In the fall of 2014, I walked into a jam-packed room with 75 other eager women. We had all shown up expressing an interest in forming a new chapter of an organization committed to ensuring Black women and girls live in a world where socioeconomic inequity does not exist. A bold endeavor, but long overdue.
What I did not know is that seven months later, I’d be elected the chartering president of this group of ambitious women, and five years later, serving in my third consecutive term, embarking upon our fifth-year anniversary during the most profound modern day social justice and still civil rights era.
That organization turned out to be the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., which was founded in 1981 by an impressive cadre of New York “good trouble”-making women. They recognized that while much had been gained relative to the advancement of Black women, much more was needed to still be done. They seized the opportunity to organize, advocate, and elevate awareness of the perpetual systemic barriers impacting Black women and girls across the country. Fast forward nearly forty years later, and despite my being asked more than once if an organization like this is even still necessary, the answer is a resounding, yes!
Even on the heels of the announcement of Kamala Harris’ Vice President nomination and acceptance, in the thick of Census 2020, the 100th Anniversary of women securing the right to vote, and facing the most important election of our times, one thing that I know for sure, is that there is still work to do.
Over the past five years of my days in office as president leading a startup organization, ran solely by passionate, head strong women volunteers – in a crowded local and national landscape of socially driven organizations, taking on exasperating sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues – has undoubtedly pushed and pulled me in ways I could never imagine. Most of all, it has given me a renewed appreciation and respect for the power of self, collaboration, authenticity, and patience, ensuring that my actions and our chapter’s actions model our mission and enable us to keep it 100. You never know when the groundwork you are doing today will need to be activated tomorrow.
On August 29th of 2015, we – the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. Metropolitan Washington, DC Chapter vowed to be the last chapter to charter in the District (there were two chapters before us), and throughout these five years, we’ve truly been able to lean in on our sisterhood to activate ourselves in order to support Black women and girls on a myriad of issues. From our Sisternomics Empowerment Grant Program, in which we’ve awarded over $25,000 to nine Black women owned businesses, to advising on legislation to establish or expand a perinatal health worker training program, to designing and implementing our signature mentoring program, Exceptionally Me, to securing partnerships and support from global brands such as Lyft, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Anita B.org – to take our mission, our lessons learned, and our collaborative commitment to elevating women, seriously.
And as we celebrate what I consider to be a milestone anniversary, I couldn’t be more excited to launch our inaugural #Shes100 Equity Awards. #Shes100 honors a group of phenomenal Black women who are making a major impact in Washington, DC in the areas of Health, Economic Empowerment, Education, Advocacy, and Corporate Social Responsibility. Our celebration of these women is in fact a celebration of NCBWDC.
Our work is not elevated by what we do alone but it is through the actions and impact of those who model our mission and push our issues and our community forward. From Congress Heights to the heights of Congress, and from classrooms to boardrooms, these women keep it 100!
- Adjoa B. Asamoah, a chartering member, political powerhouse, and impact strategist
- Gloria Nauden, a chartering member, and Vice President of Marketing and Communications for City First Bank of DC
- Aza Nedhari, Executive Director of Mamatoto Village, a perinatal health organization
- Kristie Edwards, Principal at Randall Highlands Elementary School
- Monica Mitchell, Vice President of Corporate Philanthropy and Community Development for Wells Fargo Bank
We respect their grind. We value their authenticity. We love their commitment. We recognize their ability to leverage and build. They are the executors of NCBWDC’s priorities and an extension of our mission. When I reflect upon the accomplishments of our inaugural honorees, coupled with what our nimble chapter has accomplished in five short years, I get excited knowing how much more we can and will achieve when we each commit to stepping up, and keeping it 100. And if we are going to make any continued advancements for Black women and girls, it’s through efforts like these in which we must act. My charge for how ways in which we can each be 100 is by doing and recognizing the following:
- Be authentic: To thy self be true. Know the issues. Know why you serve and own your narrative.
- Build up, not tear down: The fight and yes, it is a fight to advance and protect rights for Black women and girls, will require the participation of many. We need to ensure that we are not only supporting one another but leaving no one behind or on the sidelines.
- Stay the course: In a world of quick flips and fixes, instantaneous answers and placating exchanges, coupled with centuries of disenfranchisement, it’s only natural to want to see results NOW. However, advocacy and systems change work is hard and multi-layered. It takes time and consistency.
In the past, our voices were used to propel movements, but those movements did not amplify us. Today, we are leading our own movements and using our own platforms to amplify our voices, our views and our value. This moment is a movement, and this movement is a moment; do not let it pass you by. The time is NOW to keep it 100. I hope you will join us!
Ayris T. Scales is the president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc., Metro DC Chapter. She is a tri-sector leader who has dedicated her career to working at the intersectionality of policy, philanthropy and partnerships to empower the rights of marginalized people and communities. You can see how she likes to keep it 100 by following her @heiressflow or @NCBWDC.