By Angela Coggs
On March 14, 2015, Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation hosted their 3rd Annual Girl Talk conference at San Bernardino Valley College. The conference opened for registration at 8am and provided a continental breakfast to the participants. The event, “Girl Talk 3: Empowering 2 Excel”, invited young women ages 12-21 to participate in the all-day educational, fun and motivational experience. The energetic moderator for the event was Courtnie Dowdy, a recent graduate of Pepperdine University. The event was built around the idea of imagining what can happen in the life of a young woman when she is empowered to succeed.
The event was kicked off by City of San Bernardino 3rd Ward Council Member John Valdivia and San Bernardino Valley College President Dr. Gloria Fisher. The attendees were also welcomed by some of their peers, recent crowned queens from the local area and schools: Miss Black San Bernardino 2015 Desiree Mckenzie, Miss Cardinal San Bernardino High School Monserrat Gutierrez, Miss Inland Empire Outstanding Teen Brielle Angelique, and Miss Black San Bernardino participants Bashirah Arogunddade and Janeice Midgett representing at Girl Talk 3 . Grand Terrace High School sophomore, Raihahan Medlock, performed a personal and touching spoken word that really resonated with the audience members.
In the main room, the participants viewed a video about human trafficking entitled, “Making of a Girl.” After viewing this very powerful video the participants were able to ask questions. Many of them did not realize how prevalent human trafficking is in general and in the Inland Empire. “I didn’t know this was going on in my neighborhood,” said one shocked sophomore from San Gorgonio High School. “It makes me wonder about my surroundings.”
There were four workshop sessions available and participants attended all via a rotating system. The workshops included Healthy Queens (hygiene related), Sister to Sister (boundaries), Knowing Me Before I Know You (self-love) and STEMing Your Way to the Top (encouraging females toward science, technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
Two topics of discussions that took place in a larger venue were Prom Promises and Sickle Cell Trait. Prom Promises was presented by Joyce Payne and it touched on what to expect and person safety with choosing whether to go with a date or in a group. Not only were the attendees inspired by the information given but the mother of the Inland Empire Outstanding Teen was very impressed. “She was great. I loved how she presented this information to the young ladies. It was absolutely wonderful.” The topic of Sickle Cell Traits was presented during a working lunch. Farron Dozier and his daughter Deja Dozier, a junior at Bloomington High School, spoke to participants about their own experience with the disease known as the Silent Killer, which primarily affects the African American population. His organization is called WHATZ DA COUNT and his campaign is called “What’z in your genes?” The purpose is to provide sickle cell trait awareness and to re-educate the community about the sickle cell trait and thalassemia trait. Not only was he diagnosed when he was a Sergeant First Class in the United States Army in 2006, later his daughter was also diagnosis with trait as well. The audience was quiet as they spoke but they asked a lot of questions afterwards. The topic was an important part of the day.
“As an advocate when sharing your message you really never know who’s listening and sometimes you don’t know if you’ve even been heard but what I believe in is the ripple effect. That somehow somewhere someone’s listening and your message is out there, I feel them in my purpose and I’m doing my passion. I’m out to educate the community about Sickle Cell Trait,” said Dozier.
Dozier was especially touched by a comment by one of the participants of Girl Talk 3 with the username of angie_90h9 commented on his picture on Intagram, “Thank you to you and your daughter for speaking to us. I was unaware that sickle cell could be passed down like that until you spoke to us about it and I’m happy you did.” She concluded with by saying “I hope for the best for you and your daughter health wise and just in general. Take care.” Dozier’s response was a humbled; “Need I say more?” He reached at least one person that day and many more.
Another memorable guest who spoke with the parents who attended the event was Evangelist Beverly Broadus Green, mother of rapper Snoop Dogg. She shared her life story and how she had to learn to love herself before she could love someone else. She invited the mothers to take control of their own lives and to not go looking for a man but rather him come to you. She connected with the women in the room. She had attendees moved to tears with her story of triumph over major life struggles. Shanila Shabufta, vendor with the African American Mental Health Coalition, felt a connection with Green. “I can relate to what she said. She put herself out there. She talked about inner conflict, growing up in church and knowing what’s right and wrong but still having conflict to do the right thing. I think everyone has those moments,” she said. “I can definitely relate to her. I loved hearing her speak today.”
In addition to the workshops, the young women were treated to entertainment, opportunity drawings, poems by SBCUSD Vicki Lee and former SBCUSD student Chelsea Davis, and a step show by the San Gorgonio Steppers and members of University of California, Riverside chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc.
Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation’s CEO/President and San Bernardino City Unified School District Candidate was pleased with the turn out and stated “the event was a huge success.” Over a hundred girls in attendance and were surveyed throughout the day. The girls all indicated that they were having a great time. Each girl also interacted in photo booth where they dressed up and had fun. All pictures are posted on Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation Facebook.
YWE serves to strengthen the character of young women of high school age in the San Bernardino City region of the Inland Empire in Southern California. The mission of our program is to empower these young women to achieve at their highest potential, particularly in education, and to instill in them a commitment to return to their community as leaders and mentors.