Editors note: This guest post is by Belva Davis, who served as a moderator for the Fourth Annual Women Changing the World Luncheon. As the first black female TV journalist in the West, Belva Davis helped change the face and focus of TV news.
You can fight for change so long and so hard that you almost miss the shifting tides that signal success. Old beliefs cloud your vision and dim the emerging views until a new reality hits you on the head.
My awakening came at The San Francisco Foundation’s fourth annual Women Changing the World luncheon.
All of the speakers were talented, top of their field women, excelling as leaders and also as mentors, even as they too took on career leadership positions.
One was a City supervisor who had been raised by her grandmother in public housing in the district she now represents. San Francisco Supervisor London Breed was there to introduce Helen Branham of Urban Solutions, a non-profit that guides young entrepreneurs from low income communities through financial and business hurdles. Helen was there to introduce her clients. They were:
Sheila Harris Young and Toni Young, two women who were successfully running their own company, Bumyz’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, out of their Western Addition location in San Francisco. They talked about their appreciation for the guidance they had received and the joy of running a successful business.
The last two speakers were women with national and international reputations.
Stacy Brown-Philpot spent nearly a decade leading global operations for technology giant Google’s flagship products and served as head of online sales and operations for Google India.
What excites this young mother of a toddler is her position as COO of Taskrabbit, an internet firm that provides people to assist with all the things you don’t have time to take care of. It’s a company that is a young mother’s dream…there to do whatever task you can’t handle, whenever you need it.
Kimberly Bryant has worked as an electrical engineer and biotech professional, but now she is giving all of her energy to gender equity issues in the technology world.
She started a national non-profit Black Girls Code with the aim of demonstrating that girls of every color can become computer programmers and much more, given the opportunity.
Soon after Kimberly’s introduction, I realized that something unique was occurring. My audience of well dressed women, who were at least 90 percent white, might have a hard time understanding why I consider what was occurring phenomenal. It was a very emotional moment for me when I realized that all of the program’s principal speakers were black women, talking about professional success to a non-black audience.
How was I to explain that when I entered broadcasting over forty years ago, this program with black women would not have been possible because of gender and most certainly racial discrimination?
For a time I had stood alone, as the first black woman television news reporter in the state. Other women were fighting for and winning positions that had been closed to them across many fields. The fight for gender equality was big news back then and I pushed to cover their stories.
But over all of these years, this was the first time I had hosted a program with the formula for presenters and audience turned upside down. Frankly, I had been observing the struggle in bits and pieces. Now there we were on the stage talking with accomplished black women in politics, technology, finance, business, and philanthropy about their success to an audience of women so successful themselves.
I doubt that the younger women on the program gave a thought to the format of the program or the fact that there were few black faces in the audience and that was the best part of my revelation. They didn’t have to frame life though my lens because life was different for them. Yes, there are still barriers, but a different life was possible and they were living it.
I thought about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and President Lyndon Johnson who signed that bill into law. I hope they never give a thought to being restricted on where they can sit on a bus or train or having to drink from a racially marked drinking fountain. It would just seem silly to them. But the fact is we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of that legislation this year. That is why I celebrate the moment of revelation at the Women Changing the World luncheon. It was those memories colliding that made my voice quiver.