December 12, 2020
All is Bright Campaign
We would love to know more about you and why you believe that the strength and optimism of women is so important?
The thing I admire the most about women is their resilience. Because of our determination and resilience we are equipped to attack the problems of the world. Each generation of women is becoming increasingly aware of the power they possess. This recognition and resilience allows us to accomplish amazing things. I spent the formative years of my life at an all-girls school, where I gained a foundation of feminism and female empowerment. My first exposure to female resilience and strength was through my great, great-grandmother, Maggie Walker's story. During her lifetime she was able to empower her race as well as her gender and future generations while facing unimaginable personal losses and tragedies. Despite all of these emotional and physical challenges, her faith offered her strength to continue helping her community. Service is the most important legacy one can leave the world. Growing up sharing her inspiring story, I feel I am a continuation of her legacy of strength and optimism.
Tell us a bit about your great grandmother and the incredible achievements she made in her life?
I'm honored to be related to such an inspirational, brave woman and my personal “shero.” Maggie Lena Walker was best known for her economic accomplishments at the turn of the 20th century. Historically Grandma Walker was a member of “Freedom’s First Generation,” those born following the Civil War & Emancipation, during Reconstruction. Unlike her mother who was born into slavery, Maggie attended school when it opened for Black students but still had to assist her mother with her laundry business to help support the family. Maggie became a teacher until she married in 1986 and was forced, due to societal norms, to resign. Despite these patriarchal rules, Maggie threw her energy into the Independent Order of St. Luke, a benevolent society aiding Blacks during Reconstruction. The Order offered insurance policies and under Maggie’s leadership expanded economic independence for Blacks. In 1903, she became the first African American woman to found, charter, and be president of a bank in the United States. She went on to become the largest employer of Black women in the city of Richmond by staffing the St. Luke Herald, Bank, and Emporium with primarily Black women. She recognized that while her race was struggling, it was Black women who were doubly oppressed. When women got the right to vote in 1920, Maggie not only registered hundreds of Black women to vote, but only one year later she became the first, and to this day only, African American woman to be on the ballot in a statewide election in Virginia. Gender equality and racial uplift were at the center of her life’s work. Her successes were due to her investment in her Jackson Ward community, and their return investment in her. Her bank was the longest continuously operating Black-owned bank in America until 2005. Under her guidance the bank survived the Great Depression by merging with three other Black-owned Richmond banks. Maggie was able to accomplish significant advancements for her race as well as her gender all in the former capital of the Confederacy.
How do you feel those same goals are relevant today?
Grandma Walker was ahead of her time. She created a foundation for female empowerment that is just as necessary in 2020. Everything she did was for the betterment of her race and gender, two groups that are still marginalized today. Her vision of empowerment was through education, economic independence, political involvement, and exposure to opportunities. This year we recognize the importance of making substantive change in this country and around the world. 2020 has led to a reckoning with our racial history in America as well as the history of colonialism around the world. Seeing where we are now, some things have changed and many that are still systematically flawed. Grandma Walker strove to make her community a better place for future generations. I think she would be frustrated to see how many of the same issues we are still grappling with. As a teacher and candidate for Superintendent of Education in Virginia, she would be discouraged to see how the educational system is failing its students and teachers. We recognize inequities that continue to oppress women. We know women are undervalued and underpaid in the workplace and Black women have long faced the double edge sword of oppression in a prejudicial, patriarchal society. Maggie worked to combat these inequalities during her life, but they are still a part of our society today. 2020 has taught us how systemic racism and misogyny have not been adequately addressed or repaired.
What does the future of female empowerment look like to you?
Female empowerment has to become a foundational tenet in our society. We claim to value equality for all without making this a reality. Today, the US Constitution does not yet deliberately declare constitutional equality regardless of gender, allowing discrepancies in the treatment of different genders. We’re seeing more women emerge in the political arena demanding a seat at the table and pushing us to a more equitable future. In the year 2020, nearly 100 years after it’s initial proposal, the Equal Rights Amendment is still not a part of our governing document. Ironically, America has forced other governments to include language in their constitutions stating the equality of the sexes but doesn’t prioritize the issue at home. We are one of the few leading global nations that does not include gender equality in their constitution. I’m working with Vote Equality US to accomplish this addition of necessary language to our governing document. This will ensure we, as a country, can stand behind our promise that every person in this land is equal and deserves to be treated as such. My hope for the future includes dispelling societal norms, true equality for all regardless of gender, and women recognizing the power they possess.
Thinking about the quote which is featured in the Origin tee which you chose - tell us what that means to you.
"Let nothing dim the light that shines from within - Maya Angelou”. This powerful quote is in the fabric of my Origin tee, reminding me of the light I possess. It’s relevance is especially important now as we demand the need for social changes around the world. Each person must recognize the power they possess to be a light in this world. This quote is especially relevant in Maggie Walker’s story and accomplishments. Though there were many personal and painful tragedies in her life, she recognized that her light was needed to brighten the lives of those around her. Her passion for uplifting people helped keep her flame lit in the darkest times. A statue stands at the entrance of her Jackson Ward community as a reminder of her perseverance, dedication, and contributions. She was often referred to as “Our Inspiration” in the Order. We must remember we all possess a light that shines from within. There may be days when that light may flicker and fade, but we must never let it go out. Maggie Walker, as well as Maya Angelou, recognized the power of this light and spread theirs for the benefit of others, as we all must aim to do.
We would love to know what you think of the tees and what they stand for!
Origin tees stand for the shift we’re seeing in the fashion industry - the need for “slow,” sustainable fashion. This includes creating an ethical supply chain, improving environmental factors, as well as proper working conditions and pay. We as consumers are starting to recognize the environmental and ethical effects of the clothes we choose. There is a shift away from exploiting resources and people for the need to keep up with the demand of fast fashion. I appreciate Origin’s values as a nonprofit, social awareness, and stylish, comfortable designs. I’ve always had an interest in fashion and a desire to work in the industry. I now realize that the fashion industry must use their platform to raise awareness as well as create tangible change. I respect Origin for their leading initiatives to bring more socio-economic opportunity to Africa and create opportunities for women and girls as they gain a sense of empowerment.
Finally, it has been a tough year for so many reasons…Do you have any advice or inspiring words for us as we look to next year?
This year we have learned that truth, adaptability, and change are necessary qualities to take into the new year. Going forward we have to continue to recognize the impact our actions have on those around us as well as the planet. We must value honesty, morality, and education as we continue to make positive changes as global citizens. As we go into the new year we must remember all of the lessons learned in 2020 and keep the resolve that things will change. In the words of Maggie Walker, “If we but catch the vision, what a mighty power we shall be.”