Woman 2020: Shereé / by Jenn Heflin

It has been a crazy year for women. Historically, though, we know every year is crazy for women. If ever things are going to change, now seems like the moment. WOMAN 2020 is a snapshot of women during this time of upheaval. We are building careers, raising children, living our lives, and trying to impact the world in positive ways, and I believe all women have much to say. This is Shereé’s Q&A.

What is your name, occupation, and role (or roles) you most identify with? 
Shereé, Child Care Provider, Mom, Wife, Business Woman.

What is the most positive thing about being a woman in 2018?
Women can pursue any career that they want in 2018. They can use their voices to speak out about injustice and they can be a force to be reckoned with.

What is the hardest thing about being a woman in 2018?
Woman of color are powerless in the eyes of law enforcement. We fear for the lives of our husbands and children. In 2018 innocent law abiding citizens are being physically harassed, shot, and arrested because they are black. As a woman in 2018 I still cannot protect my babies from racism and hatred. In 2018 police are called on black and brown people for doing normal things, legal human things (having bbq’s, mowing the lawn, sitting in their own cars, Eating in restaurants, playing in their own yards, being in their own homes or community pools).

When did you first notice that society treated men and women (or boys and girls) differently
In elementary school. I went to rural country schools and girls were ignored in class. In many cases they were just passed along from one grade to the next regardless of class participation and grades. There was never very much praise for the girls when they achieved academic greatness or encouragement for pursuing higher education.

How do you maintain your resiliency in these times?
I maintain my resiliency by relying on my strong family support and prayer. When things get tough I think about my children and the lives I want them to lead. I want my sons to have great self esteem, to be confident, smart, loving, respectful and good human being. I have to model these behaviors in order to encourage my children to pursue excellence. I cannot let myself fall about. I have my boys to raise into strong men. I maintain my resiliency by focusing on the future I want my boys to have.

Why do you think past movements haven't moved the needle for women? Or have they? 
Past movements whether successful or unsuccessful have given women the fuel and confidence they need to move forward with activism. Women are using their voices all over the world to speak out about equality, sexual assault, and they’re getting more involved with politics. Women are working together rather than living in silence. It starts with hope for change, then it takes the actions of everyone to make the changes. It will take the support of men in power to move that needle.

Do you think the current movement will be the one to change things for future generations?
I hope so. If it isn’t, I pray that it is the first step to making the change for future generations.

What needs to happen for us to move forward?
Women working together to make change is incredible; however, it will take more participation and support of men to make changes happen. We are dealing with hundreds of years of inequality, it will take the majority of people to become more likeminded to make change.

What can women do to make it better for other women? 
Respect and support for each other. Get to know the women in our communities. Find out what women in our own communities need. Figure out what links us all together and build relationships around that. Work together to make change locally first and then connect with other women outside of our communities. I find that women can be lonely, and disconnected from each other. The idea of sisterhood is lost.

What can men do to make it better for women? 
They can evaluate their work environments to start. How are women valued at work? How are they treated? Listen to women. Recognize their equal importance in our society. Appreciate what they bring to the table at work, at home in our communities and support them in the movements to improve their quality of life.

What are some of the influences (people, art, books, songs, movies) you loved growing up that made you realize your power?
It wasn’t outside influences so much as the women in my family. The strong, intelligent, loving and fearless women who raised me. Teaching me about my potential before I could be labeled by the world outside of my home. Building me up when the outside world tried to knock me down. Teaching me that I could be or do whatever I dreamed so long as I didn’t give up, so long as I believed in my heart that I could do anything. Raising me in church and teaching me how to be a good person in spite of the ugliness I would face in the world. I remember the first time I read Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou, it made me feel empowered and like I too was phenomenal. That’s when I owned my sexuality, strength and confidence as a woman. Prior to that I feared being seen, and I feared being noticed. I realized that I couldn’t hide myself away, I had to embrace myself, what I looked like, I had to learn that it’s okay to be Phenomenal. I was born for it. All women should feel like Phenomenal Women.

Visit the WOMAN 2020 webpage to tell your story and to stay in touch about the exhibition opening in Spring of 2020.