Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Majora Carter - Omega Institute's Women and Power Conference

Majora Carter was one of the first women who spoke at Omega Institute's Women and Power Conference.  I hadn't heard of her before, but I sense I will be hearing of her from here on out!  She has done some amazing work!  She grew up in the Bronx in a neighborhood which was red-lined.  That means that banks drew a red line around the region and refused to put any money whatsoever into building there.  Of course the buildings fell into decay and the neighborhood went downhill fast.  As Majora was growing up, she watched buildings on either end of her block go up in smoke.  Owners found it more profitable to have their buildings burn down than to fix them up or rent them out.  She left there as soon as she feasibly could - for college - but returned when she was in grad school because she needed the financial advantage of living with her parents while in school.  Having detachment from her childhood neighborhood gave her the ability to see what was good about it and what it needed - desperately.  To make a long, fascinating story short, she spearheaded a project to create a green zone in a neighborhood where there had only been waste facilities, ruins, and hopelessness.  She said the project was fueled by "natural ass."  Here's a TED talk she gave in 2006 which tells her story much better than I ever could.  A quote from it to get you intrigued:
As a black person in America, I am twice as likely as a white person to live in an area where air pollution poses the greatest risk to my health. I am five times more likely to live within walking distance of a power plant or chemical facility — which I do.
Quotes from her talk:
What folks see, they can be.
You get what you give
Take and own your own power.  Don't listen to bad voices.  You are love.  It's your duty to share that.
Own your own greatness.
She talked about a concept I hadn't heard before - the Imposter Syndrome.  Here's a quote from someone who apparently suffers from it at times:
“You think, 'Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie?  And I don't know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?'"  Meryl Streep
 Uh, yeah, right!
The idea is that successful people sometimes feel that their success is just because of luck or good timing, that they won't be able to reproduce it, that they aren't really all that great or all that capable or intelligent, or whatever.  Majora said she was like that in the work she did.

I felt some light bulbs going off in my head.  I don't know that it's a major issue for me, but I have had concerns that Beyond Barbie might have been my one big hoorah, that I might not have another one in me, that I can't do anything else that significant.  It took a great deal of effort and wore me out (from that I should learn to take better care of myself - that would be the best lesson I could get from it!).  I have felt so drained since the end of the spate of shows in February that I've had trouble getting anything else going.  Hearing Majora speak about the Imposter Syndrome helped me realize that perhaps it's somewhat common to feel some doubts after launching a big project.  That gave me hope that I can move forward and do something else meaningful at some point - sooner than later hopefully.  Other speakers at the conference also spoke about feeling inadequate or like they weren't really as great as people seemed to think they were.  I think it's difficult to cope with success sometimes.  There's the fear of not being able to do it again.  Maya Angelou wrote:
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
Sheesh!  I don't feel so bad now!

Do you ever experience the Imposter Syndrome?  Has it affected your ability to be effective in the world?  Have you ever been successful then sabotaged yourself from having further successes?  What could you do to move through it?  Or, better yet, what did you do?  

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