Speeches By Black Female Orators You Should Know – Part 2


If you haven’t seen my last post, for Women’s History Month,  I began a curation of a few of the most powerful and influential speeches made by black women. That post featured a Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman”, Josephine Baker’s words from The March on Washington, and Shirley Chisolm’s introduction of The Equal Rights Amendment. This month, I wanted to touch on some influential speeches that were made a bit more recently.

Viola Davis’s 2015 Emmy Acceptance Speech

Viola Davis has quickly become a household name, and for good reason. Not only has Viola solidified herself as an amazing actress, she’s also unafraid to speak the truths of her reality in the Hollywood (as seen in her 2011 Women in Hollywood speech). Her speech in 2015 at the Emmy’s was monumental. Viola became the first African American to receive an Emmy for best actress in drama, and she shared her win with all women of color in the industry, with a poignant and beautiful thank you.

The speech was as follows:


“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me, over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’

That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.

You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes, people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black.

And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union: Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you to the Television Academy. Thank you.”

It’s easy to see why this speech was so important. Viola was able to shed light on a situation much larger than herself, and was adamantly thankful to those who played (and continue to play) a part in the creation of opportunity for black women and other women of color in Hollywood.


Michelle Obama’s Remarks at Memorial Service for Dr. Maya Angelou


Speeches from memorial services are most definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about important speeches. But Michelle Obama’s words for the late Dr. Maya Angelou’s service went beyond a simple eulogy. She spoke of the power that Dr. Angelou possessed, and the impact that Angelou had on the lives of black women, and all women everywhere.  Michelle Obama spoke not only as the First Lady of the United States but also as every woman. She spoke to how Dr. Angelou made her feel, and was able to voice her thanks, praise, and reverence for the amazing Dr. Maya Angelou.


“But while I don’t remember her exact words I do remember exactly how she made me feel. She made me feel like I owned the place, too. She made me feel like I had been born on that stage right next to her. And I remember thinking to myself, “Maya Angelou knows who I am! And she is rooting for me! So now, I’m good. I can do this. I can do this.”

You can watch the full speech here:

Speeches By Black Female Orators You Should Know – Part 1

In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to share what are, in my opinion, a few of the most powerful and poignant speeches by Black women in history.

These are speeches that have quite literally changed history, and were delivered by women who were unafraid to voice their opinions and passion in spaces that were/are not always welcoming and appreciative of their words.

There will be some very old, and some very new speeches listed, but each one deserves recognition and serves as an important reminder of the power of words.

(Click the links to read the full speeches)


“Ain’t I A Woman?”– Sojourner Truth (1851)

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth delivered this speech on May 29th, 1851 to the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. While there are a few different versions of the speech floating around, every single version portrays the same powerful message: A demand for equality of women of all races. It was a succinct and ground breaking speech, that acted as a retort to the idea of women being weak and intellectually inferior to men.


Josephine Baker at the March on Washington (1963)

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker was the only woman that spoke at the March on Washington. Ms. Baker was famed for being a singer and entertainer of unrivaled talent, who dominated the entertainment industry in the 1920s. She was the first African american woman to star in a movie, and the first to integrate a concert hall in the US. But, by 1963, Josephine was known for living as an expatriate in France. She’d always been an activist, and delivered her speech to the masses in her uniform from the french resistance.


Josephine spoke of the reasons behind her self-imposed exile to France. She told her story of being invited into palaces and homes of presidents of other countries, but being denied service and humanity in the United States. Ms. Baker stressed to the United States as a whole that the treatment of blacks was unreasonable and inhumane, and that change was of the utmost importance.


The Introduction of The Equal Rights Amendment by Shirley Chisholm


Shirley Chisholm was a force to be reckoned with, and she dedicated her career to making positive changes for women. Ms. Chisholm was the first black woman to be elected to Congress, and she made sure to use her position of power bring the Equal Rights Amendment back to the forefront of people’s minds.

Shirley Chisholm’s speech addressed the harsh reality of the fact that she felt more discrimination for being a woman than for being black (as outward racial discrimination was becoming less acceptable). She expressed that there was an unspoken, but very real assumption that women were less capable and not as intelligent as men. Her speech called for a recognition and reconciliation of the discriminatory practices against women; and helped bring attention to the issues that many attempted to overlook.

Be sure to check back next month for even more beautiful, powerful speeches you need to be aware of!


Better Education Means Teacher Recognition

apple-256261_960_720How do we catalyze significant progress in education? What increases the nation’s high school graduation rate, narrows achievement gaps, and helps young people, minorities in particular, attend college?


According to a recent study, about five percent of teachers feel their voices are heard and valued within their district. Two percent think their voices matter on a national level. And one-third of teachers feel completely unheard by their district.

That’s a problem. Teachers need to be heard, supported, and valued in order to optimize students education in addition to keeping schools, programs and policies effective.

