Lean In: When Black Women in the Workplace Talk

Lean In: When Black Women in the Workplace Talk

When Facebook’s No. 2 executive and billionaire, Sheryl Sandberg, released her book entitled, “Lean In: Women, Work, and The Will to Lead,” earlier this year, it was sure to become a success. The back cover reveals an endorsement by Oprah, who labeled the book, “The new manifesto for women in the workplace,” followed by the raving reviews of The New York Times, The New Yorker, Fortune, Forbes, The Atlantic, and Entertainment Weekly. It’s no secret; everyone wants to hear what Sandberg has to say on the topic of women and leadership.

For experienced professional women in the workplace, Sandberg is actually not saying anything new. On the other hand, she is a woman who has been privileged to have education, access, opportunity, mentorship, sponsors, and coaches, all of which increased her likelihood of success in the workplace. When people look at Sandberg, they a see a white woman and it is important to recognize that her experiences are not typical of the average woman who works. From her privileged experiences, she paints a broad stroke in her assessments without fully acknowledging all of power dynamics at play, particularly when considering the experiences of women of color.

As an African-American woman who has encountered professional power struggles while serving in the military and federal government in predominately white male-dominated environments, I wanted to have a conversation with an African-American woman in the corporate arena to discuss the applicability of “Lean In” for Black women who work. I am honored to have this talk with Dr. Ancella Livers, who is the author of “Leading in Black and White: Working across the Racial Divide in Corporate America” and Senior Design Faculty of the global Center of Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC. Dr. Livers is an expert in designing programs for leadership training and coaching.

Dr. Livers, thank you for taking the time with speak with UrbanFaith. What were your initial thoughts after reading “Lean In?”

Sandberg hasn’t said anything new. She does speak from a white privilege perspective and when considering the implications of racial or ethnic minorities, she does not know what she does not know. I thought the book was good for the purpose of bringing this long-standing conversation to the forefront with a new generation of leaders. This is not the first time that we are having this conversation, though the issues are still current and a young audience needs to hear the conversation introduced from a new teller. Sandberg is the new teller who shapes this conversation to raise the consciousness for a younger generation of women who do not have to fight to break into entry level positions because the generations before them have broken threw to gain access for them. For the younger generation, the disparity and continuation of the gender struggle is sometimes not evident until later in their professional careers. Even in the gender struggle, we must be careful to understand, however, that the middle and upper-class white woman’s experience is not the experiences of everybody.

Is Sandberg’s perspective one that fits only within the white female experience or can it be universalized as women’s experience regardless of race or ethnicity?  

Sandberg possibly does not see how a person’s race impacts their view. She seems to have no awareness of how her race and economic status help her navigate society, work, and the world because her “norms” obviously colors how she sees and navigates the world. She wrote a book for professional women and she wrote from the perspective of a privileged white woman. However, just because her perspective is somewhat limited, does not mean that others who do not share her privilege cannot benefit from reading her book. “Lean In” introduces the conversations of women, work, and leadership in a way that we haven’t been doing in years. It introduces a conversation to a new generation that may not be aware of these challenges in the past. These conversations are important. We need to talk about the implications, barriers, and circumstances for professional women that work, and just because the book does not completely meet our needs as African-American women, does not mean that it has no value.

I recently read a review of the book that was written by an African American male leader who wrote: “I wonder if the author is using the term “men” globally or for white men in particular. I find as a man of color that her assumptions are primarily about white men. Her illustrations of success are primarily about white women. Black women have been leaders for a long time–but have not had access. The author has had money, education and networks. She has also has had access–and now wants ownership. Many women of color are just trying to get in the door–and men of color as well.” What are your thoughts on this comment?

Sandberg is at the top of the ladder and her environment mostly includes white men. She should want ownership. When we have put in the work, we should all want ownership. Throughout American history, we have consistently seen this battle between race and gender. This was the source of many conversations when Hillary Clinton was campaigning against Barack Obama for the presidency—the underlining question became, “Who is going to become President first, a white woman or a black man?” Even within the African-American community, on many levels we are asking the question, “Does maleness trump blackness?” In the same way that white women don’t see their race as a physical norm that may benefit them professionally, black men often don’t see the benefits of their gender.

