Reflections from USOW 2018

by April Benavidez King, Rise Up Leadership Council member

I have to admit that when I first received Rise Up’s invitation to the United State of Women (USOW) summit–other than the draw of seeing Michelle Obama and Jane Fonda speak–I really had no idea what was in store for me.

I made the trek down to Los Angeles with great anticipation of what I could learn and walked away with renewed energy and hope.

There were common themes throughout the day, which included the following:

  • Life is complicated and can be overwhelming; so, we just have to appreciate the journey. Still, we can’t continue to look for someone else to solve our problems. We may elect representatives, but we need to hold them accountable for why we chose to elect them.
  • Bias lives in all of us. If we don’t accept our discrimination and get out of our comfort zone, we can’t change status quo.
  • We know that women are nurturing, resilient, and compassionate. Women can be strong as individuals, but we are stronger as a community.

There was a new lexicon (at least for me)…

  • Intersectionality: “The complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and intersect—especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups.” – Webster’s Dictionary
  • Neurodivergent: A person who has a developmental disorder and/or a mental illness.
  • Feminist: Yes, it has evolved and redefined again. Here’s an article on redefining feminism that may be worth a read.
  • Perspective: Diversity is associated with statistics and numbers, while inclusion is yesterday’s word choice. Giving people a voice and engaging in people’s stories will define the new rhetoric.

The USOW summit reinforces the value of an organization like Rise Up, which invests in and empowers girls, women and allied organizations to drive change around the globe.

Rise Up Leadership Council members (from left to right): Tanum Davis Bohen, Vicki Wilkerson, April Benavidez King, Loretta Stagnitto

The USOW also emphasized the need to do what we can. Indeed, it can be overwhelming to think about all that needs to be done on a global scale. So, too, can it be overwhelming to think about how we can impact all that needs to be done at a national level. It’s at the local level where we can actively do our part.

As a member of Rise Up’s Leadership Council, I am deeply committed to enabling girls and women to achieve their potential as leaders. I’m so proud to be able to play my part on a global scale through Rise Up. Now begins the journey to be more active within our own community…

Finally, my favorite quote of the day came from Tarana Burke: “Be gentle with yourself. Protect what makes you happy.” Her words were like an alarm ringing in my ears. After all, how can one give her whole self to others if she can’t take care of herself first?