Legacy Award winner Leah Chase (Source: Lonnie Major/Black Enterprise)
“Young African American women need to feel their own power,” said Leah Chase, a.k.a the Queen of Creole and owner of Dookey Chase restaurant in New Orleans. “Black women are more powerful than they know.”
My colleague, Tennille Robison, and I had the privilege to interview Chase in her hotel room before she was escorted to our Women of Power Summit Legacy Awards dinner, where she was honored for her achievements as an entrepreneur.
After speaking to Chase for nearly thirty minutes (secretly wishing we had more time) I understood why this sassy woman of 86 is an inspiration to not only her family, friends, and community in New Orleans but to all who stand in her presence. There is wisdom behind her eyes; a source of strength and endurance to keep fighting even when everyone around you is telling you to give up.
Chase lives by three principles her father, who only had a fourth grade education, taught her when she was a child: to pray everyday, work hard, and do for others.
Chase said these three simple principles have shaped her into the woman she is today, blending her passion of food and art to serve her community. As I sat listening to this woman, I realized why I’m at this summit; I’m supposed to a part of this conversation and walk away with a powerful lesson about self. “You can’t run away from self,” said Chase. “You have to trust in God and find what makes you happy because life is about living.”
After leaving Chase’s room, I started to reflect on the many lessons I learned on my first day at the summit. I thought about all the take-aways from the Power Networking session, facilitated by Debra Langford, executive director of strategic sourcing at Time Warner.
In a room filled with two dozen women and tables, Langford made everyone break out of their comfort zone and network. She instructed all the women to network by different industries, jobs, and experiences such as traveling abroad to a specific country. Her point was to have as many women with similar interests or backgrounds to meet one another. Her technique worked. I met a number of different women, who I exchanged business cards with, to hopefully feature in the magazine in the near future.
But Langford wanted to be clear: “You’re more than what you do, it’s who you are that’s most important,” she said.
After an eventful first day, I’m excited to learn many more lessons from private conversations like the one I shared with Chase to the executive sessions I’ll participate in over the next three days!
Annya M. Lott is the careers editor at Black Enterprise magazine.