Tamron Hall takes a selfie with young ladies at the 7th Annual Women of Color Empowerment Conference, held Oct. 20-22 in Ft. Lauderdale.


Staff Report

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – When Burnadette Norris-Weeks said the seventh year of the Women of Color Empowerment Conference was not to be missed, she couldn’t have been more correct.

This past weekend, Ft. Lauderdale’s Westin Beach Resort was filled to the brim with Black Girl Magic!

Norris-Weeks and her team brought in heavyweights from an array of industries and professions to impart knowledge into their fellow sisters.

Ranging from walking historical icons like Zernona Clayton – the first black woman to have a nationally syndicated talk show (yes, even before Oprah) who also served as a right hand aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and traveled with Coretta Scott King – to current day trailblazers like the beautiful Tamron Hall, who walked away from a lucrative career at MSNBC to stay true to her values.

In her keynote, Hall shared her humble beginnings and said while she is not into exclusivity, she does believe in helping level the playing field by giving blacks access to professional opportunities.

“When I left MSNBC, I thought about every black woman that had to get off the sidewalk so a white woman could pass by. … Our power is not individual. If y’all had not said something when I left … but y’all did. You said you cannot get rid of us and if you do we will shut it down!

… Its not being anti-something, I’m just unapologetically black,” Hall said.

Other guests included: Dr. Evelyn Bethune, Professor and Granddaughter of Mary McLeod Bethune; Angela Rye, principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, CNN political commentator and NPR political analyst; Delma K. Noel Pratt, Miami Gardens Police Chief; Jo Marie Payton, award-winning actress; Karen Hunter, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, professor, publisher and host of Sirius XM’s The Karen Hunter Show; and many others.

Topics ranged from the importance of education, health and wellness and how to deal with millennials in the workplace to how to navigate Corporate America when someone ‘comes for you.’

In addition to the various panels and keynotes, the conference included a comedy show, breakfast and lunch sessions, and an array of vendors and break out sessions focused on specialized areas like branding, film and entertainment, how to secure funding, entrepreneurship, etc.

The highlight of the conference occurred when the Women of Color Empowerment Institute, which is the organization behind the conference, graduated their 2017 class of young professional mentees under age 40, which Norris-Weeks said is really the crux of the work.

“We’re developing leaders all year round,” Norris-Weeks said. “The conference is great and we love it and we look forward to it every year, but there’s no way to really develop leaders if we just focus on a three-day conference.”

She said she is happy about the outcome of the conference overall.

“I feel really great about it actually. I think that we’re certainly accomplishing our mission of bringing together leaders from all over the country, and particularly here in South Florida to learn and grow and create a pipeline for women of color to ascend to leadership,” Norris-Weeks continued.

Candace Morris, who attended the event for the first time this year, said she really enjoyed herself.

“I had a wonderful time. I felt like the topics were informative; I thought that speakers were interesting and I was engaged the entire time, which says a lot because I’d worked the entire week and then had to get up on a weekend to spend the full-day there,” Morris said Norris-Weeks said they would follow the conference with an event called Advocates For Change on Dec. 7 at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC). She believes the continued high turnout at their conference show they are doing something right.

“I think we have a lot of repeat women who come so they know what to expect,” NorrisWeeks said. “The funny thing about our conference is we don’t put our agenda out until days before the conference so it just shows how much people trust what were doing and they understand that when they come the program is going to be exceptional.”

Visit www.southfloridawomenofcolor.com