In 1986 I was a 33-year-old single parent and grandparent who was stressed out and emotionally and mentally in a crisis. I knew something fundamentally had altered me and I had to do something. Two significant life experiences caused my heart to hurt, be filled with disappointment and rage to the point of despair: My oldest daughter repeated the teenage pregnant cycle, birthing my first granddaughter. I walked off my job where I had personally experienced racism in the workplace. Now I had the increased responsibility of economically and emotionally supporting and nurturing three daughters and one granddaughter without a clue on how I was going to be able to provide all that they needed, with no job and no income.
I shut down emotionally and lost my voice. Thank God I had a cousin who noticed something had happened to me because I was acting different. She invited me and paid my registration fee to attend a retreat at Marin Headlands Institute in Sausalito CA, with all Black women, something she thought would help me. I took a huge risk – left my daughters and granddaughter for the first time and charged a bus ticket hoping it would be approved on an over the limit credit card. Even though I had emotionally shut down, I was silently praying and seeking help and a little voice inside of me said “go.”
May of 1986, in walks LaVerne to a room of all Black women, Read more
Thirty-five years ago, in 1983, Lillie Pearl Allen led the Black & Female: What is the Reality workshop at the first Black Women’s Health Conference. Over a thousand Black women and girls participated in this workshop. This gathering marked the beginning of a social movement, created a legacy of leadership for justice that is inclusive of all people, and laid the foundation for the 1992 incorporation of Be Present, Inc.
Be Present is in the 5th year of our Black & Female Leadership Initiative that addresses both the lack and, too often, distortion of the voices and visibility of Black women’s leadership in the literature, historical record and dialogue on social justice movement-building. It also highlights the process as well as the achievements of using a collective leadership approach in creating a diverse national network of activists successfully moving social justice agendas in the United States.
The June 21-24 National Black & Female Leadership Conference, open to everyone and held in Dahlonega, GA, will highlight Black Women’s leadership in building inclusive movements for social justice.
This blog is the first in a series highlighting the Black Women who laid the foundation for Be Present, Inc., beginning at the beginning, with Lillie Pearl Allen:
My community activism emerged over 40 years ago from my own history and experiences. I was searching for the answers to the following questions: “How do I get to know the fullness of who I am? Not just someone’s best friend, caring mother or daughter of migrant farm workers. How do I thrive in this world and not just survive while living in a culture where people make assumptions about who I am based on my race, my gender, my class?” Read more