A Recap: The Women of Color Power and Purpose Forum

 Panelists at the Alumni of Color Lunch Panel 
Panelists at the Alumni of Color Lunch Panel 

Robert Cain ’21

On March 3rd, the Kravis Leadership Institute, the Berger Institute, and the CMC Care Center hosted the first annual Women of Color Power and Purpose Forum—a day-long symposium highlighting a powerful, unprecedented moment in history where women of color are gaining increased access to opportunity in innovation, technology, and social change movements. This heightened exposure has redefined what it means to be a women of color as more and more enter male-dominated industries. This forum sought to help attendees understand their purpose by inviting successful women to speak on their respective areas of expertise and lead workshops geared towards unlocking inner potential.   

The program consisted of three morning workshops and three afternoon workshops. The morning workshops included Find Your Purpose – Aligning Your Values with Professional and Personal Goals, Redefining and Defining Your Purpose, and Deeper Forward Stance Practice. The afternoon workshops included Cultivating Your Power, Collective Power Cultivated Through Personal Pedagogy, and Unlocking Possibility and Action on Your Goals.

CMC alumni were also invited to speak on the Alumni of Color Lunch Panel: A Real World Perspective. Speaking on the panel were San San Lee ’85 of the Law Offices of San San Lee, Quality and Risk Management Associate Manager for Accenture, Nazneen Nathani ’01, and Assistant Director of the Younes and Soraya for the Performing Arts, Maria Paredes ’09.

The panelists mainly focused on unpacking the meaning of failure. Nathani stressed the importance of establishing a high self awareness. She claimed that “you must accept that what you are doing, who you are, and the choices you make are the right thing for your situation.” In other words, we shouldn’t let fear of failure define our actions because according to Lee, “we are going to experience failure at some point.” Therefore, embracing failure and learning from your mistakes is more productive than sulking about how and why you made them in the first place. True success requires a bit of failure.

Paredes also added that most mistakes are not made out of foolishness; you make the choice with the belief that it is right at the given moment. While it might be right or wrong, you must remain confident in your ability to make right choices, despite the possibility of making wrong choices.  

The day concluded with an inspiring performance from the keynote speaker, Amikaeyla Gaston, who serves as the Cultural Ambassador for the US State Department and heals communities with music. During her speech, she united the room with her eloquent vocals and passionate lyrics, occasionally chanting—while also asking us to repeat—“may we be one with the infinite sun. Forever! Forever! May we be in tune with the healing of the moon. Forever! Forever!”

This was no ordinary speech. Gaston gave us a glimpse at how she channels her musical talent as a medium for fulfilling her purpose of healing communities and developing a world where all voices are heard. For me, just sitting in the room with such a vibrant, confident, and powerful woman gave me the motivation to surrender fear and live shamelessly. A woman with purpose and power was in our midst, and she gracefully shared hers with all of us…     

CMC student Shanil Verjee ‘21, who served on the planning committee, shared her thoughts on the overall impact of the event:

“It was truly special to be able to create a space where WOC could discuss their specific personal and professional circumstances, surrounded by people who have experienced or are experiencing the same thing. We, along with the incredible workshop facilitators, were able to turn what are often conversations about what makes WOC different, into conversations about similarities and shared experiences. Thus, I feel that we were able to empower those who attended, and inspire WOC to use their differences to change the world, rather than acting in spite of their differences.”