In honor of Women’s History Month, join us on this special episode of The Jali Podcast as we amplify the voices of some of the remarkable women from my “tribe” sharing their stories, wisdom and lifting women, in response to two thought-provoking questions. Even I join in! 

1. Advice to our younger selves: Listen in as we reflect on our journeys and offer invaluable advice to their younger selves. From navigating challenges to embracing self-love, each insight shared is a beacon of empowerment for women of all ages.

2. The Power of Sisterhood: Discover touching anecdotes as our guests recount moments when another woman’s support, encouragement, or mentorship made a significant impact on their lives. These stories highlight the strength found in female solidarity and the transformative power of lifting each other. 

So who do you know in your “tribe” that you can ask these questions? No matter what gender, age, or ethnicity, find one of the remarkable women in your life and ask them these questions. You may just be surprised by some of the answers! Join us as we celebrate the resilience, achievements, comedy, and enduring spirit of women everywhere, and be inspired by the wisdom and camaraderie shared in this special Women’s History Month episode.

Special thanks to:

  • Kai Brinkley 
  • LaJuana Bivens 
  • Ann Ewing 
  • Sandra Fobbs 
  • Kenya Gaston
  • Alisa Harris-Brice 
  • Tareka LeShay & Memaw Jankins
  • Cynthia Mundy 
  • Angela Murphy, Ph.D. 
  • Kennetha Stevens
  • Lula Washington
  • Tamica Washington-Miller
  • Tracy Yoder

Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week, I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started. My name is Melyssa Barrett, and I thought I would also add to the discussion about Women for Women’s History Month and give some honor because, this month, I chose to lift women, and you are hearing some wonderful pieces of advice, guidance, things that these fabulous women would tell their younger selves.

So first, I want to thank every woman who has contributed and shared advice that they would give themself or stories that they’ve had. I’ve had the privilege of knowing so many phenomenal women, and still know them, and I’m so grateful that they’re so open to sharing their own wisdom. I thought I might provide a quick story about my own experience, and I figured I would tell you about someone who made an amazing imprint on my life. Her name is Ida B. Jones. She was a mentor and amazing and strong woman, and I was blessed to be able to know her. I worked with her at one of the positions that I had very early in my career, and I was so blessed to know her.

I was probably 19 years old in my first professional management position, and she was the woman who took me under her wing and literally showed me the ropes. I had about 106 employees at that time, and I had no idea what I was actually doing, but I was open to help and really appreciated her demeanor. I mean, she didn’t come with guns blazing, telling me how I should do things, and I had enough sense to respect her and what she was giving to me. She was truly pouring into me. But she was amazing with people, and the only reason I’m talking in past tense is because I have not… I don’t know where she is. I fell out of touch with her. So she may be around somewhere doing wonderful things. I just don’t know where she is.

So she is one of those people that she literally was so amazing with people. I literally saw her have to put people on performance plans. And if you know what that means, they were generally not doing what they were supposed to be doing in their job. So she would have to do a write-up, put them on some corrective action, and she would have to communicate with them their challenges, and try to coach them to better performance. Or, in some cases, she would end up having to release them from their current position. Now, most people do not enjoy being let go from their position, especially for poor performance, but she kind of had this way about her. Literally, people would thank her as they were walking out the door after being let go. And I’m not kidding. This not like it just happened one time.

This happened over and over again. And I would always ask her how does she do that? Because it amazed me what was actually happening. And she was always very humble, but she always told me that she focused on the person. And when you focus on people, what they really want to do, what are their desires and dreams, you don’t have to be mean. As long as you’ve communicated to them effectively and you’ve gone through a process, they understand that if they have to be released they know exactly why. And quite frankly, everyone that got to that particular place she had tried to coach and work with, but for whatever specific reason, maybe they really wanted to do something else in life, or they didn’t have the skill set that they needed to complete the job.

Either way, she was always kind and considerate in her conversation but was also very stern when she needed to be. She’s still a woman that inspires me today. I have not talked to her in years, but every discussion I ever had with an employee, I always have Ida Jones in the back of my mind, and I always strive to have the kind of compassion and empathy that she had with others. She was always the one that would speak up for you even if you weren’t at the conference room table. She would help you navigate any politics to the extent that you had to. She wasn’t one that liked politics, but she knew exactly what was going on, who needed to be addressed, and how it needed to go.

