Members of the Florida and New Jersey delegations attending the Black Women’s Roundtable National Summit. (Photo by Shantella Y. Sherman)

Women from around the country convened recently for the three-day Black Women’s Roundtable “Women of Power: Healthy, Wealthy, Wise” National Summit.” The event, where hundreds of African-American women came together to encourage, support and mentor each other, set the stage for the release of the 2015 report, Black Women in the U.S.

The first day of the summit participants converged on lawmakers as part of the “Invest, Inspire, Unite” theme of the event. They metwith Republican and Democratic lawmakers to urge Congress to act on voting rights, income equality, continued support for the Affordable Health Care Act in the states; and child nutrition. Plenary sessions included discussions on women and girls’ education, economic and global empowerment, economic justice, and utilizing data for advocacy and organizing.

“As we celebrate Women’s History Month it is important we ensure that the rights of women are addressed and not ignored,” said Melanie Campbell, convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, and president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. “We want to remind our leaders to stop the partisan politics and pass legislation that creates good paying jobs with livable wages, increases small business opportunities for women, reduces gun violence in our communities, invests in our children’s education, ends hunger in our nation, and expands affordable health care for All Americans.”

The goal of the summit, according to Campbell, is to focus on collective strategies to develop solutions for women and girls to live healthier, wealthier, and wiser lives through public policy, civic engagement, social innovation, entrepreneurship, organizing, leadership development, and mentoring.

Tina Young, mother of five from Orange, N.J., said the summit helped her to share in a rich tradition of women nurturing other women to ensure a type of holistic approach to career, education, and relationships. “The many influential women at BWR are willing to provide a mental support system for each other that helps us thrive. I am learning that it is important to have mentors who are from all races, both genders and as many cultures as possible. We are Black and proud women, but we must also embrace the world and take leadership roles within it,” Young said. “That can only happen if we are mentally and spiritually anchored and I get that from BWR.”

Salandra Benton, Florida convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, told the AFRO that this year she wanted to share the summit with the 20 young girls from across the Sunshine State who traveled with the Florida delegation to attend. “We wanted them to be in the room and interact with positive Black women. We know that what young ladies see in the media are not always appropriate depictions of themselves and it was important for that they have intergenerational experiences – that were up close and personal – with professional women,” Benton said. “Some of these girls have never been outside of their community, so to walk up Capitol Hill, visit the seat of government and ask to speak with your representative, is an empowering process. We want them to know that they are capable and powerful.”

Sisters Keiorah and LaTova Greene were among the young women participating in this year’s summit and both found the interaction with other young women powerful and priceless. “I am a college student right now and it was great going to Capitol Building and seeing how laws that impact the nation are created and enacted into law,” said Keiorah.

“The experience was eye-opening. There are a lot of issues that we face as African-American women that I wasn’t really aware of and a lot of these sessions have encouraged me to learn more and get more involved so I can start fighting for some of these things,” LaTova said. “It seems like we’re always left behind or the last ones to be thought of – if we are thought of at all – and that didn’t sit well with me. I am ready to start making a difference with some of these things.”