BYy Shaniele Brown | For AC JosepH Media
WILLIAMSTOWN — Building support, strength and sisterhood was one of the missions of the Heels in the Battlefield Women’s Empowerment Conference on Saturday (May 14) at the St. Matthew’s Baptist Church’s Community Development Center.
One of the premiere empowerment conferences for women of color, put on annually by the Gloucester County NAACP, made its return after past postponements because of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than hundred women were among vendors, panelists and members.
The event provided a safe space to educate and help to equip the community to secure justice and equality on topics that matter to them. Topics such as healing, entrepreneurship, health, criminal justice, social justice and economic empowerment were discussed.
Other areas included education, politics, cannabis legalization and human trafficking. It showcased black own businesses and gave guests the opportunity to network, connect, dance, win prizes and receive support.
“We are creating a community that’s going to support them,” said Loretta Winters, longtime president of Gloucester NAACP and local community leader.
Seven panelists came together to share their expertise and experience to help build a connection and help attendees to heal from their own fears and traumas.
“This conference brings people together from across South Jersey, across different ethnicities and backgrounds, cultures and professions,” said Tiffany Walker, 41, secretary, Gloucester County NAACP.
The panelist consisted of various professional women devoted to being another woman’s support system and providing resources to help bridge some gaps. The information and inspiration given, along with the prestigious networking opportunity provided for a successful conference.
Jasmine Winters, 37, a coordinator and patient Advocate at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center is the owner of Protect Your Peace, a CBD infused product line that promotes self-care. She spoke on mental health awareness and alternatives to prescription drugs.
“So much stigma around mental health awareness,” said Winters.
She shared her story about dealing with anxiety as an adolescent. CBD was introduced into her life after she began to do her own self-care and sought help from a therapist.
Other speakers included:
- Tara Norman, education manager at Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and Southern New Jersey
- *Cierra Hart, director of housing and economic justice for the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV)
- Jenny Young, Credit Strategist and business consultant.
- Michelle Hall-Boggan, founder of Keep Evolving Wellness Center, author, Integrative Energy, healing coach and psychotherapist.
- Mary Campbell Cruz, the chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross office.
- Dr. Shanequa Carvalho, assistant superintendent of human resources and chief academic officer for the West Deptford Public Schools.
Hall-Boggan spoke on how much humans help others even through their own pain and how women need to find ways to eliminate and reduce stress.
“The healing that I was putting out for others … the help that I needed was in me,” said Hall-Boggan. She said that same healing power can be found in all of them.
Healthcare executive and author Melissa Fox, 50, provided a presentation based on her book “No Weapon Formed.” Her book focuses on the exploration of the black women’s experience in America and how we can move toward healing together.
“Now is the time for us to courageously confront where we are as it relates to health disparities for black women and the impact that the historical realities that our country has had on them,” Fox said.
She shared statistics about some realities of health disparities for black women. She connected the traumas that women of color face with healthcare and racism.
“The trauma that’s passed down generationally is trauma that is taught,” Fox said. “There’s historical trauma that comes from far back, way far back than any of us can remember with our conscious minds, but our bodies and DNA do.”
The vendors present were 15 black owned businesses. There was No Weapon Formed, Ybare clothing, Protect Your Peace CBD Products, Reggae Soul, Black Honey, Kathleen’s Authentic Louisiana Pecan Candy, among others.
Before the event came to an end, attendees were treated to a special fashion show by Lollipop Boutique of Somerdale. The models showcased their custom-made outfits all throughout the event’s floor space. They created a fun, joyful and interactive experience that amped up the energy level at the conference.
Among the models was 22-year-old NAACP youth and college President, Jasmin Jones. She oversees all of the youth counsels and college chapters of New Jersey. Making sure that they are in compliance, activated and involved with the community.
“Lollipop boutique had beautiful suits and dresses, kind of an upscale high fashion. The audience was very engaged, even pointing at my outfit like I want what she has on,” Jones said.
Attendees got a chance to win raffle prizes in the end. Winners were able to take home a bottle of wine or a donated “No Weapons Formed” book or a t-shirt. There was also a money raffle where guests put up cash, quantity of 5’s, in hopes of receiving a higher amount.
“I hope that guests today will take away everything that we have presented today, from CBD products and how it can help you and your fears, to entrepreneurship, getting involved in politics and just building relationships,” Loretta Winters said.
Bio: Shaniele Brown, 26, is a journalism major at Rowan University. A native of Jamaica, she is a writer, mentor and mother residing in the South Jersey area.
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