To live in an ever-changing Brooklyn, NY, in a world where women are STILL fighting for equal rights can prove to be exhausting. To quote the late Malcolm X,
The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.
As a Belizean-American woman who identifies as Black, I make it my duty to seek out empowering spaces, activities, and events, for women and girls. I always welcome the opportunity for verbal exchange, as I see it as a form of self-care.
While browsing the BRIC website, the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, I was excited to see a free event on the calendar entitled, Bridge to Brilliance: Nadia Lopez in Conversation with Michaela Angela Davis. As coins are a bit low for me, the FREE was a huge draw, but the women featured were most important. By now, you should be familiar with Dr. Nadia Lopez, the Principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Her story became viral via popular Instagram account & blog, Humans of New York, when her student Vidal, mentioned to Brandon that she was the person who has influenced him the most.
The conversation, moderated by CNN contributor and image activist Michaela angela Davis was to serve as the release event of Lopez’s book, BRIDGE TO BRILLIANCE: How One Principal in a Tough Community is Inspiring the World. I purchased my copy of the book prior to the event as I figured the inspiring story would help lift my spirits, and help me get out of the “I’m 30 and I have no idea what I am doing with my life” rut.
The event, held on the evening of Tuesday, September 20th, took place on “The Stoop” at BRIC, where many public community events are held. At 7 PM, introductions were made, and we began the night watching Dr. Lopez’s TED Talk “Why open a school? To close a prison”, which was filmed in November 2015.
Upon commencement of the video, we were introduced to the women of the evening, and we got right into the conversation. Michaela began, detailing her relationship with Nadia, beginning nearly 10 years ago at an event for girls at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus. She warned us that she had no full agenda, as the two are friends in real life, and her goal was to keep the conversation as real and engaging as possible. These are the conversations I look forward to, and as Michaela mentioned, “this is a conversation that can only happen in Brooklyn!”
Dr. Nadia Lopez & Michaela angela Davis
Both women detailed chatting backstage prior to the talk, and how much they had cried together, not only on that night, but in general. On the night of the event, video of the killing of unarmed Tulsa man, Terrence Crutcher by local authorities had surfaced, along with news of the fatal shooting of Keith Scott by police in Charlotte, and the somber feeling was felt throughout the room. Within minutes of the conversation beginning, I must admit I was quite emotional myself, holding back tears as I listened to the exchange because it summed up so many ways that I felt at the time. Davis & Lopez more than anything made a point to unmask what #BlackGirlMagic is. Lopez went on to say “we got magic, but sometimes I want to disappear.”
The ideal of the Black woman as a superhero was a central theme; she takes care of everyone around her, giving all she can, and making something out of nothing on a daily basis, but who takes care of her?
The evening concluded with a thought-provoking Q&A session featuring questions from community leaders, educators, lawyers, and school students. I considered asking a question, but I was unable to as the talk wrapped up at the moment when I was about to raise my hand. Since we are here, I will share my thoughts and question I would have asked to Dr. Lopez:
As a fellow Brooklyn girl, and child of parents who have worked in, and continue to work in NYC Public Schools, I can completely relate to your story. Starting your own school is an idea that may be farfetched to some. What advice would you give to young girls & women who have farfetched ideas for their career or future businesses?
This is a question I not only ask for myself, as I believe I am still in the process of “figuring it out”, but also every young woman out there that is in need of a bit of inspiration.
Book signing was the final chapter, no pun intended, of the evening and I made sure to move swiftly to the front of the line as I had purchased my book earlier in the day. I was about fourth or fifth in line, and when I got to the front, I made sure to tell a bit of my story. I mentioned my parents working in public school, and I thanked her for everything she does, and gave her a hug.
Instead of rushing out of the building to go home, I wandered around the space, taking a gander at the art on view. I felt so motivated, empowered, and full of love at the end of the night. Was this the impetus of change for me, and my life? We shall wait and see. In the meantime, make sure to check out the BRIC website for upcoming talks, art exhibitions, and live music.
*Photo by Andrea K. Castillo