She was one of those people that was soft-spoken, but you could tell she could get down if you messed with her. You know what I mean? She’s one woman that I will forever be grateful for, and I continue to appreciate because of how she lifted so many women in her journey. Ms. Ida B. Jones, if you know her if you knew her, then you know her. And I treasure her existence in my life and thank her for being there for me in some of my darkest days, not only professionally, but personally also. Happy Women’s History Month.

Kennetha Stevens: Hi, I am Kennetha Stevens, and if I could give some advice to my younger self, it would go something like this. Dear younger self, it is important to recognize that letting go is not a sign of failure. It is a sign that you are courageous enough to make decisions that prioritize your mental health and well-being and pursue paths that align with your values and aspirations.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from people and situations that don’t value your worth. Trust your intuition and have the courage to let go when necessary. It is a step towards creating a life that fulfills you with resilience and self-compassion, your older, wiser self.

Kenya Gaston: Good morning. My name is Kenya. And advice that I would give to my former self or younger self would be to go with my first mind. I’m one of the type of people that overthink and just do too much at times. And when something arises, I often think about it too much, make decisions over and over and over again, change my mind a thousand times, and make mistakes. If I would’ve went with the first thought I had, I probably would’ve been just fine, but because I do all the extra when I think and evaluate and analyze and just do too much. So yeah, I would say go with my first mind and just let it go. Whatever’s going to be going to be.

And an experience where someone or a sister lifted me up, I would have to say it’s my assistant director. 15 years ago… No, probably about 18, 20 years ago, I had a job as a counselor at the shelter that I’m currently at now, and she was my supervisor, so I didn’t stay there long, a little over a year, because shift change. I was a new mother. I couldn’t do all the different shifts and come and go. Just couldn’t do it. So I needed a nine to five Monday through Friday type job, so left there. Then, years passed by, I always see her every once in a while. We talk, “Hello, how you doing?” Whatever. Maybe three years ago, ran into her, and she said that there was a position open as a supervisor.

She told me to apply, and we talked, and I, “Yeah, okay, sure. No thing.” I didn’t apply initially because she has never seen me work in that capacity. And even though I was qualified and I knew I could do the job, did she really know I could do the job? Again, overthinking. So she saw me again, and she said, “Did you apply?” And I tell her the truth because, hey, no reason to lie. And I was like, “Nah, not yet.” She was like, “Do it. I want to see you in the interview.” So I said, “Okay, let me get it done.” And I got it done. And then eventually I got the job, and I’ve been there now two years, and I’m killing it. So yeah, she lifted me up, and my only hope is that I can do the same for someone else. Bye.

Angela Murphy, Ph.D.: Hi, there. I’m Dr. Angela Murphy, and I wanted to provide some advice for my younger self. And the thing that I would say is be bold enough to ask for help. It’s really difficult to reach out to people and ask for them to help you with professional things, personal things, et cetera. But if you’re willing to take that first step and reach out, it can make a world of difference. I know that the fear of rejection is right there in your face, and it might be really scary, but if you’re bold enough and you can scrape up just that little bit of courage to say, “I have a question about this. Can you help me?”

Most of the time, people will reach out their hand, and they will help you, and you’ll find the answers that you’re looking for. You don’t have to figure it out all on your own. Then, I also wanted to share an experience of when a woman lifted me up, and it’s actually two people, and for different reasons. So the first, her name is Lorraine, and we both ended up on the job market simultaneously. We had been in a leadership group together, and she helped me to figure out how to do presentations for job interviews that I had never done before. So she shared her experience with me about how to put together a pipeline of potential job opportunities, how to put together materials or project materials to submit as part of an interview process for a large firm.

And I had never done that before, and it meant so much to me that she shared her expertise in her experience. The other person who was also in the same leadership group, her name is Erin, and she helped me in a different way. We connected on a pretty personal level when we were going through the leadership program together. And the lesson that she taught me is that it’s okay to be open and vulnerable when you find your people. And also that you have no idea the ripples that you create by sharing your story and by checking in on people. So thank you to Lorraine and to Erin for helping make me into the professional woman that I am today.

LaJuana Bivens: Hi, my name is LaJuana Bivens, and I’m the newly elected Region One NAACP National Board member. Well, what advice would I give my younger self? I would tell my younger self, stay focused. Don’t get off focus. Know who you are, and what you want, and the things that you feel inside of you, pursue it. Don’t be influenced simply because your grandparents wanted you to go into the medical field. You hate the sight of blood, but your passion, your real passion, was people, and you didn’t find that out until you were much older.