In chapter 5, Sandberg raises the important topic of the need for mentorship and sponsorship in the workplace. She has succeeded largely because others have sponsored her by opening doors and giving her access. Andy Crouch is the executive producer of Christianity Today’s This is Our City project and executive editor of Christianity Today. He just released his new book titled, “Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power,” which reminded me of our need to have more conversations about the power dynamics in the work place. One of his promotional video clips for the book is entitled, “Playing the Cello.” In it, he shares how he started taking cello lessons from an expert cellist who is investing his time in teaching Andy, the amateur, how to play the cello. Through teaching, the expert is making room for Andy to learn how to play the cello, which increases the “power” and gift of cello playing in the world. The expert cellist’s power to play the cello is not diminished by Andy’s new found ability and increased skill to play the cello, but as a result of his teaching and mentoring, the power to play the cello has flourished in the world. I think that’s a beautiful example of what we can see in the workplace when our understanding of what is available to us is increased. When the fear of another person taking our power goes away, the people who have power are more generous with the offerings they make to others and to the world. Do you agree?

There is research about scarcity or even the perception of scarcity in the workplace and its direct connection to the unwillingness to help others, even those who are like us.

In their scholarly article, “Evolution and Patriarchal Myths of Scarcity and Competition,” Michael Gross and Mary Beth Averill present scarcity and competition as two related themes in the patriarchal image of nature. Even the connectedness of the two themes, speaks to the importance and need of diversity in the workplace where all people are valued because of their differences and the experiences they bring to the table. As more diverse people are included and their contributions are valued in leadership positions, board meetings, and organizations, then the power of creating and producing increases, and the perception of scarcity and competition is minimized.  

UrbanFaith readers, what are your perceptions of Sandberg’s “Lean In?” Does it speak to the Black woman’s experience? How does this book contribute to the field of leadership development and the relationships between men and women in the workplace?

The Paula Deen Controversy: It’s Worse Than You Think

The Paula Deen Controversy: It’s Worse Than You Think

A lot of people are angry that celebrity chef, Paula Deen, has admitted to using the N-word to refer to African Americans. In the deposition, she went so far as to describe scenarios where the use of the word may be appropriate. As a result of this controversy, Deen has lost contracts and endorsements from the Food Network, Smithfield, Walmart, Sears Holdings, and Caesars Entertainment Company. Ballantine Books has also decided not to publish her newest cookbook slated for an October release; this book was supposed to be the first of a five book deal.

Once the public uproar was in full blaze, Deen crafted a two-minute video apology stating, “I was wrong…that is no excuse…forgive me.” However, she never really admits to anything, except for the possibility of hurting others. This turn of events has brought Deen’s fans to her defense, causing her book sales to soar. Last week, she used her Today Show television spot to thank her fans and supporters.

In her video apology, released a few days prior to her television appearance, she stated, “My family and I are not the kind of people that the press is trying to say we are.” This is where it gets interesting. The press is mostly talking about her use of the N-word and analyzing the sincerity of her apology but neither of these are the main issue concerning  Deen or her family. The primary issues are addressed in a discrimination civil action suit against Paula Deen and five companies owned by Deen and her relatives, including her sons (Jamie and Bobby Deen) and her brother (Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers).

The suit lists the plaintiff as Lisa T. Jackson, a Caucasian woman, who was employed by the “Paula Deen Family of Companies” from February 2005 until April 19, 2010. Jackson served as General Manager for Uncle Bubba’s restaurant for the majority of that time. The suit reads like a drama movie from the 1700s. In addition to the infamous description concerning Deen’s vision for a plantation-style wedding, including n***** waiters dressed in suits, the claim also includes repeated offenses degrading female and African American employees of the Paula Deen Family restaurants.

If any part of Jackson’s claim is true, Deen was aware, participated in, or refused to take corrective action concerning many injustices including her brother’s continuous use of pornography, violence, threats, and sexual advances toward female employees in the work place. Likewise, African American employees were regularly referred to as “n******” or “monkeys.” The environment was allegedly so racially charged that African American employees were expected to use a separate bathroom and a back door entrance. Additionally, the dark-skinned African American employees were required to work in the kitchen. Only white or light-skinned African Americans employees could serve clients. The discrimination also included unequal pay and a lack of leadership advancement for female employees. These allegations are explicit examples of what Civil Rights Activist, Myrlie Evers-Williams meant when she recently said, “Jim Crow is alive, and it’s dressed in a Brooks Brothers suit.” 

