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What happened at the 2018 SXSW BE CONFERENCE.

How it happened

Although I’ve lived in Austin Texas for 2 years now, I have never attended any SXSW events, I’ve only been shocked at the traffic. This year I was invited by my friend Lynan to attend the 2018 SXSW Be Conference this past weekend. Although I was unsure of what this event would entail, I decided to go ahead and try to get a ticket. A month or so passes, and the event rises on the heels of my hectic work week. I hop into my car and 30 minutes later I find myself looking for parking at the zoo...I mean downtown.

“The Be Conference is focused on connections, experience, and mentorship, where industry leaders connect with young female professionals to grow and succeed in their professional lives”. I arrive at the venue and check in at the registration table. I am handed an amazing gift bag full of spectacular goodies (full-size products too ;)) I make my way into the atrium of the hotel where I find a beautiful tex-mex buffet, with endless tacos. Since I have been living in Texas, I now have accepted that tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are a way of life. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way *bites into snack taco*. I check in at the registration table, and I am handed an amazing gift bag full of spectacular goodies (full-size products too ;)) Which my husband and I divided up later on like it was Halloween candy. Anywho, I met some very sweet, funny, and powerful women within the first 2 hours of the first day. I took this as a sign that the ‘Be Conference’ was going to ‘be’ special. What I did not know was that I was about to embark on a very intense and alluring occasion.

Alluring you say…

So I scarf down my tacos with no regrets and enjoy an amazing conversation with the lovely women at my table that began with lots of laughter at the discussion of the crazy weather in our hometowns and into the effects of our very immature gun laws. One woman at my table explains her frustrations with our government as an educator. How struggles with the government's decision to not enact proper gun control legislation, but that she also struggles with the breaking and removal of family members and students due to the recently enforced immigration and DACA reform. The rest of the table and I listen closely to her experience and in some ways feel her pain. What I don’t tell her is how disappointed it makes me feel to know what teachers are being asked to do on a daily basis, and still be so unheard by their own cities, states, and country. I imagine myself in her shoes, and I honestly don’t know how I would do it. I do know one thing if she doesn’t give up. How could I ever?

What is the BE Conference?

After our light dinner, we all go upstairs to sit through a segment coined “Clips and Conversation” with the power-producer couple, Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz. Throughout this discussion, Julia speaks about what it takes to push herself to the finish line. She stands in the fact that women are capable of being just as “badass” as her male counterparts, but how often times our fear can be crippling. Julia pushes through the base of fear that many women encounter, “I’m not afraid that I’m not powerful enough, I’m afraid that I am”. For some women there is a constant fear that they will not be “good enough”, but more often than not there is this anxiety that surrounds the circumstances of winning and the fight that comes with it. Many of us know that fight all too well. Whether we face this through micro-aggression nature or full-on harassment. This reminds me of how hard it is for women to push through these distressing circumstances, but it also reminds me how necessary it is for us to push even harder.

Julia enforces the importance of pushing through and in her words, “taking care of what hasn’t been taken care of”. She imagines various ways to do through her art in film. Her new film featured at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, ‘Fast Color’, ignites the power of women of color through her compelling storytelling of a generation of women superheroes. She rejects the idea that she created her initial content as a piece of colorblind work, inserting that “Colorblindness is dangerous”. She embeds the need for white content creators to dive deeper into their imagination and release spaces for people of color within their work.

By the end of this initial segment, I knew that I was in for a special treat of inclusion, diversity, and thoughtfulness at the BE Conference.

The Torch

I woke up early the next morning ready for the adventure of emotion that I would experience on the second day of the conference. I planned to be on time to make the beautiful breakfast buffet that awaited me...I was not. *don’t look at me, I’m ashamed* While the Day 2 breakfast buffet was indeed beautiful, the sight of me scarfing down a late plate of huevos rancheros, eggs, potatoes, with a side of OJ was not. Oh well, these eyebrows take time....what do you want from me???!!!!

Day 2 of the program began with a brilliant introduction into an embodiment of the power of women with the first speaker being Letitia “Tish” James. Letitia James is an American lawyer, activist, and politician in the Democratic Party. She is the current and fourth New York City Public Advocate and first African American woman to hold citywide office. Letitia spoke about the importance of women in positions where they can be a catalyst for equality for our communities. She asserts, “Women are instrumental in proposing and passing policy. That is how we are going to turn this shit around”. She spoke of the what happens when women take charge, reject toxic patriarchy, and stand in for the needs of the generations to come. Seeing Letitia was a very special treat for me as a woman of color. I could feel the fire in her belly, and the transfer of encouragement led to a fire in my own.

Letitia lit a torch that morning, and it seemed as though it was brightened by each speaker that came after her, it just got better and better. So that is why 5 days after my experience at the BE Conference, I am still warm with the energy, grit, and validation that was lit in that room. I think about the many brave women who took to the stage and told their story of sexual harassment and intimidation by men in powerful positions. I appreciate the strength and courage of these women and inherit their grit to say to those who seek to take advantage of us, “NO, that is not okay. That will not fly”. These powerful and brilliant moments were inescapable at this day. Together, each and every woman who participated joined their hands and forced fear out of the door. It was through their acceptance of persistence that each of us knew that we have to do something to change our circumstances, we have to show up. With that being said, I have to give a huge shout out to Sharon Waxman for choosing to show up for every woman around you. It is through your persistence, and refusal to settle for less than that keeps that fire for change growing in our stomachs. Here's to all of my boss babes who refuse to be intimidated, who won’t take no for answer...I got you!

“We are more than happy to fall on our faces to create change” - Julia Hart