With just a few weeks away from the Women on the Rise Leadership Conference, held at the University of Washington on Saturday, Sept. 17, it’s hard to imagine that this time last year, I was a marketing intern for the YMCA in Auburn for Kela Hall, who, at the time, had only a vision of what the Women on the Rise Leadership Conference and her own nonprofit, KD Hall Foundation, would eventually become. As the road to the conference draws to a close, the real story is behind the scenes — the long journey to fulfilling a purpose, and that a “no” does not mean that they won’t be watching.
Trekking back and forth from Auburn to Seattle, sometimes joined by her (at the time) six-month-old daughter, I listened with excitement and was refreshed as Kela shared her “big picture” vision of the conference and nonprofit. Referring back to those conversations in traffic as my interview process for KD Hall, it did not take long for me to realize that this conference isn’t a one-off event or something to pat ourselves on the back for; this conference is taking place because it aligns with who Kela Hall is as an individual.
In this niche city that is Seattle, it’s very easy to find something that caters to your personality or what you do as a profession. Not often is Seattle presented something like Women on the Rise, an event to bring together generations, cultures, political affiliations, organizations and so much more for something that is inclusive to all and a topic that most can support: the empowerment of women, and strengthening and preparing for the 2020 workforce by providing networking and mentorship opportunities in their preferred career of choice in media, education, politics, community, arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
“She’s crazy,” I thought to myself as she shared potential names. A who’s who when it came to names: the Obamas, Ellen and Beyoncé; the list resembled something my sister might have made when she was 5. It was then that I realized there were truly no bounds to how big and far Kela thinks.
We all fall for the trick in our 20s of trying to keep intact the strings of our naïveté while assimilating into “adulthood.” Lack of resources, access or “failed” experiences make us jaded even to the idea of thinking past what we have. It’s hard not to share the same excitement and glee that permeates Kela’s face and voice as she speaks about the conference and KD Hall Foundation. It’s refreshing to see an older millennial who’s had a plethora of life experience and work experience in the cutthroat corporate world still look ahead and maintain her childhood dream of becoming the next Oprah. “I want to help anyway that I can.”
After February ended, and with the conference originally supposed to have taken place in June, we found ourselves extremely pressed for time, and our revolving door of folks coming in and out kept spinning — but that didn’t deter Kela, so I wouldn’t allow it, either. The consistent, almost delusional but realistic belief that we will be able to pull this conference off has allowed us to get this far. After coming to terms, the conference was then moved to September. It was at that time that we both (without discussing with each other) quit our jobs in order to put the right amount of heart, spirit and energy into completing this conference. This was somewhat of a bold move for a mother with a young child and a 20-something trying to stay afloat in a city that’s no longer recognizable.
I want to personally challenge you, progressive Seattleite, to spread the word and join us Saturday, Sept. 17 at the University of Washington for the Women on The Rise Leadership Conference. Favorites, Alexandra Lewis (Q13 Fox Anchor; Moderator), Senator Pramila Jayapal (Keynote), SPD Deputy Chief Carmen Best (Panelist) and many more have joined us for the conference. Special thanks to our current team, a small but intimate and trustworthy group.
Our journey has just begun.
Terae Stefon is a freelance journalist, writer and producer. He is currently the social media and content director for KD Hall Foundation. Terae hosts “NightTimeMoves” on HollowEarthRadio.org Wednesday evenings at 9 p.m.