Winners of the Impact Business Plan Competition with me and (far right ) WORC President Lynne Cutler
“Sisters are Doin’ It for Themselves” is a classic Aretha Franklin song and it might have been the perfect soundtrack for last night's Celebration of Women's Opportunities Resource Center. I was honored with this year’s Community Impact Award and gracefully introduced by last year’s winner the fabulous Jeri Lynne Johnson, Founder and Conductor of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. Also announced were the winners of WORC's Impact Business Plan Competition.
As women and people of color we’ve come a very long way and have accomplished much. And yet when we take an aerial view of the road we’ve traveled – we see that we have only advanced a relatively few steps in a journey of a thousand steps. Despite the increased number of women-run businesses we still fall behind our male counterparts in revenues, numbers of employees and funding. Which exactly why WORC is such a critical organization. Headed by Lynne Cutler, its mission is to promote social and economic self-sufficiency primarily for economically disadvantaged women and their families. WORC provides entrepreneurial training, individual business assistance, incentive savings programs, and access to business and financial resources.
I’ve come to realize it will take more than laws to create progress in gender and racial equality – although they are important. It takes economic justice to truly push the needle. We need women achieving financial independence through strategies like WORC’s Savings incentive program which matches dollars saved so people can put a down payment on a home or provide equity in a business to get a micro loan.
When we talk about economic justice – it’s the freedom for a woman to have the financial resources to leave an abusive relationship or to walk away from a relationship that puts her at risk for HIV. Economic justice is about women starting their own businesses with the help of organizations like WORC that can provide seed money and the support they need to succeed so they in turn can create jobs and a stronger economy.
Last night I met the many women who were finalists for WORC’s Business Plan competition. Everyone had a story to tell. Whether it was the women who lost her job but is reinventing herself as a jewelry and clothing maker or the woman who believed ex-offenders should be given a second chance and started a landscaping service that does exactly that. One woman pulled herself out of a violent neighborhood and started her own event planning business. I was inspired to commit to telling as many of these stories as I can because behind every business there’s a story worth knowing.