“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
There are some courageous women in this world who decide that they have the power to make and inspire positive change. There are women who look at the world and see opportunity. Who dismiss doubt. Who realize that doing good is their duty, their responsibility, and the inevitable choice. Who build communities, become role models, and dare to stare down the world that often tells them they can’t. Because they can. Because they are the Renaissance Women.
At the Uncovered Artistry Project (the non-profit I founded four years ago with my sister), we believe in inspiring positivity. We support survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, but we also support the strength and courage that is within in every single woman. And that means sharing inspirational stories of amazing women who are doing remarkable things. So today, I’d like to start the first in a series of interviews with inspiring ladies.
The first Renaissance Woman is a colleague of mine, TaJané Perry, founder of Project Sisterhood. The organization strives to, “to see young girls conquer their environments and the obstacles that they present, seeing them walk with dignity, poise and confidence, being validated through themselves and God.” The organization provides mentorship, guidance, and inspiration for young women. In Taj’s own words, “I started Project Sisterhood, Inc. because I want to bridge the gap between the young girls that want better and the women that have found it.” A beautiful, ambitious mission to be sure.
Basically, the non-profit is totally right up my alley! Inspiring young women to do amazing things? Yes, please! Read on for my interview with Taj and get ready to be inspired.
1. You started Project Sisterhood while an undergrad at Georgetown. What inspired you to start the organization?
So, I guess that I can start this question by telling you about where I grew up. I’m from Las Vegas – not the glitzy, glamorous Las Vegas. I’m from the Las Vegas that no one sees when they look at the map and no one considers when they’re shaping policy that affects us. The educational system was subpar and morality [was] low. I saw a lot of young women that I went to school with end up involved in prostitution, exotic dancing and other not so legal trades. I remember thinking, ‘what happened?’. We grew up in the same place and were exposed to mainly the same opportunities and resources. At what point did our paths diverge so much as to lead me to Georgetown and them to the trades that we all swore we’d never take up? I found that for the most part, we didn’t have that many positive influences. There weren’t many women that had made it through the seductive clutter of Sin City and come back to tell their story, to tell us how. As a result, many of my peers succumbed to what our society said that they should be. I was lucky in that I was involved in several youth programs that were run by amazing women. And that’s where I saw an opportunity. I started Project Sisterhood, Inc. because I want to bridge the gap between the young girls that want better and the women that have found it. If we take the time to mentor and offer guidance to these young girls, we can inspire them to want more for their lives, to strive for more. And I think that starts with us. We have a responsibility to the future generation to pass down all of the knowledge that we’ve acquired on our respective journeys in hopes that their hardships would be lessened and their successes magnified.
2. If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
Hmmm… if I had to describe myself in one word, I guess that I would say that I’m dynamic. There are so many different pieces of me and I’m really good at compartmentalizing and dealing with one piece at a time. Because of that, I can switch very easily from one mode to another and my mind is always going 1,000 miles a minute. Sometimes, I can be all over the place. 🙂
3. You work full time in the fashion industry while running Project Sisterhood. What are some of your strategies for staying balanced?
One of my main strategies is simply time management. I have to set time aside that is specifically for Project Sisterhood. Otherwise, I can get lost in my current position and allow it to consume me. Since I want to maintain both (and well, at that), I have to decide how to divide my time in a way that allows me to be productive in both areas. When work is going slowly, I’ll check my PS email or take care of some of that business and vice versa. It’s definitely a balancing act but definitely feasible.
4. How would describe your style? Yep, I mean fashion style!
It honestly depends on the day! I am such a mood dresser. There are days when I’m feeling spunky and I’ll pin up my hair and wear something with embellishments and there are other days (most days) when I just want a good pair of denim, a cute top and my favorite boots. I guess I keep it pretty casual.
5. Explain a bit more about the three pillars (dignity, poise, and confidence) and how you developed these three in particular.
It’s funny because the three pillars of the organization actually came as a result of a casual conversation with a friend. I was rattling off everything that I wanted PS to be and the effect that I wanted it to have on our ‘little sisters’. Those were three words that stood out in our conversation. I want every young girl to walk with Dignity, knowing who she is and what she wants out of life. I want her to carry herself with Poise, commanding respect when she walks into a room. And finally, I want her to walk with Confidence – that’s being who you are and doing so unapologetically!
6. How has Project Sisterhood evolved from its beginnings and where do you envision it going in the future?
Like any other organization, we have evolved so much from our inception. In the beginning, I wanted PS to be a solid group/community of girls that we could mentor and develop a relationship with. Eventually, though, we started to get more involved with local organizations and became more of a travelling workshop group. And I LOVED it! Reach became more important to us as an organization. It was no longer about affecting a few girls in a powerful way, it was about reaching a broader audience and still having that powerful effect. One way that we sought to do this was through our Online Magazine at ProjectSisterhood.Org. This is our medium to reach a many young girls as possible outside of our physical limitations. We still seek to partner with local organizations by visiting and conducting workshops but the monthly magazine is our main form of outreach.
In the future, I want us to be able to link girls that subscribe to our site with mentors based on some measure of compatibility. We’d also love to offer a PS Curriculum (possibly a week long program) to churches and other community organizations with similar missions. That way, though we may not be able to facilitate, the messages are still being distributed and impact made. So many goals!
7. What advice would you give to aspiring women who want to start their own organization for change?
Do it. Stop doubting that you are worthy of such a mission and stop wondering whether or not you have what it takes to execute it effectively. If you have a passion for something, if you wake up and can think of one thing in the world that you want to change – DO IT. Start from the very beginning. Know what social impact you want to have and understand what it takes in order to get there. Take your time and allow the organization to develop as it surely will. Don’t be afraid to go after it, don’t fret when it doesn’t look exactly like you envisioned and don’t stop until you’ve made a difference.
8. How can people outside the organization get involved with Project Sisterhood?
Project Sisterhood is always looking for people to write for our monthly magazine! If you aren’t a writer and you find yourself more in need of a community impact, take PS to your local groups! We are in a phase of expansion and would love to have PS reach as many young girls as possible.
One more thing: social activism is not an option, it is a responsibility. I feel as though we live in a generation that has become indifferent to action. We are affected and offended by injustices but lack the diligence and, dare I say, attention span to react in an effective way. If something upsets you, angers you to the point of intense frustration, seek to change it! For me, that’s society’s impact on young girls and the lack of available and active mentors for them. PS is my way of attacking that issue and while it is certainly not all that it can be, it is my start, it’s my action. What’s yours?
Be sure to check out Project Sisterhood here.
p.s. I loved Taj’s advice so much that I made an inspirational image out of it. Pin and Facebook to your content, friends! And be sure to take her words to heart.