Frankie Darcell, left, Carol Goss, center, and Dr. Juliette Okotie-Eboh, were featured Women of Excellence panelists during a recent interview.
It’s been 13 years since the first Michigan Chronicle’s Women of Excellence (WOE) class came on the scene. And what a selection it was, full of illustrious ladies who kicked us off and paved the way for subsequent recipients who also helped break glass ceilings, creating a legacy for themselves and others.
During a trip down memory lane on Tuesday, April 13 at Real Times Media’s Studio 1452, Dr. Geneva Jones Williams moderated a panel discussion with some of the first-ever distinguished WOE recipients. They discussed topics including what taught them the true meaning of excellence along with career and life advice.
Featured panelists included:
- Carol Goss, past president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation, and 2014 Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Fellow
- Dr. Marilyn French Hubbard, Ph.D., CEO at Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise Change Agents
- Dr. Juliette Okotie-Eboh, adjunct professor at Wayne County Community College District
- Frankie Darcell, award-winning radio personality.
“It’s been 13 years since you’ve been named Women of Excellence — what life-changing event has occurred that taught you the true meaning of excellence?”
Jones Williams asked the panelists.
Darcell said that Black women and “our brilliance” shine through every time, and she’s learned a lot since then. Darcell, a 30-year radio veteran, said that she has reported everything and been everywhere for her work including the crack house and White House “to talk about topics and things important in our community.”
Darcell said that what came to mind for her as a “change moment” was when she was fired, rehired and promoted in a three-hour period in 2013.
She said that she and her agent “knew it was coming” and when it happened the impact of the work she did, her community connections and more, had her back.
She added that people who listened to her in the city of Detroit for the last 27 years “stood up and stood in the gap” for her and said, “this is not going to happen on our watch.”
“I acknowledge them …. here I am now in 2021 in cities around the country,” Darcell said.
“You put in the work, developed relationships and kept the faith,” Jones Williams responded.
Goss said that Darcell’s story reminds her that Black women are “so resilient.”
Her own resilience shows up in the world, too.
Goss said that her most important life-changing event was after her retirement she went to Harvard for a year-long fellowship.
“Being at Harvard was amazing and transformative — it actually helped me to find out what the world really wanted me to do,” Goss said, adding that she has spent an over-four-decade long career working on behalf of children in need. “At Harvard, I discovered my passion for justice and learned the difference between charity and justice.”
Goss said that charity is important but she found that justice is what she is passionate about.
“It really changed my life,” she said, adding that when she came back to Detroit, she decided to help women through an organization. “That was the genesis of Warrior Women Against Poverty. We’ve been doing that for seven years now. It’s changed my life probably more than the women we support.”
Okotie-Eboh said that her definition of excellence includes the words “resilience” and “consistency.”
“I prefer the word ‘resilience,’” she said when describing Black women. “We’re not farm animals or superheroes — we’re people and resilience is what it takes to succeed in this life — whatever your vocation may lead you to, and consistency as well.”
She added that as a homebody and introvert she learned to work a room and develop relationships with others to the point that they cannot believe she is not the most outgoing person.
“I worked in public affairs, planning in the city of Detroit — I had to sell my ideas to elected officials and policy leaders,” Okote-Eboh said. Even at that time, I had to develop a persona — I could be consistent with outgoing and put on that show … it’s not being phony. … It helped me not take things in my life personally … I had to get out there and do what I needed to do.”
Okote-Eboh also said that a life-changing experience for her was when she went to Nigeria for a few months as a consultant when she felt stuck in her career in Detroit.
“Over the course of six months I got out of here … I could write 10 books about that best thing that ever happened to me,” she said, adding that when she came back to Detroit and whenever she has moments of doubt she thinks about her time in Nigeria. “I put that foot forward and keep moving.”
French Hubbard said that her career has brought her to the “wonderful” place she is at today.
“I’m living my best life — I realize this is a new life,” she said, adding that in the ‘70s and ‘80s she was involved in many conversations around empowering women in the workforce.
“Along the way, I made the commitment that I wanted to improve the economic status and health and well–being of women, families and their communities,” she said, adding that after making that commitment she founded the National Association of Black Women Entrepreneurs. “We grew from 12 women to [an] international network of 5,000.”
French Hubbard added that her notable career, along with deep personal experiences, has grounded her and challenged her to be bolder and to do what she loves.
“I found if I don’t love it and it does not love me it is time to move, and if you don’t move you will be moved because that environment won’t hold you,” she said, adding that women need to support other women because one woman’s success can be every woman’s success. “So many times I’ve been in environments that women have thought since I was successful… that was taking something away from them. … One of the things we have to do is come together and pull together our collective experiences, power, resources, and we can really have an impact on the world.”
From embracing self-care and being your biggest cheerleader to having an entrepreneurial spirit and reflection — these women of excellence continue to embody success and delivered poignant messages on making yourself a priority while on the job.
“This toolbox is being created today,” Jones Williams said, adding that these women love the future WOE class being announced soon. “We love you and we care for you and we care what happens to you personally and professionally. We know that, in fact, you are what’s going to make it and you are the leadership of the future.”