The Education Department understands that failing to support teachers voices and value their expertise in the classroom has “deep implications,” the most critical is being retaining teachers. So, in 2014, the Education Department teamed up with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to create Teach to Lead.

The initiative aims to improve the quality of education on a national scale through the expansion of teacher leadership opportunities. According to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, teachers are leading students and schools through a transition period: one that includes higher standards, better assessments, and more personalized learning. And while their leadership is critical, it definitely is not easy.

Schools and districts are making fundamental shifts in education culture, giving teachers a “more central role” in structuring the policies that affect their careers. On June 29th of 2015, the U.S. Education Department released a fact sheet elaborating on the initiative in hopes to gain motivation to support the expansion of the teacher empowerment initiative. A press release also highlighted the existing district and state systems currently supporting teacher leadership, shared available resources for providing new teacher leadership opportunities.

This progress has all be made possible because, nationwide, teachers are adopting more crucial leadership roles inside their classrooms to improve students education as a whole. The idea behind Teach to Lead is that by placing more value in teachers and the role they play will spill out into other facets, like highly-attended after-school programs, effective policies, and an overall higher quality of education.

The first step in acknowledging their voices? “Teachers deserve our sincerest thanks,” said Duncan.

Why a Woman’s Education is the Most Valuable Thing

There is an old African proverb that reads “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation).” And that proverb holds true today.

woman with books

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The importance of an education for women on this planet is paramount; by giving them the tools they need to survive and flourish will help them overcome sexist laws and constraints they may face depending on their location. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has even gone so far to regard female education a “silver bullet” in terms of empowering women and making progress with gender equality.

Here are a few reasons why female education is so important to everyone:

Helps put a stop to human trafficking. According to the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, those who are the most vulnerable to fall victim to human trafficking rings are often undereducated and living below the poverty line. By simply educating women in fundamental skills and offering different opportunities, the human trafficking industry, which is currently valued at $32 billion annually, can be significantly reduced.

Smart family planning. Educating women has led to a reduction in accidental pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and infections, and are three times less likely to contract HIV when given a primary school education, according to The World Bank. Children of educated mothers double their chances of survival past age five, and the more a woman participates in her education, the smaller her family will most likely be.

Increases income. Education, no matter where you live, boosts your earning potential significantly. In under-developed countries especially, education not only enlightens women to the opportunities they can chase, as well as the tools to execute their dreams. According to research gathered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, just one year in primary school can increase a girls average wage by 20 percent.

Raises the literacy rate. It’s obvious that when children are educated, literacy is one of the first obstacles tackled. In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible to operate any sort of job effectively without knowing how to read, and, of the 163 million illiterate youth on the planet, almost 63 percent of those children are female.



Black Women and the Advancement of Higher Education

Time and time again, it has been proven that educated citizens can tremendously impact society in a positive way, and there has been a push for governments, both on state and national levels, to pledge their commitment to ensuring educational opportunity for all.

Black female student

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Predominantly, the opportunity for education needs to be present for those whom that opportunity has been elusive throughout history. Minorities, particularly women of color, haven’t been afforded the same opportunities for higher education, despite a rich history of their groundbreaking contributions to the cause of education in America.

Here are just a few women of color who have kicked in the schoolhouse door.

Dr. Johnetta Cole

When Dr. Cole was named president of Spelman College in 1987, she became the first black female President of the small liberal arts women’s college, also one of the oldest historically black colleges (HBC) for women in America. Under her leadership, the SAT scores of incoming freshman consistently ranked higher than any other HBC in the nation, earning the college the title as one of the top regional liberal arts colleges in the South by U.S. News and World Report magazine.

Dr. Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes

After becoming the first black woman to earn her Ph.D. in Mathematics from The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. in 1943, Dr. Haynes then went on to establish the first mathematics department at Miner Teachers College, known today as the District of Columbia Teachers College, and serve as Chair of the Division of Mathematics and Education. In 1966, she played an instrumental role in integrating the DC public school system as the first woman to chair the District of Columbia School Board.

President Shirley Jackson, Ph.D.

Adding to the list of notable women of color who’ve made significant strides for the cause of education, Dr. Jackson was the first black female to receive a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1973. Twenty-two years later, she was named the first black person and first woman to serve as chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and was also the first black woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering. To top off her list of impressive firsts, Dr. Jackson became the first black female to lead a major technological institute when in 1999 she was named the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a position she holds to this day.

Public Speaking–Why We Should All Do It

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who would willingly, and dare I say enthusiastically, sign up for a public speaking course and those who will do just about anything to avoid it.

In fact, the Chapman University Survey on American Fears found that America’s biggest phobia is public speaking, with 25.3 percent of those polled admitting the dread they feel when communicating to a crowd is the the most terrifying thing they can imagine. Even more so than snakes, bugs, and needles.

When most think of public speaking, sweaty palms, racing minds, and shaky voices come to mind, however the benefits of public speaking can outweigh the terrors of talking once the fear has been overcome (or comfortably accepted).