Jackson claims that Deen and her family intentionally created a hostile working environment which included institutional racism and sexism. In her interview with the “Today Show,” it is clear that Deen does not see herself as a racist. And we are all challenged in today’s American culture to clearly define what constitutes “racist” behavior. Some may think we are beyond race because white men are not riding around with white sheets over their heads and murdering innocent black boys, or because crosses are not being burned on the front lawns of black folks who move into predominantly white neighborhoods. But the reality is, “We do not live in a post-racial society. Racism is alive and well in America!”

Police officers are still stopping black people on the streets and harassing young black men and throwing them in jail for lengthy sentences. The Trayvon Martin murder trial would not be happening today if not for an uproar in the African American community which demanded justice for the life of this young black male. There are still economic injustices including wage gaps, which negatively impact women and racial/ethnic minorities. There is still a disparity in educational choices between minority children who may attend public schools in poor communities or have their schools taken away versus the white elite who can attend thriving public or private schools. Clearly, many of our churches are still segregated on Sunday mornings. Additionally, the various perspectives surrounding our political conversations, including the recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act and the Senate’s Immigration Vote, often reveal that we have a long way to go concerning race in America.

Deen’s controversy should be a wakeup call for us to stop pretending that racism is no longer an American problem and confront this elephant in our work places, homes, communities, and the Church. It is in fact dangerous for Americans to insist that we are beyond racism. The perception is dangerous for minority children because they are not prepared when faced with challenges as a result of their skin color. It is dangerous for Caucasian Americans because it gives them the freedom to not pay attention or plead ignorance when racial actions are taking place right under their noses. It is dangerous for educated and intellectual people because we can force ourselves to believe that everyone has the same opportunities in America and therefore, we do not have to confront the structures that continue to promote inequality. It is dangerous for lower income minorities because it robs them of passion and hope that things will ever get better in spite of their hard work. Finally, it is dangerous because this perception never brings families, churches, and communities together to confront this monster we call racism—and we must boldly confront it and call it what it is—and stop this vicious cycle from perpetuating across generations. Some brave souls have to stand up and say: This sin is not going to continue in my family, in my church, or in my community while I’m on watch. Racism is wrong. Racism brings out the worst in us. We must stop it; pull it up from the root!

Will you be that brave soul who stands up?

Scandal: What to Do With Our Power

Scandal: What to Do With Our Power

Ebony magazine just released its March “The Real Life Scandal” Issue, which highlights real life scandals from the black community and features actress Kerry Washington on the cover, sharing her perspective as an A-list actress, political advocate, and health-conscious feminist. Truth be told: We know little of Washington’s personal life and that’s exactly how she plans to keep it. She would much rather prefer that we talk about the nature and accomplishments of her body of artistic work, and since its origin last April, everyone is talking about her hit television show Scandal.

Concerning that show, I got caught up. I love seeing intelligent, articulate, attractive, powerful, relevant, and well-dressed Black women on movie and television screens as much as the next sista. Trust me. The scenes are all the more interesting and impactful when played by such a well-versed and talented actress as Washington. But when all of that window dressing simply becomes trapping for yet another powerful woman who succumbs to the desires of her lustful heart (especially with a married man), all of the respect stored up for the character burns up in smoke. It’s hard to keep cheering for Washington’s character, Olivia Pope, when you know her affair will ultimately result in a loss for all parties involved. Olivia, her lover, and his pregnant wife all lose and that’s the real sad story for many in today’s society.

Actress Kerry Washington accepts the Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series award for “Scandal” during the 44th NAACP Image Awards. (Photo Credit: Jim Ruymen/Newscom)

I want more for Olivia and I want more for us. Behind the camera lens of Scandal is the show’s creator and writer, Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes’ writing is outstanding and the story lines are compelling. She constantly keeps us on the edge of our seats. That’s what makes the show great and so easy to watch. All of her characters are power players, fast talking, and quick on their feet as they engage in a game of chess with each other’s lives. The actors are all phenomenal, but at the end of the day, it’s Rhimes who is in the ultimate position of power.

