Courageous Women
Credit: Student Belonging Cleveland State University
The panelists for the discussion about the state of Black womanhood in our society were JoAnn Hall, top left, Phyllis ("Seven") Harris, top center, Aqueelah Jordan, bottom left and Erica Merritt, bottom center. Brianna Corner-Stafford, top right, moderated the conversation.

Black women inspire with their stories

The women spoke about the state of Black womanhood in our society, at a virtual panel organized by the CSU's Mareyjoyce Green Women's Center.

Five Black women inspired their audience, March 1, at a panel organized by Cleveland State's Mareyjoyce Green Women’s Center to initiate women’s history month with a discussion of the meaning of Black womanhood.

The virtual panel on Zoom was moderated by Cleveland State student Brianna Corner-Stafford who was joined by Aqueelah Jordan, JoAnn Hall, Phyllis “Seven” Harris and Erica Merritt.

After introducing themselves to each other and the audience, the four panelists spoke of their experiences in a way that was nothing less than confident. The topic of the discussion was the journey of each as a Black woman and the obstacles and triumphs the speakers experience in their personal and professional lives.

Corner-Stafford opened the discussion by asking the panelists about their transition from college to the workplace as a Black woman.

Erica Merrit, founder and president of Equius Group, led the conversation with a moving response.

“You do not have to be someone else in order to thrive at work,” Merrit said, after sharing her experience as a Black student and worker. "There are places for you to show up in the fullness of who you are.”

City of Cleveland Chief Prosecutor Aqueelah Jordan joined the discussion with a heart-wrenching experience of her own as a Black woman in school. “I started my schooling in Bowling Green, Ohio, I very vividly remember my first introduction to kindergarten was my first introduction to the n-word," Jordan said. “Part of what helped me was knowing who I was as a Black woman.”

As the panel progressed and the speakers freely shared more about themselves, questions from the viewers started to roll in the Q&A. One student asked how, as an introvert, they should go about  reaching out for help.

Executive Director of the LGBTQ Center of Greater Cleveland Phyllis “Seven” Harris responded, “An email to a leader introducing yourself and what part and study of your career you're in,” she said. “I’m very open to responding and meeting people.”

The momentum of the virtual panel stayed consistent as host Corner-Stafford led the panel with more driving questions.

“How do you unpack these experiences of Black womanhood?” Corner-Stafford asked. “How do you self-regulate and take care of yourself at the end of the day?”

Hall responded. “I try to give myself grace,” the CSU Professor of Africana studies emphasized with a smile on her face. “I think giving myself grace has meant everything as I figure out self-care.” 

“I’m saying 'yes' to different experiences,” Jordan said. “I feel like there's a little bit of wisdom to how I'm moving and caring for myself lately.”

The experiences, struggles, and knowledge of the four panelists left their audience filled with inspiration from their discussion of the many meanings of Black womanhood.