On Saturday, I had the honor and privilege of attending Blavity’s inaugural EmpowerHer conference. Exploring themes of leadership, creativity and tech, EmpowerHer gave black women a much-needed space to connect with one another and learn from the best.

Luvvie taught us a brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. A self-care panel moderated by Teen Vogue‘s Elaine Welteroth reminded us it’s okay to turn off our phones and put ourselves first.

empowerher conference
Photo: Jillian Gray

Feminista Jones called on us to engage politicians on social media to enact change in our communities and so much more. To say it was a transformative experience is an understatement.

For the first time, I found myself surrounded by black women, beautiful and magnificent in every way, and knew I was part of something bigger than myself. I belonged to a tribe of women aspiring to change the world by uplifting one another. I witnessed these women lay bare their souls. Women such as Gabifresh, Johnetta Elzie, and April Reign, beseeching us to live authentically.

To put it simply, my reaction was something like this.

tyra banks
Photo: Tumblr

And in that moment, I knew I owed it to them, to all the women in the room and to myself, to share my story.

My struggles with anxiety and depression began long before my father killed himself just two weeks before my 16th birthday. But, like most black families I know, mental health wasn’t exactly a topic of discussion at the dinner table. So I swallowed the pain deep inside and with every trauma, a well of emotion rose up within me so high it almost spilled over until I was able to stomach it back down again.

When my father busted my mother’s lip wide open, when he came home from another night spent in jail, when he committed suicide and left my mom, sister and I to pick up the pieces, the truth is, the well spilled over too many times to count. Emotional battles turned into physical blows with the ones I loved most. The desperate need to control something in my life manifested into an eating disorder. The instinct to protect myself from further harm led to long periods of self-alienation. Worst of all, silence still rang through the halls of our seemingly happy home, the same home where he put a bullet through his brain and no one heard. Was it silent or were we just not listening? The same silence that once wrapped me in a blanket of comfort began to suffocate me and so, slowly but surely, I started to speak up.

For the longest time, I didn’t think my story was worth sharing. And then I was in a room filled with beautiful black women who openly embraced one another and told their truths with such love and fearlessness, I felt impelled to do the same. So here I lay bare my soul and hope someone else also realizes their story deserves to be told.

Did you attend the conference or follow along on social media? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!

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