So often as a young parent, I found myself telling myself that I did not need others, I did not need any help, I could do it all on my own. I mostly came to this conclusion and belief based on not wanting to give anyone a reason to feel like my “mistake” was proving to be a burden on anyone else. However, as I grow into my own I have come to realize and rely on connecting with others - specifically uniting with women of color, women I can relate to on a more intimate level.
I recently attended the “Broken Beautiful” conference for young women of color, hosted by ABCD and Suffolk University’s center for Women’s Studies. The conference was aimed at young women of color, but was not limited in the least to any age. If anything, the presence of various age groups proved to be a real treat for the soul. I was in the presence of young and old, naïve and wise, and everything in between.
I attended the conference not really knowing what to expect. I felt the need to be a part of the experience simply after hearing the title- Broken beautiful. I had never attended, let alone even heard of the opportunity to be in a room full of women from all backgrounds, ages, experiences and to have all of them be there for and as women of color.
The day began with a dialogue - very unique approach for a conference. The audience was asked to describe what the phrase “Broke Beautiful” meant to them. This dialogue soon resembled a cipher. The space provided a safe place for participants to simply yell out powerful words, phrases, or explanations; basically anything that came to mind when thinking of broken beautiful.
When it became my time to share my interpretation of the phrase, I began to explain to the audience that as a former teen parent, people seemed to not be able to get past me being a teen parent and viewing my label as the broken part. In turn, I spent many years believing too that I was broken. I then explained to the audience the uncomfortable feeling with knowing that I was not seen as beautiful until I would explain to people my different academic and professional accomplishments. It was at those moments where people viewed me as being beautiful. I explained my wishes to change the perceptions of young parents and young people in general as making poor choices and then having that negative label follow them for the rest of their lives.
I have come to realize that this took many years for me to come full circle on, that I was not just broken. That even during the “broken” parts of my life, I was and still am beautiful. My interpretation was unique and was encouraged. I left that portion of the day realizing that everyone who spoke had a different view, a different experience, and that it was impossible to have a wrong response or interpretation. I walked away from the “Broken Beautiful” conference feeling liberated and born again. A new purpose lies in my future and that will include building community between me and other women of color and connecting with each other in ways that are intimate, real, genuine learning experiences, where wisdom can be passed from generation to generation.