All In Together Hosts Dynamic ‘Black Women Lead’ Conference in Washington D.C
An exuberant crowd of sistas talked, listened, and cheered each other on during “Black Women Lead,” a daylong event that highlighted leadership and empowerment just days before Juneteenth in Washington, D.C.
All In Together (AIT), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that encourages, educates and equips voting-age women to fully participate in America's civic and political arenas, hosted the third annual event on Wednesday (June 15). It was presented in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Higher Heights for America Leadership Fund.
“Black Women Lead is an incredible opportunity to support and honor Black women trailblazers,” said Edda Collins Coleman, co-founder of All In Together. “With our collective power, together we transform the legislative and political landscapes, and work to restructure the societal imbalances perpetuated throughout industries.”
The event took place at the luxe Mandarin Oriental hotel. Inside an elegant ballroom with sparkling chandeliers, individual tables featured colorful floral arrangements. Guests included a mix of women spanning generations who wore breezy business dresses, sophisticated suits, strappy sandals and stiletto heels.
Beyond the aesthetics, the program was a celebration of Black women’s history and collective impact in the march towards a more equitable future.
“Black women are the engine of American democracy,” said Lauren Leader, All In Together’s CEO. “Black Women Lead is a chance to celebrate and amplify their contributions in every sphere and discipline.”
Indeed, that message resonated from a veritable who’s who of luminary women in business, politics, health care, entertainment, and more. Panel topics ranged from 'Black Maternal Health & Health Equity;' to 'Black Women in Justice;' to 'Black Women in the Highest Political Offices.'
Karine Jean-Pierre, who recently made history as the first Black and first LGBTQ+ White House press secretary, engaged in dialogue with April Ryan, a veteran White House correspondent and author of the forthcoming book: “Black Women Will Save the World: An Anthem.”
Comedian and actress Amanda Seales was also in the house, as was Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Political Strategist Karen Finney and Fatima Goss Graves, president/CEO of the National Women's Law Center. Several Congressional staffers attended, representing lawmakers who were busy voting on Capitol Hill.
“Whether in the boardroom or on the Hill, it is critical that we bridge the gap between decision makers,” said Celeste Warren, Vice President Global Diversity and Inclusion at Merck and an All In Together board member. “I am honored to be part of this event and further the mission of fostering women’s leadership across all spectrums.”
Lela Coffey, vice president of Brands for Procter & Gamble North America Haircare was eager to listen, learn and share some of her nuggets of wisdom. “It will always be important for us to partner together to bring attention to the issues that matter most to our consumers,” she said. “By uncovering and providing new perspectives to consider and solutions to employ, we are collectively making a change in our communities.”
Even in a room full of powerhouse women, the vibe of the affair felt intimate as attendees exchanged warm greetings in between panels, hugging each other and snapping selfies whenever possible. Many posed in front of a “step and repeat” backdrop emblazoned with the words “Black Women Lead.”
Jeri Somers is a retired federal judge who told BET.com that the gathering was “amazing.”
“It’s one of the most inspiring things I’ve been to,” she said. “I feel inspired.”
The gathering felt both purposeful and positive to Chelsea McKelvey, a development professional. “I love being in a room with other Black women who are lifting each other up. And where leadership is a priority.”
The event wrapped with a cocktail reception, complete with an array of hors d'oeuvres and desserts. The ladies each received swag bags filled with T-shirts, beauty products and other goodies.
It wasn’t until the very end that guests were treated to a special surprise in honor of Juneteenth: choir members from historic Shiloh Baptist Church, marched in unison through the crowd. Representing one of the oldest African American churches in Washington, D.C, the choir’s voices raised in song, glory and praise. It was the perfect, most inspiring way to end this dynamic day.
“As Black women, our commitment to paving the way for all of our voices to be heard is one of the many reasons I helped found AIT,” shared Collins Coleman. “We will continue to encourage, empower and engage!”
Donna M. Owens is a national freelance journalist.