Occasionally, you meet someone and think, “Wow, that person is really going places.” You can see them rising in the ranks of our community’s corporate, political or leadership structure, or rising to a role in a national organization and making waves across the country. That was my reaction when I first heard Tamara Winfrey-Harris speak at a Women’s Fund of Central Indiana event. Her content and presentation style gave the feeling she breathed rarefied air, and we were blessed to be in her presence. There was no arrogance or ego, just the sense that we would all benefit from listening.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m on the board of the Women’s Fund, and our selection committee announces that Tamara is a finalist for the position of president. I was certain Women’s Fund would benefit from her leadership and was thrilled Indy could keep her.
On February 28, at the apex of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, we hosted Tamara as a guest on Shoff Chats, to hear about her life as a communicator and how she has used her various roles to share the stories of Black women and girls.
Here are some key takeaways from our conversation:
Listening without judgment is a great place to start. Women and girls – especially Black women and girls – too often are not heard, taken seriously, or treated with the care they deserve (and that others receive). Giving space for Black women to tell their authentic stories, not only benefits Black girls, but it sheds light on the areas where we have failed as a society, where we have succeeded, and how we can all work together to make life better – for everyone.
Creating supportive environments where women feel free to express their authentic selves is life changing. Tamara co-founded Centering Sisters, because Black women and girls are rarely centered in society, even in discussions of race and gender, compounding the self-judgment, competition and discrimination that all women face. Tamara believes that it’s important to create safe places for women, and Black women and girls specifically, to share their experiences, celebrate, commiserate and heal.
Communication can be a powerful tool. Tamara said, “Marketers can do anything” – persuade, strategize, write, organize, communicate and lead. With the growth of social media, we all have a greater responsibility for how our content impacts others. She explained the importance of being more vulnerable and more willing to share our stories of failures, mistakes, obstacles and challenges. There is a tendency to promote perfectionism – leaving out the details of our journey we don’t care to broadcast – making others feel inferior or like failures. When we are brave enough to openly share our challenges and mistakes, we empower others to get through their own issues. The bottom line: We all benefit from telling our – and hearing others’ – full(er) stories.
- The Sisters are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America
- Dear Black Girl: Letters from your Sisters on Stepping into your Power
Listen to this episode or past Shoff Chats episodes here.