Here are a handful of reasons why everyone (yes, that means you!) should take a public speaking course:

Fear? What Fear?

Fear of public speaking? Like we mentioned before, it’s a given with over a quarter of the American population. So by taking a public speaking course, you’re essentially kicking fear in the gut, letting it know it doesn’t control you.

Facing a fear is a guaranteed confidence-booster (and after you’ve overcome America’s biggest fear, there’s basically nothing you can’t do) and by the end of the course, you’ll be able to stand up in front of a crowd, making strong eye contact while delivering your words with conviction and vigor.

Public speaker

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Face it, You Need it.

We might shudder in terror at the notion, but there are very few professions, college courses, and lifestyles that don’t require to never get in front of a crowd and communicate to some degree. From boardroom presentations, to giving your kid’s little league team a pep-talk, it’s difficult to avoid public speaking for your entire life. And while Jerry Seinfeld once famously said  “…to the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy,” a 2013 survey by the National Association of College and Employers found that communicating effectively is the most sought-after quality in new employees.

Allow Yourself to be Heard.

When we reflect on some of the most influential people in history, it’s unlikely they never got up in front of a crowd and let their voice be heard. Public speaking can make a huge difference, from TED talks to Presidential addresses to elementary school book reports, it’s an opportunity to stand in front of an audience and captivate them. Make them feel, challenge them, influence them.


College Students Need More Than Money

The human brain is truly an exceptional resource. And when given the right opportunities and adequate support it needs to grow and thrive, the brain can be an amazing investment.

A college education is an invaluable opportunity, and adds a certain edge to those who take it seriously. Historically black colleges, in particular, have managed to produce 18 percent of African-Americans with bachelor’s degrees as well as 25 percent of African-Americans with bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math-related fields.Photo of graduating college students

Three years ago, they were four percent of all four-year colleges and universities in the country, but historically black colleges and universities have been able to master providing their students with both the skills they need as well as the skills society needs them to have. The U.S. Department of Education’s White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities gathered research suggesting that university and college students are optimally served when they complete their degrees on time, persisting through their specific curriculum, and graduating with small or no debts and the ability to find prospective employment opportunities.

The financial burden of a college education is something a majority of U.S. undergraduates are facing today, and even more so within historically black universities and colleges, as their students are primarily first-generation minority students from low-income households. So obviously, something needs to be done to ease the financial strain.

A scholarship as little as $5,000 has the power to increase graduation rate by 7 percent, according to the United Negro College Fund. It’s statistics like those that have pushed companies to invest in students, because they’re ultimately investing in the future. Anheuser-Busch partnered with the UNCF to invest $150,000 in scholarships to support the education and development of 30 exceptional student leaders.

The student leaders, who are all enrolled in historically black colleges and universities, were spotlighted at the Legends of the Crown Leadership Symposium in St. Louis, Missouri earlier this month. The weekend-long event had participants immerse themselves in a community service project, leadership development training, and career-building seminars.

It’s events like the Legends of the Crown Leadership Symposium that highlight the country’s dire need to support our college students more than just financially. Scholarships and adequate financial aid programs aren’t enough, the youths of today needs access to more well-rounded resources and proactive programs so they can become the leaders of tomorrow.


To read the original article, click here.

4 Tips for Skillful Public Speaking

microphone-barbara mckinzieMany face public speaking with an air of fear in their stomach. However, there are several ways to overcome that feeling and attack the art masterfully. Perhaps it is refreshing to know that this subject has been discussed all throughout history.

In ancient Greece, individuals believed in the power of persuasion and public speaking. Philosopher, Aristotle identified three components of communication that if followed correctly would make for the most powerful method of conveying ideas. He highlighted Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Ethos involves gaining the respect of the listeners, Pathos is the appeal to the listeners’ emotions, and Logos includes the facts used to convey a message. There are more tips that will make a public speech powerful.


A speech that comes across as spontaneous can take the most prep time. Winston Churchill and Mark Twain both acknowledge that practice is a valuable component of effective speaking. Churchill went as far as executing 45 hours of preparing for a speech that was meant to be 45 minutes long.

The Big Idea

Within the first few moments of being on stage, it is important for the speaker to get to the main point of their presentation. Some of the top TED talks all employ the same method. It is similar to an unforgettable song that has a recognition worthy hook. Give the audience something that they can take with them.

Artful Pause

Taking a moment of silence before beginning is a method of gaining the audience’s attention. Napoleon Bonaparte was known for doing this with his troops. This strategy adds weight to the words about to be said and can also be found in negotiation meetings or sales pitches.

Be Authentic

Use casual wording and a tone that would appeal to those in a barbershop, for example, even if you are on stage delivering a speech. Ronald Reagan explored this approach during his years as a radio broadcaster. To better reach his listeners, he didn’t want to think of them as random individuals. He spoke as if he were building camaraderie at his local barber. This type of banter is more relatable.

To read more, visit Fast Company online here.