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(L-R) Speaker, author and radio talk show host Jennifer Keitt, actress Nicole Ari Parker, CNBCs Sharon Epperson, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Clinical Psychologist, television producer & host Dr. Brenda Wade, AJ Johnson of THE AJ ZONE, Dr. Jane E. Smith pose together during the Legacy of Leadership Awards Dinner the Spelman Women of Color Conference.
Challenges Women of Color to Embrace Future Filled with Increased Financial Responsibility
Power, purpose, fitness and well-being provided the framework for the Ninth Annual Spelman College Leadership and Women of Color Conference (Spelman - WOCC). Thursday, May 16, marked the conclusion of two days of discussions designed to equip attendees with action items to help achieve long-term financial success. Held at the Georgia International Convention Center, May 15 - 16, the Women of Color Conference attracted a diverse representation of more than 500 of the nation's best and brightest women in an array of fields, including business, finance, arts, public policy, entertainment and education.
Hosted by Atlanta radio personality Jennifer Keitt of "Today's Black Woman" on KISS 104.1FM, the Legacy of Leadership Awards Dinner honored entrepreneur, activist and actress Nicole Ari Parker and famed crisis communications expert/author Judy Smith -- the real-life inspiration for ABC's hit series "Scandal." The elegant affair, featuring an electrifying spoken word and tribal dance tribute by Atlanta-based African dance company Giwayen Mata, paid tribute to Parker and Smith for their professional and philanthropic endeavors.
Both Smith and Ari Parker shared moving acceptance speeches and discussed the power of paying it forward, as well as the importance of health and wellness as the foundation for wealth building with the diverse group of attendees from around the country.
"I think it's very important to pay it forward and each individual has to decide how they want to do that," said Smith. "People think it has to be in big ways, but it doesn't. It can be in small ways daily and that adds up.... It doesn't always have to be in a financial way either," she added. "Sometimes just showing up and supporting each other is a great way to give back."
"This is an entrepreneurial conference, but I love that we're discussing how health and wellness are part of the wealth equation," said Ari Parker. "Spelman is integrating the importance of physical, spiritual, emotional and relationship health into the whole spectrum of how to pursue your dreams, develop your entrepreneurial ideas and be successful.... you can't leave the body and spirit out of that. It's been wonderful to be a part of this conference."
Convened by Dr. Jane Smith, conference founder and Executive Director of the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement at Spelman, the Women of Color Conference gathered notable thought leaders and industry influencers to examine 21st century wealth building, developing businesses and using both to make important, sustainable contributions to their communities.
"The ultimate goal of the Spelman Women of Color Conference is to connect women of color from different demographic and socio-economic backgrounds, and help them realize their common interests," said Dr. Smith. "One of the things that has grown out of this is the importance of inter-generational work. You have students and women from around the world as young as 18 into their 70's all equal... talking to one another, with no gap between the young and the elders."
To effectively convey the 2013 conference theme of Strategic Leadership: Building Wealth, Entrepreneurship and Paying it Forward, Spelman College invited a dynamic team to strategically deliver messages about personal finance and business development.
Key conference panelists included: Newsweek/ Daily Beast Senior Reporter Allison Samuels, CNBC Senior Commodities / Personal Finance Correspondent and "Today Show" contributor Sharon Epperson, Author/ Financial Advisor Gail Perry-Mason, Editor-In-Chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) George Curry, The Coca-Cola Foundation Executive Director Helen Smith Price, Chief Financial Officer of JP Morgan Chase Foundation and the JP Morgan Chase & Co. Global Philanthropy Division Dalila Wilson-Scott, and Delta Air Lines General Manager of Global Diversity Letty Ashworth.
Kicking off the 2013 pre-conference activities with a holistic message, Ari Parker joined clinical psychologist Dr. Brenda Wade to explore the direct impact of wellness on leadership and success. Both Parker and Wade highlighted the need for a "balanced life" and to start thinking of ways to better maintain a healthy "mind, body and spirit."
Actress and sought after "Life Stylist" AJ Johnson shared those sentiments. "We [women] take care of everyone else, solve other people's problems, while ignoring our personal physical and mental health issues," declared Johnson. She urged attendees to "stop" and realize the connection between physical wellness and professional success. "If you are not doing everything you possibly can to optimize the health of your temple, you are asking to be less than your best," Johnson said. "In this moment, choose to take care of your temple."
With physical and emotional well-being in focus, participants engaged in wide-ranging discussions about implementing practical solutions to achieve financial success, dispelling long-held misconceptions about wealth building, developing tools to break negative cycles and steps to securing comfortable retirement. However, elevated discussions and critical information provided to participants from speakers such as Sharon Epperson and Dr. Valerie Daniels-Carter distinguish the WOCC.
A program highlight was The Role of the Media in Wealth Building panel, which featured veteran media experts Epperson (CNBC), Samuels (Newsweek), Perry-Mason and Curry (NNPA) and offered an analysis of economic trends in reporting. A commodities and personal finance expert, Epperson aims to motivate women to take more proactive approaches to long term saving and offered practical methods to making saving a fun and routine part of one's life.
"The fact is, you'll likely reach a point when you can't or won't want to continue working. Now is the time to start planning how you can make certain you'll be financially secure," she advised.
In the groundbreaking CEO to CEO session, Spelman College President Dr. Beverly Tatum teamed with President and CEO of V&J Holdings, Dr. Valerie Daniels-Carter for a candid conversation about the rewards and challenges of building a multi-billion dollar franchise and how commitment to empowering people through business and philanthropy is important to building wealth.
Dr. Smith says the decision was made to focus on women of color and not just African Americans. "The majority of the women who attend are African American but we have many others represented who contribute an important part to the dialogue which ultimately trickles down to our students and into our curriculum. Dr. Smith's final words offer the best summation of what the Women of Color Conference espouses: "Yes, we are in the business of empowering women who are African American but those women must then empower the world!"