To commemorate Women’s History Month, we asked several of our women teachers who was the woman who most influenced them and what is the hope they hold for women of the future. We talked with Sharon Brown, professional coach.
NY Open Center: Who is a woman who has influenced you in a major way?
Sharon Brown: A woman who has influenced my life in very profound ways is the writer, poet and activist, Alice Walker. Alice is a gifted writer of poetry, novels, essays, short fiction and children’s books. She won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for her novel, The Color Purple, in 1983. As an activist for all of her adult life, Alice has taken a fierce stand for and with women and others who are economically, spiritually, culturally, and politically oppressed in the US and around the world. And, although those contributions are significant and meaningful to me, they are not what drew me to Alice Walker in 1995. It was her book of personal essays, Living by The Word, that I discovered while on vacation that summer that changed my life forever. I was drawn to the book in some spiritual sort of way. I had a habit of browsing book stores to see which books called to me. That day it was Alice’s book and it felt as if she were speaking directly to me to help me see myself more clearly.
NY Open Center: Can you tell us a little bit about this person’s work and what it means to you?
Sharon Brown: As I read the book, Living by the Word, I was immediately drawn in. Here was a Black woman who loved nature and animals and cared about people and justice and spirituality as much as I did. There was something beautifully unconventional that I sensed about Alice from her writings. I could see that she refused to be stuffed into a box or mold of cultural and societal expectations, and that was immensely refreshing for me.
I identified with so many of the things Alice articulated, but until then I had never allowed my inner being and truth to live fully in the world. I was ashamed of the ways that I felt different from others in my family and community. I often thought that my perceived differences were bad – that I was somehow a mistake. I kept myself small. I hid the beauty of my spiritual being that was always attuned to nature, animals, intuition, and deep care and concern for the wellbeing of people. Instead I crushed my spirit into the molds that others created for me and expected me to live in, and I convinced myself that following those norms was the only way to succeed.
In Alice, I saw so much more – the more I was destined to be, and in fact, already was. Alice, to me, was living her life and her truth unapologetically, and that gave me permission and courage to do the same. It was the first time in my life that I discovered a Black woman who I could clearly see my reflection in – with my own truth and gifts being mirrored back to me. As I read that book on my summer vacation, I saw myself so clearly in the reflection of the words Alice shared. I felt whole and real and perfectly okay – just as I was – for perhaps the first time.
NY Open Center: What is a piece of advice you would give, in retrospect, to your girl self?
Sharon Brown: The piece of advice I would give my young girl self is this: Discover and honor your unique gifts. Do not dim your light to conform to a box of cultural or dominant societal norms. The world needs your unique gifts! Your family and community need them too, even if they do not yet know it.
Live your truth! Live it out loud! Honor your ancestors and your ancestral culture. It doesn’t matter if the world tries to tell you that you are not enough – not good enough as a young Black girl. You are a descendant of queens and kings, and of strong, wise, resilient Black women and men who overcame the harshest conditions as enslaved Africans and as people denied their civil rights. You are beautiful, wonderful, more than enough – JUST AS YOU ARE. Look straight ahead – never down. Stand tall and confidently. Walk with pride. Share your gifts in service of justice, equity and social change. Your unique gifts – your spirituality, love of nature and the earth, your warmth and compassion for people and animals, and your passion for justice – let them shine. Never again hide them!! Be courageous, dare to dream, be the change, and help co-create the next change!
NY Open Center: What is a hope that you hold for the women of the future?
Sharon Brown: My hope for women of the future is that we will increasingly become leaders of a heart-centered movement for much needed social change in the world. That women will stand tall in our innate gifts and will nurture and birth profound transformation in the world – not by modeling power struggles, aggression or oppression – but instead through energizing connections, collaboration, co-creation and advocacy for a just, equitable and compassionate world.
Sharon Brown, MS, PCC is a certified professional coach who helps people achieve their professional and personal goals. Drawing on 25 years of corporate experience, she trains coaches and also teaches coaching skills in workplace, school and community settings that enhance communication and collaboration. Sharon is committed to coaching in support of social change and has developed a multicultural coaching curriculum. For more information, visit Leadership That Works.
FREE INTRO WEBINAR for the 9-Month Training in Coaching for Transformation.
Facilitators: Steven Filante, CPCC, PCC, & Sharon Brown, PCC, MS
Monday, March 18, 2019, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
A 9-Month Coaching Certification Program
offered in partnership with Leadership that Works
Click here to register