On Friday, May 4th, DonCARES of Philadelphia and the ladies of Womin (in) Honour held a panel discussion for female students at the U School in North Philadelphia. The name of the panel discussion was Hidden Figures. The purpose of the panel discussion was for millennial women of color in the North Philadelphia community to share their stories of perseverance and achievement in male-dominated spaces. DonCARES of Philadelphia Founder Donovan Forrest was hoping the conversation would equip U School students with the tools neccessary to navigate potential spaces that are chockful of micro and macro-aggressions towards women of color. Among the Hidden Figures Panelists were Brianna Morales, Kaya Jones, Tierra Jones, Chynna Wilson, and Nagiarry Porcena-Meneus. The panel discussion was moderated by Talaya Pollard a member of Womin in Honour.
Among the Hidden Figures panelist were five phenomenal women. The first panelist was Nagiarry Porcena Meneus. Nagiarry is a Temple University Student and community activist in North Philadelphia. Ms. Porcena Meneus is also a founding member of People of Color Environmental Club. Also on the panel was Chynna Wilson. Mrs. Wilson is a retired Navy Veteran who served a tour in Afghanistan.
Chynna shared her story as a mechanic who tended to trucks to make sure they ran properly. She also recalled her grandfather telling her that because of who she is and the color of her skin she is going to have to work 110%.
After posting the event on her Instagram page. A tenth-grade student commented: "Amazing having you at our school."
"Amazing having you at our school."
Mrs. Wilson responded that she would love to stay updated with any of the student's goals and accomplishments. The student responded that she would keep her updated.
Also on the panel was Ms. Tierra Jones. Ms. Jones is a former Medical Auditor and the Founder and Director of ATTRACT Philly. ATTRACT Philly (http://attractphilly.org/) is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to empower the youth while promoting the importance of education through no-cost cultural, health and outreach activities.
While on the panel Ms. Jones talked about the importance of having a mentor. "I wish I would've had someone like me while I was in high school. I would've started my business back then." Tierra talked about the importance of being strong-willed despite what others will say about you or one's capabilities as a woman.
Also, on the panel was Kaya Jones a former mentor at DonCARES (www.doncaresphila.org), a current Temple University Student and a parliament member of Temple University's Student Government. While on student government, Kaya helped pass a resolution for inclusive women-only spaces on campus.
Brianna Morales a Sophomore at Temple University and a graduate of Central High School in Philadelphia discussed her reasons for pursuing a career as a social worker. "Many people think because I'm a woman, they expect me to go into social services. Because you are supposed to have a lot of passion and emotion towards your field." Ms. Morales stated that her reason for pursuing work in social services stemmed from a personal life event and that she has a deep passion for the law.
Hidden Figures is a panel discussion that will return to the U School in September.
The mission is to shed light on the contributions of black and brown women in male-dominated institutions and workforces. DonCARES of Philadelphia Founder and President Donovan Forrest believes in the empowerment of young girls of color. "It's our duty as male community activists to provide these spaces for our women. We need to share the stories that are too often pushed under the rug. It's unfortunate that women of color are not yet regarded as equal despite them being the highest educated group in the world."
Also, in attendance was Damontay Fowler-Thomas, the Curator of Project Pledge Philly https://www.gofundme.com/project-pledge-philadelphia. Project Pledge is a recently founded initiative whose goal is to provide elementary school students with book bags and school supplies in Southwest, Philadelphia.
Mr. Fowler Thomas who is also a rising senior at Temple University will serve as the Director of Local and Community Affairs for Temple Student Government. After the program, Damontay told Forrest of his reaction to the program. "It was weird not having a voice during this program," Damontay said. "Yeah, it's time for women to have their voices heard," Forrest responded.
Both Forrest and Thomas are regular supporters of Womin (in) Honour and the Temple University Section of the National Council of Negro Women. Both men agreed on the importance of providing spaces for women to speak, be believed, and inspire youth. After such a successful program, the two community activists are grateful and excited for more empowerment events in the future.
(Some of the attendees and panelists after the Hidden Figures Discussion)