Through this political drama, Rhimes uses her power to celebrate the stories of those thirsty for greed and power, those with murderous hearts, those who are unapologetic about living lives of lies and deceit, and those involved in unhealthy, adulterous and unnatural relationships. Although Olivia’s entourage refers to themselves as “gladiators in suits,” there are little redemptive qualities in any of the show’s primary characters. It doesn’t take long to figure out that there are no good guys or gals, and that’s the gist of Rhimes’ creation.

Yet my primary issue is neither with Washington nor Rhimes; my concern is with the Christian women and men like me who watch this show weekly with no discernment. I have seen professing Christians defend the show to the nth degree. “Why criticize a work of fiction?” they ask. My first conviction concerning this question came on the day of the Newtown school shootings. The night prior to that horrific event, I watched an episode of Scandal where an assassin killed an innocent family including two small children and their dog. The next day, a Facebook acquaintance and fellow Christian found it hard to reconcile approving of the murder of innocent children on a television, while at the same time being appalled when a similar, yet worst, event happens in real life.

The sad truth of our culture—and Ebony’s publishers play on this reality—is: The lines between fact and fiction, what’s real and what’s fantasy, have become quite blurry. This is the result of a booming market for “reality” shows, over exposure to strangers through virtual lives and social media, the sensationalism of our news reporting (How often do you witness a positive news story?), and the senseless pandering of our politicians. I won’t forget how angry I was when Sarah Palin used careless “lock and load” language all over a news broadcast, and the young man who locked and loaded just days after Palin’s rant. Was this a coincidence? His response resulted in the deaths and injuries of several human beings, including U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords. Because this is the culture we live in, we must all be more responsible concerning the use of our power and how we choose to engage our mediums of communication.

We should not use our power to only serve our own self-interests. Many thoughtful African-Americans thought this was the case with BET’s founder, Bob Johnson, and hence they tuned him and the station out. We should not neglect the opportunities to use our power for good in this world, and I believe the messages and images of Scandal present a missed opportunity. Ebony reports that Washington “is the first Black woman to star in a major network American TV drama since 1974.” Therefore, Washington’s accomplishment is worthy of celebration. In addition to Scandal, Rhimes is also the creator, head writer, and executive producer of the dramas, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, both of which at the core tell the stories of flawed humans who are helping and healing other people. Am I looking for all perfect characters on every show? No. Am I advocating for an all Christian line-up with shows full of Christianese language? Not at all.

However, I do believe in a culture where the line between fiction and nonfiction, truth and lies, and fantasy and reality is becoming more unclear, we have to question what is means to have power, and consider the consequences of how we use our power to engage the world. I agree with Kerry Washington that, “Power is always about choices.” Washington chooses which roles she plays. Rhimes decides how she uses her power to tell stories and send messages into the world. As a consumer, I no longer choose to watch Scandal. As a writer, I challenge you to consider: What kind of empowerment do we, as a community of Black people, really want? What will you do, and what should we all do with power once it is obtained?

Illusions: Red Carpets, Outward Beauty, and the Grammys

Illusions: Red Carpets, Outward Beauty, and the Grammys

Janelle Monae, Grammy nominee and CoverGirl Model, poses on the red carpet for the 2013 Grammy Awards (Photo credit: Adriana M. Barazza/Newscom).

I just love awards season! Although I rarely watch the shows, I can hardly wait to get a peek at those red carpet photos. You see, I love everything about style and fashion—hair, shoes, clothes, makeup, and of course, accessorizing. Growing up, I thought for certain I was going to be a fashion designer. In high school, I spent several evenings walking the runway preparing for local fashion shows. Somewhere around eleventh grade, reality set in (I couldn’t even sew) and I set my sights upon more promising academic and professional endeavors. Although I have given up the dream of becoming a fashion designer, the interest in style has never really left me. I don’t have much time for fashion now, but it is certainly nice to watch art occasionally come together in that perfect shot on the red carpet.

We know when it happens. We all look for it. We know when they get it right and we know when something is just a little bit off…and we definitely know when Joan Rivers, the fashion police, and bloggers are going to rip them to shreds on the next day. “Oh no she didn’t!”

I actually get happy for the newcomers to the arena. When they step out of their limousines and onto the red carpet, I can almost imagine their excitement and the butterflies in their stomachs. I’m sure the red carpet makes several of those young girls, like our Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas or the youngest Oscar nominated actress, Quvenzhane Wallis, feel like real princesses for the first time. They get an opportunity to celebrate their beauty and that is not a bad thing.

