By Mys Helen Martin, Young Women’s Cabinet member
“Who is the United State of Women? WE ARE! And make no mistake, our time is now.”
On May 6 and 7 in Los Angeles, the United State of Women 2018 Summit was the place to be as more than 5,000 women gathered to hear some of the most powerful women leaders in the country speak their truth, share their vision, and call all to action. Topics ranged from gender equality and the #MeToo movement to Black Lives Matter, and more.
Among the dozens of notable speakers featured, the most anticipated special guest of all was Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States. After an introduction by her Black-ish co-star Marsai Martin, actress Tracee Ellis Ross interviewed Michelle Obama, covering a variety of topics from parenting, her parents, growing up, walking in your purpose, and more.
I was part of a delegation the Women’s Foundation brought to the conference representing the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota. Four other Cabinet members were also part of the delegation, including Nashel’ Bebeau, Raie Gessesse, Katherine Santamaria-Mendez, and Katelyn Vue.
A huge highlight was when young women representatives of the National Collaborative of Young Women Initiatives took the stage to elevate the leadership of young women to be solution-builders in their lives and communities and to ensure a voice at the table. It was a proud moment when Nashel’ Bebeau, representing Minnesota’s YWI, opened this portion of the program with power and purpose — first in Ojibwe, then in English — showcasing everything that YWI is about:
“Aaniin Anishinabe doog.
Nashel’ Bebeau nindishinikaanigoo
Gaazaga skwaa ji me kaag nindoonjiba. Baaga ‘ ado waganing nindaa.
Hello everyone. My name is Nashel’ Bebeau. I belong to the Bullhead Clan. I am from the Leech Lake Reservation. I live in Ball Club, Minnesota.
As a leader of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, I represent the voices of 800 young women of color, including Native women.
Too often, we are told to be resilient. My leadership demands we build resilient systems for girls like us to thrive.” (Read Nashel’ Bebeau’s full blog, here.)
More than 10 workshops were designed to offer engaging content for attendees — from advocates to entrepreneurs to activists, there was a workshop tailored for you.
Designed with a common goal to see all women thrive, the workshops addressed topics from breaking down stigmas, investing in women, leading by example, wealth equality, and many other issues faced by women.
The truly impressive list of guest speakers included Brittany Packnett (vice president of national community alliances, Teach for America; co-founder of Camaign Zero), Dolores Huerta (activist; American labor leader, civil rights activist; co-founder, National Farmworkers Association, now United Farm Workers), Tarana Burke (founder, #MeToo), Valerie Jarrett (attorney, businesswoman, civic leader; former senior advisor to the 44th President of the United States), Ai-jen Poo (activist; director, National Domestic Workers Alliance; co-director, Caring Across Generations), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Jane Fonda (actress, activist), Tina Tchen (American lawyer; former Assistant to President Barack Obama; former Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, and former executive director, White House Council on Women and Girls), Shannon Watts (founder, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America) – to name a few.
Each leader reminded us that WE are the ones we have been waiting for to #ChangeCulture to ensure economic opportunity, safety, and leadership for all women. As a Cabinet, we returned to Minnesota motivated by all we’d seen and heard, knowing that women are on the RISE.
For me it was more than a chance for me to hear phenomenal women speak, it was a chance for me to be inspired, motivated, and empowered. After attending an event like the USOW Summit, I know that I have the power within me to be successful and to #ChangeCulture.