So younger self, if you had only just stuck with your love for people, being passionate, and figuring out which pathway that led to you probably would’ve ended up being President of the United States of America. So, and then, what female did something to really hold you up? I have to give that credit to my godmother, Mrs. Annie Washington, who, many, many years ago, when I was a senior administrator, deputy city manager for the City of Stockton, I had gone through a divorce, and our youngest child was four years old.

And so, she was my rock because, without her, I would not have been able to make all of those early morning meetings or stay late or just be the person with all the added responsibilities and pressures that they like to put on people of color so that you won’t succeed. But she made sure that I did succeed, and I’m so proud that she was the woman in my life that lifted me up. And I love you, Nana. You’re in heaven. But I just thank you for all that you did for me and my children and our family. God bless you, and I hope that these nuggets will help some young person make better choices. Bye-bye.

Melyssa Barrett: Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back.

Alisa Harris-Brice: Hi, my name is Alisa Harris-Brice. The best advice I would give my younger self would be be more intentional. Don’t be frightened to fail. Take a leap of faith in yourself. Learn the financial game. Read more books on finances, learning about the stock market, real estate investments, IULs, and other investment vehicles that are out there. Always remember you are beautiful, and you can do it. Happy Woman’s Month.

Ann Ewing: Hi, this is Ann. I think, if I had the opportunity to go back in time and give my younger self some advice, it would be, one, to invest in Google, but two, to celebrate the wins, whether it be big or small. And with the losses, take the lesson learned and move on quickly because the best days of my life has yet to come. And so not to sweat the small stuff. That’s it. Thank you so much. Bye.

Hello, this is Ann. I was asked in honor of Women’s History Month to share a story in which a woman lifted me up in one way or another. And while I’ve had so many amazing experiences where women have, I want to share a story of when a man actually has. And this was at work where a very senior executive wanted to speak to my boss, who was a man to hear the exact same thing that I just conveyed, not just in email, but in the meeting.

So this meeting happened, and at the end of it, my manager asked the senior executive in front of an entire room full of people whether anything he had said was different than what I had already conveyed in both email and in prior meetings, to which the executive said, “No, she’s been great.” So his response to her then, “That’s fantastic to hear from now on. Please go to her. She is the one accountable, and I trust her. And unless there’s a major issue in which she’s not providing you what you need, then come to me. Otherwise, everybody, she is your point of contact.”

So that, to me, was a really, really big deal. One, because I didn’t feel that this executive treated me the same as my male counterpart and needed someone else to say the exact thing I was saying. But here comes my manager who very much stood up for me, and in front of a large room and put this executive on blast. So I very much appreciated that, and it’s something that I’ve learned to do for others in my own career as well. So, with that, that is my story, and I hope you all have a great day. Thanks. Bye.

Kai Brinkley: Hi, my name is Kai Brinkley, and some advice I would give to my younger self would be, number one, you’re okay. You’re okay, and you’re going to be okay. Don’t take life so seriously. Things are going to work out just fine. I grew up in a very structured environment. I was the oldest girl in the family, and I was just on edge about everything. And knowing now what I… If I had known now what I know back then, everything’s going to work out fine. Just relax, breathe, stop, and smell the roses. Things are going to be fine.

Also, I would say, “Kai, girl, the Lord is going to bless you with some amazing gifts, some amazing gifts and talents. Do be afraid to use them. Use them for His glory. He’s going to bless you with the beautiful heart, the heart that sees and loves people.” I was always afraid of that gift. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t understand it. And now, just embrace it. I would tell my younger self to embrace that gift.

It’s my superpower. I connect with people very easily. I’m able to see them, and that’s how I love and minister to others. So just embrace that, embrace that gift. And lastly, I would tell my younger self, use your voice. Use your voice. Speak up. Your voice will sound different. Some people may not understand it. I’m a little quirky who isn’t, but I love myself. I’ve grown into myself. I love myself, and I like myself, and God loves me. And so I think there’s no other person I’d rather be. That’s all.

Cynthia Mundy: Hi, my name is Cynthia. Some advice that I would give my younger self is to say, speak up for yourself. Use your voice to let people know who you are, how you feel, and how to treat you. There are things in life that are going to come about that are going to challenge you and be challenging, and it’s important that you speak up so that people know that you care and that you do have an opinion and you matter is very important. Use your voice. Someone that I can think of in my life that has uplifted me has been my Aunt Evelyn Cox. She actually provided several opportunities for me to share my singing ability and in some very important arenas.

One was… A couple were with the 100 Black Women Coalition in San Jose, as well as the 100 Black Men Coalition, and also opportunity to sing at the Martin Luther King Freedom Train Ride. I did that a couple of years. One year, I sung before everyone boarded the train, and then a following year, I was able to sing during the train ride to San Francisco. And those opportunities opened the door for so many other singing events for me, where I met many new people.

