Former Essence magazine editor Susan Taylor kicked off the third annual Women’s Empowerment Awards ceremony Tuesday night in Fulton Chapel. Two female faculty members and three students were also honored continuing the celebration of Women’s History Month.
Keynote speaker Taylor spent 27 years as editor of Essence magazine before leaving in 2005 to create the National CARES Mentoring Movement, which focuses on mentoring young adults in 58 American cities.
“If you look at the top tier positions in this nation, you’re going to find missing women,” Taylor said. “And we know that when women don’t believe in ourselves, when people don’t believe in us … when women shrink back from life, things fall apart.”
Taylor urged the audience to stand up for themselves and take care of themselves first before reaching out to others. She focused on empowering women and those in the African-American community.
Taylor said much of the work that needs to be done must be done by women.
“No one’s going to do it for us,” Taylor said. “We have to be fit, focused, organized, disciplined and armed with a plan of action.”
Taylor said one of the most important things for women today is to find a new consciousness and understanding of who they are within themselves.
“These aren’t conversations we usually have, and we never have (these conversations) in front of men,” Taylor said. “You have to fire the judge, the little inner critic that’s always telling you that you should look like those women in the magazines. Let me tell you – we retouch all the women you see in those magazines.”
Taylor said she believes being active in the community, engaging with people and looking in the mirror before pointing a finger are the keys to bringing peace to the world.
“You are loved,” Taylor said. “You are here on purpose, with a purpose. Stop doubting, stop fearing and wake up to who you are.”
Taylor ended with her speech by asking the audience to recite the final stanza of the poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” along with her.
“I’m inspired by the engagement of the young people, all that they’re doing and what they’re aspiring to do and the healing that has taken place on this campus,” Taylor said. “There’s an urgency to get involved in the larger world. It’s my honor to be a part of this.”
Four awards were presented at the ceremony to students and faculty members who have shown leadership and service in the community and on campus.
Biology student Alexis Pam and executive athletics director Lynnette Johnson, received the Hidden Figures Award for outstanding women in science-, technology-, engineering- and math-related fields.
Toni Denise Avant, director of the career center, received the Women’s Inspiration Award.
Sociology major Dominique Scott received the Phenomenal Woman Award.
Journalism major Brittany Brown received the Breakout Award.
“It really took me off guard,” Brown said. “I had no idea I was getting (the award). I’m truly honored.”
The Breakout Award is reserved for freshmen and sophomore students who exemplify leadership.
“It feels good to be recognized for doing things you love to do,” Brown said. “I’m humbled, honored and excited for the rest of the semester.”
Throughout March, Women’s History Month events will be hosted around campus, including the Sister2Sister Leadership Retreat on March 24 and a viewing of the movie “Hidden Figures” at 7 p.m. March 23 and 26 in the Grove.