My Turn to Take the Stage

The magic of pow-wowing with like-minded women

Chana Garcia (Source: Lonnie C. Major)

I forgot about how important it is to be around progressive people who are doing big things.

For three days last week I was in La Quinta, California, at the Women of Power Summit, where more than 500 fabulous females have convened to talk about everything from courage to confidence.

On Feb. 11 it was my turn to take the stage — literally.

I moderated a panel session called “The Truth About Black Women and Our Health.” How apropos. At first, I was nervous about being in front of a room full of powerful women, having to remember names and bios in addition to all my questions. But I shouldn’t have worried. My topic wasn’t as sexy as “What is Your Second Act?” which was taking place next door, so my room was only about half full.

Initially, I was sort of relieved. Fewer people in the room meant fewer folks to embarrass myself in front of. But to my surprise, my session turned out to be far more intimate than I imagined. And once I got started, everything flowed quite nicely. My panel, which included Dr. Andrea Pennington, Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, and Dr. Jennifer Jones, was awesome. So were members of the audience. They were engaged (lots of amens), and they asked really thoughtful questions. We talked about alternative medicines for those with chronic illnesses such as cancer, women and alcohol consumption (no more than two drinks a week, but don’t tell anyone that I broke that rule last week), and the significance of knowing your family history.

About midway through I was feeling myself, wondering why more people hadn’t attended “my session.” I was interjecting when needed, adding tidbits about my cancer journey here and there, and the more I shared my story, the more that nervousness melted away. When the session ended, I was feeling triumphant, like I pulled off something big. A couple of women even came up to me afterward and hugged me. Not bad for a first-time moderator. I have to admit that I was beginning to feel, well, powerful.

That’s the magic of pow-wowing with like-minded women and the secret behind the success of WPS.

Since it started five years ago, the summit has managed to attract some big-names folks — Susan Taylor, B. Smith, Jill Scott — but I found myself most inspired by the other attendees. And when that happens, something intangible, possibly even indescribable, unfolds. You find, as author Lisa Nichols put it, “a new someone to share the journey with.”

In my case, I found a few hundred someones. Yes, yes.

Chana Garcia is a New York-based journalist, blogger, and cancer survivor. On her blog, Cancer Slayer, she muses about life after chemo, healthcare reform, and other health-related news. Follow her on Twitter @ garciagyrl. Become a fan of the summit on Facebook at www.blackenteprise.com/bewps.

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