So that was an uplift for me, and I really appreciated and loved her for doing that. She loved to support her family in anything that we were had for our dreams and goals. She would always listen to us and support us in those things and try to put us in places where we could actually try to achieve those things. So that is it for me. I just want to say for women out there to use your voice so that people know who you are and people know how to treat you, and also take the time to lift someone else up. Thank you, and have a blessed day.

 Tracy Yoder: Hi, my name is Tracy Yoder, and I’m going to talk to you today about an experience where another woman lifted me up. I really looked towards this woman when I was smaller. She was my guide, my mentor. Growing up, she worked hard, busy working person. Worked hard. She even took night classes, went to school, and I always admired her strength and everything about her. Just a strong Black woman. Well, I remember I was feeling down. I was discussing college with her. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and she looked me right in my eye and she said, “Tracy, there are so many things that you’ll lose in life.

You can lose your job. You can lose different things, but there’s one thing that no one will be able to take away from you, and that’s your education.” And she was right. That person is my mother. I admire my mother so much. She was just fun to watch when I was young. She’s an engineer, very intelligent, strong, but she needed to finish, get her degree. She wanted to finish up. And so she was always in school, taking night classes in school. And I remember watching her walk across that stage when I was old enough and just admiring her and just couldn’t believe her perseverance.

So just always take advice from women who you admire, and who can make a difference in your life. Now, I’m on an education board. I mentor children. I teach as well at adjunct instructor over at UC Davis, and I work in human resources. I just have always wanted to give back and give back to the community, and a lot has to do with my mother. So thank you, mom, for being an inspiration to me and for making a big impact in my life. Love you.

Sandra Fobbs: Hi, my name is Sandra. And a piece of advice that I would give my younger self is not to pay too much attention to where others are going in life and what they’re doing and what they’re achieving. And to just know and trust that God has a plan for you and that you will get where you need to be when He’s ready for you to. And also not to be too afraid to come out of your shell and do things that you’re not used to doing. Get comfortable with doing presentations, with speaking to people publicly, with doing things that you feel like you can’t do because you can do them. You can do anything that you want to do. So that’s what I would tell my younger self.

Another woman who has lifted me up in some way. I recently was asked to be the keynote speaker for a church event for ladies. It was a ladies’ day, and it was something that I had never done before, and I was extremely nervous. But one of my sisters from the church, her name is Tareka, she gave me so much encouragement, and she told me that all I needed to do was be authentic, be myself and that I would do a great job. And the morning of, I went up to her and I told her I was so nervous, and she said, “Okay, come on.”

And she took me in the back room, and she said, “I’m going to pray for you. We’re going to pray.” And we stood there, and she prayed over me, and she hugged me, and she just kept telling me how smart I was. What a great job I was going to do. And she just… she made me feel so supported, and I did a great job, and it took away all of my anxieties. I was up there, and I did so well, and people told me that I seemed like I was a natural at it even though I had never done it before. So I was so, so thankful to her, and I just hope that other women have that type of experience that I had. Thanks.

Memaw Jankins: Good morning, beautiful people. It’s Memaw Jankins. What would I tell my younger self? You know what I tell my younger self? Be careful. You know, all them years you [inaudible 00:28:37] held that pee and you supposed to go to the bathroom and you didn’t, it kind of caught up with you. Y’all got to just take care of yourself and start releasing because when you get up in age, you ain’t going to be able to hold it like you used to. Now, this is serious because now I can’t go a long time without using the bathroom. I got to stop on my way from Stockton to Oakland.

I stop about five times because now I can’t hold it in, and don’t let me get close to the doorknob. As soon as you get home, I don’t know what it is, and you got to reach down in your purse, then you really got to go, really got to go, really. And there have been some times when I didn’t make it. So I want you to start taking care of your bladder. Do some kegel, kegels, whatever you got to do. But make sure that you are using the restroom when you need to and not holding it in because there going to be a time when you’re not going to be able to hold it in.

And sometimes I’m telling you it ain’t no joke. Just ask a couple of my nieces if I made it when I didn’t make it. I’d be like, “Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it. Just I’m going to drop you off, and I’ll worry about it later. You got the message.” [inaudible 00:29:59] shot this video with my thing inside out. Well, this is another thing. Make sure before you shoot your videos that you got your clothes on right. May you be blessed.

Melyssa Barrett: Thanks for joining me on the Jali Podcast. Please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.