An Exciting Start to Women’s Month: HUSA LEADHER Recap, Senator Kamala Harris Visits Howard!

 

On Wednesday, February 27th, the Howard University Student Association (HUSA) presented “LEADHER: Joyful Warriors in the Fight for Equality,” an event that highlighted influential women including HUSA Vice President, Mara Peoples; Miss Howard University, Kayla Waysome; and Senator Kamala Harris.  After advertising the event with a quote by Senator Harris, “our unity is our strength and our diversity is our power,” students gathered and filled all seats to celebrate and highlight black women in leadership, and encourage other women to feel powerful.

Led by HUSA’s Chief of Staff, Margaux Powell, the event’s emphasis on maneuvering from Black History month to Women’s History month exposed a wave of positivity that was eminent through the speakers. Mara Peoples, HUSA’s 58th Vice President and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Alpha Chapter, was the first speaker.  She began by discussing her time at Howard University, as well as the array of life lessons she’s developed from overcoming adversity.  Mara went on to highlight the women in her life that she explained to have guided her to where she is today. She pointed out her mom in the crowd, which followed a round of applause form the audience in support.  Mara also discussed her experience traveling to South Africa in Howard’s Young AfricanA Leadership Initiative, to which she explained as “life changing” and “eye opening.” One significant point she mentioned was the importance of remembering that what is meant for you will will happen throughout your journey, and we are all capable of achieving what we set our minds to.  Mara’s discussion about her passion for teaching led to her announcement regarding plans post-graduation to teach in Houston, Texas, as she concluded that “you can do anything you want to achieve in life.”

The next speaker was none other than Howard’s 80th Miss Howard University, Kayla Waysome, a first generation college student, member of Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Incorporated, Alpha Chapter, and a shinning light on Howard’s campus.  She commanded the room’s attention with her spoken word introduction that emphasized resiliency, power, and influence, within the black woman. Kayla mentioned a very important issue that many times women leaders are highlighted for their poise and brightness, but we don’t discuss their hardships.  She wanted everyone to know that even she deals with struggles and that they are never an excuse to give up hope…that we must remember to keep going. Kayla argued that “the reason we can push through and continue to work and be passionate is through a joyful perspective.” She then asked everyone in the room to close their eyes and imagine a fire, and then imagine water being poured on the fire.  She did this to help everyone recognize the impact a fire within someone can truly have. She concluded with three important tips for the women in the room: “challenge yourself to recognize your fire, don’t allow the inevitable to make you feel afraid, and as you get better, look to your sisters on the left and right of you, and encourage others to fight.”

The final speaker was of course, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris, a 1986 graduate of Howard University and current Presidential Elect.  Senator Harris currently serves as a United States Senator, and was the first black woman Attorney General and District Attorney in the state of California…but her leadership began on Howard’s campus as a Freshman elected in student government.  Senator Harris highlighted her Howard experience and the importance of cherishing every moment. She also had advice for women that “feel alone in the room,” due to lack of diversity in certain spaces of power and influence. Thus, emphasizing that we must remember even through such a feeling, that we are never truly alone.  During a period that Senator Harris described as having “destructive hatefulness from all over,” referring to current societal issues of racial bias and inequality, she exclaimed that we must remember our role and responsibility as leaders to speak truth and honesty, and ensure that we are always working to assist others. She continued to say that “my prayer often…many nights, is that I will be judged based on a body of work and not the popularity of any one decision.”  She went on to discuss the respect that comes with a Howard University education, as well as our roles as students and as leaders. She emphasized that our experience at Howard comes with a family and people rooting for us throughout our endeavors.

At the conclusion of the event I witnessed an interview by Howard’s “Spotlight” interviewer Taylor Thibodaux, where she interviewed HUSA’s 58th President Amos Jackson III to receive a male perspective and his reasoning for supporting the women empowered event.  Amos mentioned the role of men, exclaiming that men “have to be an ally and that means that you promote women in leadership, and understand that sometimes you just have to listen…it’s not about talking, it’s not about representing…sometimes you just have to sit back and listen to them.”  He also mentioned he didn’t want to be in the photo with the speakers because it wasn’t about him, emphasizing his support for women leaders on Howard’s campus.

Ultimately, the event was a true success and one in which I still am reflecting on.  Bringing women from all walks of life together in a space to discuss overcoming and our influence is always a powerful act.  I cannot wait to see where the three speakers end up within the next year…I’m sure it will be great places for all of them. #Leadher #hcxo