By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
Finger sandwiches, fruit tarts and big hats were on display at the second Annual AFRO High Tea April 21, yet the tea tradition was not the focus of the event, but rather the underscore of a powerful message about women’s empowerment.
The theme of the event, “We Too Support #MeToo,” was inspired by the recent social media movement and hashtag around sexual harassment in the workplace. The movement has now expanded to harassment in all forms affecting women and the AFRO felt it was appropriate to champion the mission of #MeToo as a part of this year’s theme.
The theme and strong reputation of the AFRO’s first tea brought out a great deal of high profile leaders including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and keynote speaker Dr. Pamela Love Manning.
The common among speakers was for women to support one another.
Mayor Pugh said when asked what advice she gives to other women she says, “Choose us. Because often-times we don’t choose us. We’re our greatest critics and sometimes we’re in a position to look in the other direction, but I believe leadership starts with us.”
Mosby thanked the AFRO for shedding light on harassment and legislation that other publications often ignore.
“I especially have to thank AFRO American Newspapers because they gave us a platform for the past five years that we didn’t have with other news outlets,” Mosby told audiences. “They focused on the fact that this was impacting our communities and they were extremely helpful in advancing what needed to happen in our communities.”
Author, minister and Keynote speaker, Dr. Pamela Love Manning, inspired the tea attendees with captivating personal testimonies, anecdotes, call and response and even poetry about how many suffer in silence.
“Many of the women here are wearing beautiful hats to compliment their outfits, but do you know how many of the women at your table are wearing masks,” Manning asked the crowd. “Look at the women at your table and ask them, ‘Are you wearing a mask?’
“Unlike the outfit and beautiful hats they’re wearing, the masks that women wear to hide pain, shame, anger, resentment, frustration, depression and so much more doesn’t look like the masks people wear when they go to events like Mardi Gras,” Manning told the audience.
A survivor of abuse and harassment, Manning, encouraged women to be strong support systems for one another.
“These masks are only visible to those who can see beyond what they see. Only visible to those who dare to be their sisters’ keepers. Look at your neighbor and say, “Be your sisters’ keeper,” Manning told audiences.
After Manning implored the audience to do the work of looking out for their sisters, AFRO Publisher and CEO Frances Toni Draper presented a check for $1,000 to House of Ruth, which helps victims of abuse, thanking them for their hard work in being “keepers” of women and families for so many years.