Among speakers scheduled for the conference is (clockwise from top left): Jennifer Trethewey, Queen Esther Marrow, Rachel De Barros, Sandra Robertson, Vickie Williams Cullins, Kristi Anderson and Nikkisha Bell-Griffin.
The messages that will be delivered at the Empower YOU women’s conference will be as varied as the speakers themselves. The event, scheduled for March 16 at Wythe Hall, features seven women who are aiming to encourage, inspire and challenge all those in attendance.
“I hope they can take away the importance of just embracing yourself for who you are, where you are,” said Nikkisha Bell-Griffin, whose background is in early childhood education. “Not looking to the left or the right, but just appreciating your own journey, while also appreciating the people that have walked alongside of you.”
Bell-Griffin has been to similar events, but this is her first time as a speaker. She sees great value in these conferences.
“I think the biggest significance of the women’s conference is to just touch other women’s lives, to let them know you’re seen, you’re heard, you’re not alone,” she said. “Your story is not just your story. Somebody’s story connects with yours in some kind of way.”
Vickie Williams Cullins, the executive director of OPN-Door Communications (conflict resolution specialists), will be stressing fearlessness.
“I want them to know that no matter if they falter, stumble, whatever the case may be, that resilience will always take them over the valley,” she said. “Fear will cripple you, and they need to be fearless and be OK with making a mistake. … because at the end of the day, you’ll learn the lesson.”
Sandra Robertson, a Thomas Nelson business professor who also is on the College’s Cultural Affairs committee, said the title of the conference spoke to her.
“Choosing you, that is something I’ve had to do,” she said, noting her roles include mother, wife, professor and church employee. “I’ve been so busy making everybody else happy, I haven’t really taken the time to do things for me. When they asked me (to speak) on that particular topic, I said okay because I can relate 100 percent.”
Robertson said she loves all her roles, but sometimes she forgets about herself, which she notes is common among women. She suggests carving out time each day, anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, to focus on yourself.
“Maybe to read a book, to unwind, to relax, to enjoy life,” she said.
“We’re nurturers,” she said of women in general. “Innately, we want to fix things. We want to help. And sometimes because we want to do all that, we are left empty.”
The event begins with registration from 8:15-8:55 a.m., followed at 9 a.m. by the conference.
Other speakers for the event which lasts through 2 p.m. are:
Queen Esther Marrow, a native of Newport News, is an inspirational gospel singer whose career has taken her from the days of the Civil Rights movement and touring with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Duke Ellington and Harry Belafonte, to appearances with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, B.B. King and many others.
Rachel De Barros is the co-host of television's “All Girls Garage” on Velocity. She is a professional car mechanic, chief marketing officer, host and executive producer for Gearhead Diva.com.
Jennifer Trethewey is the author of the book “Change or Choke,” a keynote speaker, an experienced businesswoman and a “change agent” from Australia.
Kristi Anderson of Catch Fish is an expert angler based in the Mid-Atlantic region and has a YouTube channel called “1fish2fish.”