Women on the Rise

By LIFT on October 6, 2015

Categories: First Person Perspective, Real Stories


I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Annual Women on the Rise: Female Reentry Leadership Conference, an event organized by The Office on Returning Citizen Affairs in collaboration with Women Involved In Reentry (W.I.R.E), the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), and The Howard University School of Law. The purpose of the conference was to both highlight female reentry leadership, in which Kemba Smith, author of “Poster Child,” served as guest speaker, and provide leadership development information sessions for attendees.

Before I go any further, I first need to say that I have a deep appreciation for conferences. I go mostly to observe all the kinds of people that attend. I feel that conferences are unique because people gather from all over the country to learn and to grow and ultimately have an experience that drives them to doing something incredible. I also go because I love the feeling of empowerment and strength that comes from it. I always leave feeling rejuvenated, recharged, and ready to take on the world. I knew that this particular conference was a special one because it focused on women who are working toward reentering the workforce, seeking educational opportunities, or simply reentering their lives with a better and healthier sense of themselves. When I walked in, I realized that I was sitting amongst women who endured challenges that many people would never have had the strength to overcome.

The last session was a public speaking workshop led by Professor Washington, of Trinity University. She walked us through a series of ways to introduce ourselves. It was a task that seemed very simple until she varied the ways to do it. Recognizing that most of these women had been negatively defined by their previous lifestyles, each of us had to introduce ourselves using only positive words. This exercise made us think of how we wanted others to see us, as well as how we see ourselves. Not only was the exercise self-assuring, it also taught the power of language.

Professor Washington, spoke in particular about the use of language and how it shapes our thoughts and our actions. It was interesting to see the subtle changes in the women in just a matter of seconds. As they began to really think about themselves in a positive light, I saw ladies hold their head a little higher and sit up a little taller as they owned their stories, their truth, and unequivocally introduced their very best selves. I am both proud and encouraged by all of the women that I briefly encountered at the conference. They were indeed, on the rise.


This post was written by Tiffany Russell, an Advocate at LIFT-DC.