By Emily Ballard
At 7:06 p.m. Monday evening, members of Alpha Phi Alpha hand-delivered a yellow rose to every woman in Barfield Drawing Room in Baylor’s Student Union Building to show their support for strong women.
The African-American fraternity’s 21st annual “A Tribute to a Black Woman” presentation featured Mia Wright, a women’s empowerment minister and co-pastor at the Baptist church, Fountain of Praise, in Houston.
Her son, Houston senior Evan Wright, member of Alpha Phi Alpha, served as chair of the event, and noted the importance of including the topic of women’s empowerment as part of Black History Month.
“As a fraternity, we already give a lot to men,” he said. “It’s easy to get pigeon-holed into thinking it’s all about men. For a strong society, we need strong women.”
Before Mia Wright began her speech, Evan Wright posed a few questions to the audience concerning stereotypes and challenges black women face at Baylor today.
Houston freshman Lydia Hall voiced her frustration with common stereotypes of black women.
“People think all black women are alike, or all black women wear weave, or all black women are ghetto,” Hall said.
Tahny Newbill Phoenix senior and winner of the Miss Black and Gold Pageant held by Alpha Phi Alpha, said, “We want to gain as much as we possibly can because it’s a predominately white campus.”
In her speech, Wright reminded the audience that Women’s History Month follows Black History Month.
“It’s a fantastic time to start thinking about how strong women have become around the world,” she said.
She told the triumphant story of her mother, Barbara Franklin, who traveled the world, singing with world-famous soul musician Ray Charles. Before reaching her dream of being a professional singer, Wright said her mother suffered domestic violence and had to weather two divorces, working multiple jobs and raising two young children.
“I see the resilience,” Wright said. “I see the bounce back. Some things will allow you to come back stronger than before.”
Wright suggested she possesses the same determination as her mother. She travels the world spreading the message of women’s empowerment.
“I find women all around the world find strength through obstacles, through adversity,” she said.
Wright, a graduate of the University of Texas, said she went to a low socioeconomic high school in east Austin composed mostly of blacks and Hispanics.
“Overcoming that to get to UT was a huge accomplishment,” she said.
Once she started her college career, Wright said she loved to party and spent more time in the student activities building than in the student library. Labeled “the smart girl” in high school, Wright found herself on academic probation after her first semester of college.
“I decided I’m going to sit in my class, and I’m going to learn,” she said. “I did have the capability, I just had to do it.”
She stuck to her goal. The next semester, Wright found her name on the dean’s list.
“You can do it,” she said. You can live the life you’ve dreamed of.”
Wright encouraged the women in the audience to embrace who God made them, which will give women the confidence they need to be women of power and influence.
“God gave us our own style, our own swag,” she said. As the crowd began laughing, she continued, “In that He said ‘you are fearfully and wonderfully made.’”
Wright said it is important for women to be able to look in the mirror and be satisfied with what they see. To be beautiful, a woman does not need small eyes or thin lips or a narrow nose, she said.
“While we still can aspire to get in better shape or get healthier, look in the mirror and say, ‘We can be satisfied with this girl,’” she said.
Toward the end of her speech, Wright engaged the audience and told them to make eye contact with another woman in the room and tell her that she is a strong woman and you believe in her.
“Encouraging each other is so much a part of it,” she said. “When we encourage each other, we find that God will bless us in return.”