Two months before her passing, Dr. Maya Angelou made her way to Atlanta for the 2014 Women 2 Women Conference. Physically weak but patently powerful in mind and spirit, she was the inaugural conference’s keynote speaker — drawn to share her life lessons by a desire to support her “little sister” and conference visionary Sonjia W. Young. It was a moment that — true to the very reason Young founded the conference — lifted her up.
“She said, ‘I am here for you, little sister. I will come now; I may not be here next year. My heart and spirit are with you,’” Young recalls.
It was that moment and others like it with former Editor-in-Chief of Essence Magazine Susan Taylor and actress Lynn Whitfield answering her call to speak life to the audience Women 2 Women attracts that have affirmed the value of such an undertaking; one that was envisioned to bring women together across generations to share life lessons and experiences that will inspire and empower. Its creator, Young, is president of Eventions Inc. — a minority and female owned full-service special events and communications agency founded in 1982. Under her leadership, Eventions has distinguished itself as one of the top events management and communications agencies in the Southeast.
In its third year, Women 2 Women’s momentum is increasing with speakers this year including Alicia Philipp, president, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, and Eudoxie Bridges, founder of Unspoke. So, we sat down with Young for a behind the scenes chat about the legacy she is building.
What is one lesson that you’ve gleaned over the years from a mentor or bit of advice that is profoundly pivotal for you no matter how much you mature?
My mother died when I was at the tender age of 13 years old. My older sister Enola, who was the head nurse at Southern University, stepped in and became the mother I needed and mentored me through life with her love, wisdom and lessons. She would tell me, “You are special and worthy, and can do anything you put your mind to; I believed her. What I realize now is she gave me the freedom to be me. When no one wanted me to go to New York at 17 years to join the Ebony Fashion Fair she said, “Yes.” She said, “You can come back and finish college.” She passed away last year. So my two great mentors have left me with incredible lessons and wisdom. Dr Barbara is my other Mentor that is why we are honoring her this year in the 2016 conference with the Phenomenal Woman: Maya Angelou Award.
Conversely, what life tenet(s) do you find yourself imparting to women most often?
Think positive, meditate, exercise and pray. Believe in yourself, and that you can do all things with God. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Give back; be still and learn to be with you. Follow your passion. Preserve your time as it cannot be replaced. Don’t engage in gossip. Be grateful and thankful for everything. Enjoy life, and laugh and dance a lot. Journal daily and read good inspirational books like “The Four Agreements.”
If you had just one word to describe the conference, what would it be?
What kind of process do you undertake to determine the speakers and participants each year?
[I consider] what they have given back, not just what they have accomplished; and [and their ability to] share their story with future generations — the good, bad and ugly. Everyone has a story to tell but not everyone shares it.
What separates this conference from others set out to inspire/motivate/enrich?
It’s all about you … your life, your joy, your challenges and how to geth thrugh them with lessons from those who have gone before you. It’s about health issues, relationships, finding your passion and having the courage to follow it. It’s about life.
[As Dr. Maya Angelou said,] “People don’t remember what you do, but they will always remember how you made them feel. This conference makes everyone feel special because they are.
– Katrice L. Mines