Family - Heritage - Resolve
Written by
Ana Lewis
June 2010
Written by
Ana Lewis
June 2010
These are the words used by Pamela Ferris-Olson in our panel discussion on the Minority Women in Leadership radio show, for She used the words, family, heritage and resolve to express this as the common foundation for minority women who are able to rise above their stereotyped roles and to have the confidence to move within their own skin, thus creating their own paths. All of us on the panel agreed with her. Dawn RiversBaker said her mother was the strength that made sure she didn't turn out to be a 15 year old pregnant girl, regardless of being raised in the projects. Elianne Ramos' parents would not buy her and her sister a kitchen set in order to instill in them that they had more choices, and to encourage them to explore their opportunities to get an education. My brother refused to let me go out of the house with what he called "too much" make-up, because he did not want me to be stereotyped. As a result, some of us have had to do a bit of rowing upstream. Ursula M. Burns put it very well, "Stuff happens to you, and then there's stuff that you happen to." Ms. Burns was raised by a single mother in a New York city housing project. She grew up and obtain a bachelor of science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Polytechnic Institute of NYU in 1980 and a master of science in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University a year later. She initially worked at Xerox in 1980 as a summer intern. In 2009, she became the first African-American woman to be named the CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Xerox). Like our panel, Ms. Burns is a shining example of the words family, heritage and resolve. That simple trinity seems to be the key to finding your way as a minority girl or boy in our contemporary world. The question we need to ask ourselves is - does it really matter what color our skin is? If we listen to our family, stand by our heritage and have inner resolve, doesn't that empower us to move forward and shed the stereotype? To simply be ourselves? To not try to please others? To not worry about conforming? Ms. Ferris-Olson talked about her own yearnings for that feeling of heritage. She made me feel like heritage is so grand and I realized - so taken for granted, that we forget that it is the path that has been carved out under our feet for us. That so many of our ancestors had to do that carving, so our day-to-day is just a little easier. That we are responsible for continuing that path for our daughters and sons, so that they may be able to feel the solid ground of heritage. In the United States, it seems a very popular view is for all of us to conform - to be American or get out. Even though, all of us, except for Native Americans are from immigrants, that path worn down by generations is forgotten. That path that can unite us is overlooked. Living 60 miles from the Mexican border, has brought me some very unfortunate moments. I have witnessed a man yelling at the PA system at Home Depot, because there was an announcement made in both English and Spanish. "Speak English, you moron!" the man shouted. I was saddened by his performance. Did that man never have a relative who did not speak English? I highly doubt that, but maybe it was so long ago, he forgot. Did that man realize that Mexican nationals bring in millions (maybe even billions) of dollars to our economy? The number one destination in the entire state of Arizona for visitors from Mexico is one of the malls in Tucson. Number one. Perhaps all of us need to remember our heritage, because whether it's in our face, deeply ingrained in our daily upbringing or simply a quiet space in our hearts - it's there. It's always there. And perhaps, in finding that voice that speaks to us of our heritage, we can feel the stern lessons from our mothers and fathers and even gain that much needed resolve as a result. Originally posted by Ana Lewis, founder of on the Women on the Verge website.

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  • Ana Lewis

    Beautiful! I have always believed in my heart that it is in our nature, as women to nurture and support one another. It is a beautiful thing when you can feel that unity of happiness for your triumphs and a hug when you fall. Women on the Verge is simply my beliefs showcased everyday in the community - by the community members. I am inspired, uplifted and so very proud of the women in the group - their amazing accomplishments, ability to live with humor and rise from the deepest depths. It's a passionate group. Please feel welcome to join us. You would be an asset and a shining light. Thank you.

  • Jocelyn Chia

    Ana, how did you start Women on the Verge?

    How does one find the courage, strength and resources to make such an amazing impact?

    I've lived too long hiding in a shell. Deeply bothered by things I see in the world but too afraid to step out. An irony to my faith. Or more like a slap in the face. I can change the TV channel, close the magazine, walk away from the poster, and try to distract myself so I can't feel. But while I can turn my back, this is someone's reality. Someone's life, that they don't have the choice to leave.

    When I was invited to write for Sister Village, I shared with Robin (founder) and Sharon (contributing writer) that as we want to make a difference, we can set the bar. To not just be a place where women gripe about things and become unhappy together, but a place where women are truly uplifted and empowered to be catalysts of change.

    I'd love to learn from you. Your vision, your experiences...if you wouldn't mind sharing.

    Thank you.