Wearing their Sunday best, dozens of women gathered on the 2nd floor of Santa’s Monica’s Loews Hotel to participate in the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College (NAASC) 23rd annual Sisters’ Awards—Rhapsody in Art Jazz Brunch.
The event was held to raise scholarship money for a crop of young ladies from Southern California who will be attending Spelman College in the fall, and this year’s celebrity-guest honorees included actress and philantropist Tia Mowry-Hardrict (“The Game,” “Sister Sister”), as well as filmmaker and women’s rights ambassador Salli-Richardson Whitfield (“Being Mary Jane”). The NAASC holds fundraisers annually in cities and states across the nation to help incoming freshman balance their academic responsibilities and the considerable financial load of attending a four-year university.
“It [being honored] makes me feel amazing because it’s not just about me,” Mowry-Hardrict explained. “I do what I do to inspire, that’s what gives me joy. When I am able to inspire other women, especially Black women, to go after their dreams, to not give up, to know that they have a place in this world, and to know they have a voice, the feeling that I get is extremely rewarding, and being honored by an instituition of learning with so much history makes me feel like I’ve truly made a difference.”
Mowry-Hardrict also pointed out that despite her success in Hollywood, she and many other women of color aren’t afforded the same job opportunities as their White counterparts. It’s a cycle that we need to break, she declared, “the women of my generation are certainly better off than previous generations, but we have a long way to go until the playing field is finally equal.”
“We’re moving in the right direction,” she added, “but the finish line is miles and miles away. I’m doing my part to help us [Black women] get there.”
The barriers that prevent women from making progress in their respective fields extends to every racial group, explained Richardson-Whitfield.
“These challenges come down harder on us [Black women],” she added quickly. “I don’t wanna be a man. I’m a wife and I’m a mother and I can also be a leader of men. The more that men let us become our full selves the better the world is gonna be. With politics the way they are now, it’s going to take some leg work to ensure that women continue to be heard and treated as equals.”
She continued, “Many of my friends and colleagues went to Spelman and they are really by far the most amazing Black women on the planet. My daughter who is in six grade already wants to go there. My goal is to make her a better woman than I am. The battles that we fight now as women will result in prosperity for our children.”
Richard-Whitfield, who over the years has built an impressive resume working in front of and behind the camera, explained how important it is for women in her position to always be on top of their game and adaptable to change.
“I take my job very seriously because I know that if I’m not great at it, they’re gonna judge every woman who comes after me based on how I perform,” she added. “That doesn’t happen to men, but if I mess up, then the next woman is going to have it harder. My job in this business, and in life, is to be outstanding.”
Rising above challenges is a standard expectation for any Black woman who aspires to achieve success in a male-dominated and inherently racist country, expressed entertainment journalist Tanika Ray, who returned for a second run as mistress of ceremonies for the NAASC fundraiser.
“Being part of today’s festivities is such a reminder of how amazing Black women are,” she said. “We may not see it on the news, they may not talk about it all the time, but Black girl magic is alive and well.
She added, “We’re always underestimated and we always rise to the occasion and take another mile. We’re such an incredible group of people and though we don’t always get the credit we deserve, we shine when we get the opportunity.”