(1st row: Rian English-Barnhill, Megan Ward, Brittni Brown. 2nd row: Amber Lewis, Tiff Massey. 3rd row: Charity Dean, Candice Fortman and Jaqueline Elliott)
2020 has brought with it many challenges due to social unrest and the continuing pandemic. However, there have been moments to reflect and celebrate the strides in history where women are continually breaking the glass ceiling. Amid the pandemic, 2020 could be deemed the year of the woman. Internationally and on our home front, women are doing it for themselves and others. Here in the United States, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment allowing women to vote and the nomination of Kamala Harris as the first African-American Democratic Vice-President candidate.
Among women who are stepping up to the plate and leading the cause in their industries and community are black millennial women, breaking the stereotype that millennials are lazy and privileged; instead are leaders and trendsetters continuing to push the envelope for women everywhere.
Detroit is home to a host of creative, multi-talented, and community-minded millennials. This dynamic group includes Rian Barnhill-English, Brittni “Bee” Brown, Charity Dean, Jacqueline Elliott, Amber Lewis, Candice Fortman, Meagan Ward, and Tiff Massey.
One key driving force for success is a personal mission, which for Rian English-Barnhill, Vice President of Government and Community Affairs, it begins with community.
“My personal mission is to be a true collaborative leader. Through a relentless commitment to collaboration, I aim to build meaningful relationships, generate innovative solutions, increase access to opportunity, and celebrate the differences that make for a dynamic environment. In my current role at Olympia Development, my personal mission has aligned with my commitment to our community — especially during these unprecedented times. Over the last few months, it has been an honor to get out to nearly every corner of the city and provide meals to first responders, masks to vulnerable groups in need, and support local programming for Detroit children.
For Brittni “Bee” Brown, CEO, The Bee Agency, her mission is connected to helping people reach their goals.
“My personal mission is to push people to achieve their highest goals, no matter what societal norms have told them otherwise. I hold on to a personal mission to also bring the best out of individuals…”
Jacqueline Elliott, District Communications Advisor to Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, driving force, is creating community access.
“My personal mission is to use my skills as an analytical visionary to curate intentional content to inform and engage the masses. As the youngest district director for the largest congressional district in Michigan, I think it’s important to create access in the Black community to information that we are not normally able to see, while potentially influencing the next generation of young black political leaders.”
Art is a medium that connects humanity locally and abroad. Art embodies Artist Tiff Massey’s vision for Detroit, where she yearns for her hometown to be “more equitable on many levels,” which drives her to expose the world of art and art opportunities to neighborhood youth.
A commonality among this group of women is their passion for the community and making sure that the nation knows about Detroit, for Charity Dean, Director, City of Detroit Office of Civil Rights and Inclusion, and Amber Lewis, City of Detroit, Social Media director that vision is about grinding and thriving.
“Detroit is the greatest city in the world. It has a resilient grit and grind that makes it shine and excel above the rest. My vision for Detroit is that everyone can fully experience Detroit as the great city that it is because every single person sees their successful future directly linked to the successful future of this city.” Dean said.
“I see Detroit being a haven to build safe and free Black futures, a space where a collective community-conscious can create the type of life many of us have only imagined living. I envision Detroit being a space where we can truly thrive.” Lewis said.
While Candice Fortman, CEO, Outlier Media, and Megan Ward, CEO, Creatively Flawless, and Femology share a vision of a blueprint for Detroit.
“I want Detroit to be a model for what it looks like to build with equity as your blueprint. We all have to work together in this to make our community a place where no one is suffering needlessly. We have to be willing to share resources equally.” Fortman said.
“When I envision Detroit, I see a catalyst for change with empowered communities of Black families and strong blueprints of education, innovation and transformation. I see women creating their own tables, shattering glass ceilings and creating next level possibilities as wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and friends.” Ward said.
When it comes to thriving pass the pandemic and the upcoming election, these powerful women chimed in with uplifting advice. From Barnhill’s “drop the ‘productive and positive’ mantra and try to be present” to Fortman’s advice on making sure this election is safe and secure because it is not the time to hope that this all will work out, it’s serious, and everyone has a role to play.”
The amount of wisdom and advice imparted gives credence to why these women are and will continue to be leaders continuing to set the bar for black millennial women while summing up a final word for Detroiters.
“My advice is to take care of your mental health and take care of each other. This pandemic has robbed us of so much but one thing is clear, we need each other.” said Dean.
Lewis continued, “45 has to go. Godspeed for what’s next honey!”