In recent years, however, particularly in light of last year’s Grammy awards, watching some of the veterans has made my sad. I’m troubled that even the Grammys’ had to issue a “no skin” dress code, and apparently Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Rowland, Katy Perry, and Rihanna didn’t get the memo. Thankfully, Carrie Underwood and CoverGirl’s Janelle Monae went with more classic presentations, but Beyonce returned in a quite underwhelming look.

Although some of the women looked nice, thanks to LL Cool J, Justin Timberlake, John Legend, and Nas, the guys appeared to shine this year. In spite of the glitz and glam of the red carpet, we must go behind the smiles, diamonds, amazing dresses, tuxedos, fancy shoes, and high end make-up. Because of the rise in celebrity “news” and social media, we are constantly exposed to the hardships celebrities face throughout the year. Like the rest of us, they experience divorces, family strife, financial hardships (though on a much different scale or in the form of tax evasion), heartache, betrayal, ridicule, and medical problems.

Inside Truth Behind the Glitz and Glam

When we look beyond the physical beauty and realize there is a real person with real life problems, all of a sudden they don’t look so beautiful anymore. It’s kind of like when the comedian and actor, Owen Wilson, attempted suicide…I could no longer look at him and laugh. This year, I’m heartbroken over Chris Brown, who recklessly totaled his car the night before the Grammys. He appears to be a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, and all we do is watch for it to happen. It’s nearly impossible to watch the Grammys and not reflect on the lives and untimely deaths of gifted people like Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson.

The problem with the red carpet is not really vanity. Let’s face it, we are all a little vain…well at least I am. The trouble with the red carpet is the illusion that we are better than we really are. The red carpet makes us believe that if we just dress ourselves up a little bit on the outside, we can convince ourselves we are good people and have a great day.

Let me tell you, “I have done that.” I can remember a few occasions when I awoke from sleep feeling quite sick, yet knowing that I still had to go to work. So what did I do? I put on make-up so I would look better than I felt. Once I applied make-up and looked at myself in the mirror, I did feel a little better. It doesn’t appear Jesus has much heartburn with this practice. Jesus’ point here is, “Just because you are downcast, you don’t have to draw extra attention to yourself. Present yourself in a becoming manner, and get real with your Father while you do it.” We all need to look beyond the illusions and get real with our Father, God.

Our outward appearance does matter to God, and therefore, we should take care when considering the way we present ourselves to others. Likewise, Jesus’ acknowledges that in this world we will have trouble. The religious folk and Jews of Jesus day often fasted at the sign of trouble; they went and humbled themselves before God. That’s appropriate because God is the one who sees our true faces. He is not impressed with our talents, he is not impressed with the red carpet, and he is not impressed with our show. We find out who we really are when we are in his presence, and only then can we present our true selves to the world whether or not there are lights, camera, or action. Let’s be true, shall we?

Betty and Coretta: An Untold Story of Friendship and Activism

Betty and Coretta: An Untold Story of Friendship and Activism

Mary J. Blige and Angela Bassett star as “Betty & Coretta” in Lifetime’s original movie (Photo credit: Richard McLaren/Lifetime.com)

The old saying goes, “Behind every great man, there is a woman.” I have observed, however, that “beside every great man, there is a woman.” Such is the case with Civil Rights advocates, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. While many are familiar with their stories, few know the stories of their devoted wives Coretta Scott King and Dr. Betty Shabazz. More surprisingly the friendship that formed between these two women after the assassinations of their husbands is an untold story.

That is until Lifetime boldly presented this bond of sister and womanhood in the television world premiere of “Betty and Coretta” last weekend. A corporate executive at A&E Network did confirm that the Shabazz and King families were not consulted for the film, noting the temptation for family members to protect their legacies. Given the documented inward fighting between siblings in both families, viewers can understand (at least partially) the network’s decision. Some of the heirs are not happy with the flick.

Ilyasah Shabazz, third daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz and author of Growing Up X, called the film “inaccurate.” There are a few grievances raised: Contrary to Ilyasah’s statement, there are several pictures available online portraying Dr. Shabazz’s head covered with a scarf. Whether or not Dr. Shabazz spoke on her death bed is somewhat irrelevant. The point is Mrs. King did come to be at her friend, Betty’s side in the days leading up to her death. According to the children, moreover, there was a house visit portrayed in the movie which never really took place. Whenever a person’s life is brought to a film there is a certain level of embellishment that goes with the territory because producers are attempting to share a big story in a finite amount of time; smooth transitions are needed to move the story line forward and still capture the big picture. With the aforementioned reasons in mind, one can hardly call Lifetime’s portrayal a work of fiction.

