Friday, 18 March 2022

Talking with Dynamic Women panel: visions for improving support

From top left across to bottom right: Panelists Jacqueline Dixon, Diana Myrie, Michelle Meghie, and Yvette Blackburn

 Jacqueline Dixon speaks about her experience during the pandemic

By Olivia Barrett

Empowered. Tenacious. Resilient

These were the recurring words spoken by panelists at the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce’s (CBCC) Talking with Dynamic Women webinar held on Mar. 18, 2022.

Discussing topics ranging from de-stressing to dealing with COVID-19 to navigating the business world as Black women, panelists Michelle Meghie, Jacqueline Dixon, Yvette Blackburn, and Diana Myrie also talked about how the community can come together to help one another succeed.

“We’re greater talkers, … but when push comes to shove, we’re not seeing it happen,” said Blackburn, CEO of Upliftment Enterprises. She explained how there are a variety of things that the Black community can do to help businesses within the community thrive, but these efforts often fall short.

“We, as women, how do we make sure that our networks really work so that we can aid each other to make our businesses grow,” she said.

Dixon, a Certified Sales Professional, and Trainer, echoed Blackburn’s sentiments during the panel. “We need to show empathy to those who aren’t able to do this,” Dixon added, referring to her ability to adapt her businesses to operate virtually and how the community needs to come together to help each other.

“We have to model what we say,” Dixon said, explaining how the Black community can support its businesses. “I live what I teach,” she said.

Myrie, an insurance and financial broker, said “walking the talk” includes taking the time to educate and equip people with the right resources, and explained that this should be a priority.

Dixon and Blackburn also talked about the importance of having a solid foundation and the challenges they have faced, such as finding equal counterparts.

“We as Black women are holding up the sphere of the Black community,” Blackburn said, explaining one of the difficulties she had noticed which is the absence of support from Black male counterparts. She talked about how some Black men are often not rising to the level some Black women are on, and their absence makes it difficult for them to build this strong foundation.

The panelists discussed another thing hindering the Black community’s ability to collaborate: the mindset.

“Distrust and jealousy,” are the two issues Blackburn said she believes are the biggest reasons Black businesses don’t collaborate. She talked about moving away from trust being rooted in financial frameworks and being placed in people instead.

“If someone is successful, go and have the conversation. [Ask] how are you successful,” she said, explaining how the community can move past the distrust by having these conversations.

“We gotta move out of that mindset of thinking that we can only be the one the succeed,” she said, noting how comparisons between the community are useless because everyone’s success is measured differently.

These sentiments were shared among the panelists as they also shared their experiences, opportunities, and hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t give up without a fight,” Myrie said, explaining how her determination and resilience are her greatest strengths. She spoke about these strengths in relation to her experience as a businesswoman during the pandemic, saying it was a “mixed bag for me.”

She explained the effect the pandemic had on her life in two ways: personal and professional. While she had to pivot in her professional career, Myrie said the pandemic gave her time to pursue certain opportunities, such as writing her own book.

On the personal level, Myrie said it meant rising to the occasion and facing her demons.

“I learned a lot and I grew a lot and I’m still going through a lot,” Myrie said, explaining how she strives to help people as much as she can, noting the impact the pandemic had on Black communities.

“We as Black and racialized individuals were impacted greatly by mandates and COVID,” said Yvette Blackburn, CEO of Upliftment Enterprises. She explained how the financial struggles and isolation from family impacted the Black community in a specific way, as these hardships are harder to reconcile. These struggles disproportionately affected the Black communities which caused greater distrust both within communities and with government bodies.

Dixon shared a similar experience as Myrie as she talked about the differences of how the pandemic affected her personal life in comparison to her professional life.

“I was helpless and hopeless,” she said, explaining the personal effects the pandemic had, such as grieving a loss. She noted how some people would try to dictate her grieving process, which led to her going outside of family and friends for help.

While she said she felt hopeless for a long time, Dixon said, “one day with time and prayer and the grace of God, I woke up and felt like I had something left in me.”

Dixon said she was fortunate to make it through without any major hardships, saying for one of her businesses, “it was my best years ever,” but recognized that for some businesses, the pandemic has been a traumatic experience.

As they moved through their discussion, the panelists covered a range of topics, mainly focusing on the ability they, as Black women, have to help Black businesses and the Black community thrive.

“We are not just Black women,” Meghie said, “we are Black women leaders.”

Olivia Barrett

Olivia Barrett is a Bachelors of Journalism and Humanities student at Carleton University. Her interests include photography and poetry which she uses to explore social justice issues and other intriguing fields. She also loves learning about history and ancient religions.  Olivia writes on social issues, well-being, and out of curiosity.