I want to share with you an interesting conversation I had over four
years ago with my then 19 year old daughter. Yes, I am taking the liberty to share now because I think it is still timely. There is an even greater task for us as women who are mothers, mentors, wisdom carriers, and counselors to lead and guide. This responsibility includes not only to nurture but we must also teach, train and guide our girls and women. Let there be no debate about the need to prepare to live life fully in this world. They yearn to create, dream, envision and make things happen so we must learn to activate them. This is my mission. Approximately four years ago in 2017 my daughter had the privilege of attending a Women's Leadership conference at the Ohio State University. She along with approximately 40 women of diverse backgrounds were selected to attend sessions on leadership skills and meet the movers and shakers in public policy, government and politics.
After checking in with her, my daughter remarked about how exciting it was and how she was very impressed with the caliber of women who were speakers and even the participants. At one point she said, "Mom, I don't know the language/jargon they are using I'm not familiar" and she even eluded to the fact that because of this she was questioning how she was selected. Now you know I went into mother/mentor/motivator/fearless promoter mode.
If you don't know , you should know there is such a thing as "sitting at the table" Usually we associate this phrase with those who are prepared, equipped and experienced to make important decisions and these decisions usually impact those who serve the table and so many others who will never get close to the table.
I am convinced 'language" is used one of many tools to limit those who are able sit at the table. This cult of language that shapes a field is usually perpetuated by those who create the language, fortify it with culture capital ( money and resources) and commodification. They are the influencers. Those who serve the table can provide some administrative assistance and get to observe a glimmer of the power and decision making. Yes, they catch a glimpse of the conversations but they don't make the decisions nor do they get the recognition.
What am I saying? I am charging all persons but specifically those women who are responsible for leading girls and other women, to encourage them to learn the language of those who sit at the table. How do we do this? We do it by promoting a culture of literacy. We do it by reading and expanding our vocabulary. We should encourage our girls and women to engage in challenging conversations with people who know more than they do . We do it by asking questions over and over and chasing after the knowledge that brings us closer to solutions for ourselves, our communities and the world. We do it by developing a hunger to learn, a thirst to be apart of something greater than ourselves. It is no longer acceptable for us to listen to youth say I hate to read or reading is boring. Such statements keep them away from the table. Such statements will never get them invited. Such statements backfire and lead them to take on the role of the victim who is powerless and complacent . Instead we should provoke them to rise up, learn the language, own the language and create a new lexicon and language.
Now back to my daughter. She is an avid reader with an extensive vocabulary and she is a proud graduate of the Ohio State University still learning and growing. Her experiences and training led her to an internship with the Peace Corp in Washington DC and NPR's All Sides with Ann Fisher in Ohio. However, at that time she was just being introduced to public policy so my job was to encourage her to read and learn as much as possible about law, policy analysis, women's history, urban planning. My role was to support and convince her that she would soon learn and have what it took to sit at several tables. She needed to learn how to negotiate, plan and make good, morally sound decisions. She was being stretched and challenged in a different way. Our role as mentors is to be firm and tell those girls and young women we mentor without a doubt that they deserve to be at that table.