Lifetime took great care adding credibility to the film by featuring actress, Ruby Dee, as narrator of the movie and dear friend of the Shabazz family. The movie picks up right before the assassinations of Malcolm (February 21, 1965) and Martin (April 4, 1968), and opened with Ruby Dee (who recently turned 90 years old) setting the stage for the times of racism, war, and poverty in America. Throughout the film she continues sharing facts about the deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, the Black National Political Convention (of 10,000 attendees where Coretta and Betty first met), the lobbying and six million signatures Mrs. King gathered to make Martin Luther King, Jr. a National Holiday, and she narrates all the way to the deaths of both phenomenal women.

The movie is not about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Malik Yoba), Malcolm X (Lindsay Owen Pierre), or their legacies per se. The movie is also not about the King and Shabazz children. The movie focuses on two women who were powerful, strong, faithful, and devoted leaders in their own rights. The film spans three decades and weaves the lives of these two civil rights activists and shares how they stood for justice.

The Women

A pregnant, Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) and her four daughters watched her husband being gunned down as he took the stage to deliver what became his last message. After Malcolm X’s assassination, Betty delivered twin girls, which made her a single mother with six small children. With the help of friends and those in her community, Betty cared for her family and earned a doctorate degree in high-education administration from the University of Massachusetts. She became an associate professor of health sciences at New York’s Medgar Evers College. She spent the rest of her life working as an university administrator and fundraiser, before she died on June 23, 1997 as a result of injuries sustained by a fire her 10-year-old grandson, Malcolm set in her home.

As a widow, Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett) raised four children while remaining a leading participant in the Civil Rights Movement. She went from being her husband’s motivator and partner in the movement to being a justice advocate to the world. In addition to lobbying for the national King Holiday (first celebrated in January 1986), she became president, chair, and Chief Executive Officer of The King Center in Atlanta, GA. At the end of the movie, Ruby Dee notes that Mrs. King died in 2006, nine years after Dr. Shabazz, from ovarian cancer.

The movie goes beyond their advocacy works and humanizes these valiant women. It is difficult to know for sure the intimate conversations that took place between the two. There is one living legend, however, who is knowledgeable of at least some of those conversations, and that woman is Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife and widow of the first NAACP field officer, Medgar Evers. As widows of the Civil Rights Movement, Myrlie Evers-Williams shared a special bond with King and Shabazz. In the book, Betty Shabazz: A Sisterfriends Tribute in Words and Pictures, she wrote about a healing spa retreat the three of them took together. During the retreat, they committed not to talk about the assassinations of their husbands or the movement; they simply bonded as sisters and friends. She also wrote that “the three stayed in contact and tried to get together whenever they could.”

Lifetime briefly mentioned the retreat at the end of the movie (hence the purpose of the Betty Shabazz hospital bed scene). However, Myrlie Evers-Williams’ character only makes a brief appearance in the film when Dr. Shabazz took the position to teach at Medgar Evers College. Maybe one day, Myrlie Evers-Williams will tell her side of this story.

What Their Stories Mean for Us

All things considered, I believe we have a reason to rejoice with the production of this film. Mrs. King and Dr. Shabazz came together to shepherd the legacies of their husbands, but that is only part of their stories. The bigger story is these women stood together and turned their tragedies into triumphs. Even more important, both women used their faith, family, and friendships to advocate justice on behalf of women, children, the poor, and oppressed. They stood together and changed the world.

A twitter reflection by @lativida sums it up well: Take note all you dumb reality shows! This is how REAL BLACK WIVES act! These women knew real pain and persevered! #BettyandCoretta.

Betty and Coretta were strong in their own rights. They were single mothers who became grandmothers and they took care of their families. They took the mantles that were passed to them and used them as a foundation to build their communities and our nation. They remind us, each of us (the single mother, wife, or young person of any gender), of what we can do with faith, friendship, and forgiveness, for this, yes this is how real black wives behave! Thank God for their tenacity, legacies, and friendship.