by Nyah Nile, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
This girl – me – is “going to slay her lane and she is on fire!”
The source of my blaze is the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit held at The Mirage Resort and Casino in Las Vegas last weekend (Feb. 28-March 3). Etched in my mind are the smiles, positive energies, legacies and testimonies of so many powerful women, including one running for president.
With Women’s History Month (March) and International Women’s Day (March 8) in mind, here’s the story of how I caught fire.
I’m a single mom (a 13-year-old son, Kyle) and the owner/CEO of PremierChoice in West Memphis, Ark. On February 11, I had a thought while in the shower, where I get all of my great ideas. I became keenly aware of the need to go to a business conference, summit or an expo to expand my CEO horizons.
Later, while taking a mid-day break at my office, I came across the Instagram story of one of my idols, Mahisha Dellinger, founder and CEO of Curls Beauty Brands. She was speaking at a summit. I read a bit more and knew where I needed to be.
I checked my calendar. No conflicts, so no excuses. I clicked and registered for the summit. “Hi Nyah, Congratulations! Your registration for Women of Power Summit 2019 was successfully completed.”
There was no turning back; the late registration refund date was in January. For about an hour, I chanted: “Nyah you can do it.” “Nyah have no fear.”
My mother agreed to travel my way and stay with my son. Via Southwest, I booked my first flight to Las Vegas.
I headed to the summit thinking that I had made a good business decision. It turned out to be so much more than that.
I arrived safely on Thursday with no problems, checked into my King-size suite with a view of the Las Vegas Strip, unpacked and settled in. The elevators and hallways were filled with beautiful black woman magic and the heads of non-summit guests were turning.
Up first was the Legacy Awards Reception, designed to kick-start the summit by networking with some of the influential and inspiring women en route to the14th Annual Legacy Awards Gala. Let’s just say Black Enterprise knows how to celebrate 14 years well.
After dinner, the show started. It was like a parade of trailblazing women.
Check out the list of Legacy honorees:
Cynthia Marshall – CEO of the Dallas Mavericks and founder of Marshalling Resources, a consulting firm specializing in Leadership, Diversity & Inclusion, Culture Transformation;
Chaka Khan – Singer, songwriter, actor, activist;
Alice Walker – Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Color Purple” novel;
Vashti Murphy McKenzie – Presiding Prelate 10th District African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. The 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the AME Church, her historic election in 2000 made her the first woman to obtain the level of Episcopal office in the over 200-year history of the AME Church.
Caroline Clarke, Chief Brand Officer of Women of Power, started the summit gala with “….OK Tiffany Hadish, this is The Ultimate Girls Trip… a trip like no other…. who would not want to go on a trip with 1500 powerful strong capable women.”
Alice Walker brought me to tears.
“…(If) we love ourselves and deeply feel that love and deeply live that love, we can not be defeated,” she said. “They may kill us, they may put us in jail, they may do all the things they always do so well, but we cannot be defeated if we love ourselves.”
Friday’s events started at 7 a.m. Continental Breakfast was a great way to meet fellow attendees. The welcome and opening remarks were given by Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., president & CEO of Black Enterprise.
The weekend was packed with opportunity for victories, 10 Executive Leadership sessions and eight Professional Development Sessions to choose from.
Conversations that Count rocked the house, ending with a rendition of Alicia keys’ hit single “Girl on Fire” accompanied by hall full of women on their feet singing along.
Barbara Graves Legacy Award Honoree, Bishop McKenzie, addressed the question of “Why Are You Here?” She honed in on “Creating a Sense of Urgency and Clear Intention for Your Life.”
Amid roars of laughter and shouts of “yeeeeessss,” she continued to say, “Come on lane slayer” and set the tone for the entire event.
Conversations that Count continued with Cynthia Marshall: How to Enter from the Center. The Legacy Award honoree walked into a raging #MeToo fire at the Dallas Mavericks after being handpicked by owner Mark Cuban to put it out. In 12 months, the AT&T veteran and the Queen of HASU (Hook a Sister Up!), has transitioned into a role she never saw coming and is leading an organizational transformation eyed as a template for the entire NBA and beyond.
Next up was U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, who is seeking the presidency. She spoke on “The Truths We Hold” during a session moderated by fellow lawyer, Star Jones, president of Professional Diversity Network, Inc.
As the weekend progressed, I decided my way through the multiple session options and even signed up for a one-on-one executive coaching session. I felt like God placed me in the hands of angels named Geralda Larkins, owner and visionary strategist of Geralda Larkins Consulting Company, and Cassandra Shepard, CEO and executive coach of Shepherd+CO LLC.
They made me feel comfortable talking about my entrepreneurial woes without judgment. They provided me with real solutions and written plans tailored for Nyah.
The Women of Power Summit wasn’t all work; we Turned Up too! And there was time to spoil yourself a little as well. I decided to elevate my style with some Macy’s consulting and do some shopping.
Now, back in the Mid-South, I continue to comb through the experience. I realize that I am forever changed by the wonderful new sisters, friends, mentors, coaches and icons – all dynamic women – who poured what they know and who they are into me, filling my heart.
I accept the challenge of spreading the good news about the lessons I learned.