These days it seems like everyone and their mama is having a thought-leader conference or ground-breaking summit. Year after year, we are introduced to ComplexCon, TedTalks, The New Yorker Festival, Aspen Ideas and so many other excuses for a bunch of intellectuals and “disrupters” to gather together to wax poetic on the state of the world. And while I don’t mean to knock these gatherings, as I do think it’s a cool idea to bring together some of the biggest innovators and thinkers in our world under one roof, I can’t help but wonder when the day will come that we, powerful, strong Black and brown women can do the same. What I wouldn’t give to have a panel discussion that included some of the most respected women across pop culture, from politics to entertainment, sports to science. Get me Michelle Obama having a lively discussion with Viola Davis as Simone Biles listens closely any day of the week and I’d die a happy woman.
Sure the financial rewards to be reaped from a forum created not just for women, but only women of color, might not make most executives jump out of their seats — they likely feel much more confident in the draw of Stewart Butterfield than Rosalind Brewer. But in a time when it’s so clear that diverse voices need and want to be heard, it feels like 2018 should be the year that Black and brown women take center stage at a summit designed for and about them. That’s not to say that some of the biggest conferences these days don’t have women and women of color represented. However, they are typically peppered throughout panels and programming, allowing these conferences to be more representative of the world at large. However, what has really yet to be created is a gathering in which the issues that Black and brown women face are at the forefront and the entire conference is carefully crafted through that lens.
There’s no denying women of color are under siege at the moment. At every turn there seems to be another step backwards, another step away from progress. So what better time than now, when we truly need it most, for someone to create a multi-day conference that speaks to and celebrates women of color. Think Black Girls Rock! and EssenceFest on steroids with less music and more mobilizing. Rather than one lit night that is broadcast on BET or a few days of fun, let’s create a whole slate of programming to last an entire weekend or, hell, two weekends (if Coachella can do it, so can we). It’s time to stop complaining about not being included in the traditional feminist agenda, a la the Women’s March and other similar conferences, and start creating out own.
Just imagine this: A gathering of some of the most notable, articulate, insightful and downright charismatic brown and Black women in the world. Each panel, each bit of programming is designed to delve into the minority experience and provide commentary on our world through the point of view of one of its most marginalized populations. It’s not just a time to subtly gloat about accomplishments or allude to big ideas coming down the pike. It’s a time to reflect, recognize, organize, and recharge.
A time to key-in on the topics that make us the most uncomfortable. Topics that make our blood boil. Topics that most women in the spotlight would prefer to shy away from. Let’s talk about sexuality, racism, misogyny, the state of our government, classicism, colorism, everything that would make for interesting and contentious dinner conversation among family after a few drinks at Thanksgiving. In a time when people are more outspoken than they’ve been in a very long time, whose to say that you couldn’t a genuine conversation going among the Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae’s, Maxine Waters, Angela Rye’s and Yara Shahidi’s of the world?
As exciting as SXSW is or even EssenceFest, this conference would be less about buzz and more about business. To have the voices of a community that is so often times overlooked and ignored front and center on a grand stage and showcase the camaraderie that exists among us would be a bold, powerful statement at a time when these sorts of bold and powerful statements need to be made. And as much as this should be the work of the people, we know the people need money to do it. We need brands to invest in Black women; to see the value of Black and brown women and to support our ability to truly change the world. To go left when everyone else says you should go right and give us the forum we deserve to celebrate our community and explore the ideas, innovations and insights that will keep moving up forward. Let’s make it happen.