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Black Leadership Magic in Kansas: Spotlighting Women's History Month

March is Women's History Month, so we can’t forget to reflect on and celebrate the incredible mark that women have made throughout history. It's a time to recognize their resilience, courage, and achievements - especially our Black women showing up in the world!

But you know what? Here in Kansas, we're taking it a step further. We're not just celebrating women; we're putting some respect on the names of amazing Black women who've been leading and making things happen in the Sunflower State.

As we commemorate Women's History Month, the Kansas Black Leadership Council is proud to dedicate this special blog to highlighting the achievements and impact of notable Black women in our state. Through this platform, we aim to shine a spotlight on the remarkable accomplishments of Black leadership and honor their invaluable contributions to various aspects of society.

Did you know that Black women hold key positions in various sectors across the state? Kansas is the home of phenomenal women; From education and healthcare to business and politics, our leaders are making waves and breaking barriers.  And let's not forget about the countless grassroots organizations and initiatives led by Black women, driving change and championing justice for all. To name a few: Myrtle Foster Cook – a political leader who devoted her life to enhancing the political and economic lives of African Americans, Jeanna Repass – the first black woman elected state chair of the Kansas Democrats, and Dr. JohnElla Holmes – president of the Nicodemus-based Kansas Black Farmers Association leading a new agricultural movement. Yep, you better believe it – Black women are at the forefront of leadership in Kansas, and they're just getting started!

This month we got the chance to check in with a few of the women in leadership across Kansas. We had two major questions for them - 

First up, we asked them about their legacy. What mark do they want to leave behind, especially when it comes to uplifting the next wave of Black women in Kansas? And, just in case they were feeling chatty, we tossed in a bonus question: What pearls of wisdom would they drop on young Black women looking to make their mark as leaders in the Sunflower State? See what the amazing Dr. Tiffany Anderson and Dr. Kaye Monk-Morgan had to say.

What advice would you give to young Black women aspiring to be leaders and change-makers in Kansas, based on your own experiences?  My advice to black women includes having the confidence when entering any space knowing you belong in the space and have the talent, skills, and abilities to excel in any area.  It's important that aspiring leaders recognize the many ways they can lead where they are and as they continue to be uplifted to new levels of leadership, lift as they climb.  

What legacy do you hope to leave behind, particularly in terms of empowering future generations of Black women in Kansas? The students I have the privilege to impact and the staff who have moved into leadership as a result of my role impacting countless children is the legacy that will outlive me.  It is an honor to be the first African American female superintendent in Topeka, Kansas which is a state that changed education across the nation. Once there has been a first, there will be a second and a third. My presence in this role has changed the future for the generation of superintendents preparing today to walk through the door that has been opened by the many women leaders that came before us.“

“Anyone can exercise leadership and to have the communities that we desire, everyone must do so. This is especially true for young Black women. Being a leader isn’t about someone giving you a title, it’s about doing work. It is about working on issues of importance and getting other people to collaborate with you. The act of doing is the trigger… not an arbitrary label given by a subjective person. Doing something, over and over, leads to experience and knowledge. Experience and knowledge lead to competence. Building a solid foundation based on experiences and trying things is an act of leadership.

Some of my most impactful leadership moves have come because of asking a good question at the right time. Inquiring about root causes of problems, asking whose voice hasn’t been heard on an issue, or questioning a common narrative, all required courage and provided decision-makers with the opportunity to pause and consider more options. 

Young women who self-authorize themselves to engage with issues don’t wait until they have power, a title, or authority. They do what they can, where they can, for as long as they can… that’s all anyone is doing, and you don’t need a title to do that. History is full of Black women who made a difference, but only because they acted. Leadership is action! 

I’m often asked about my desired legacy. My legacy or lack of one, will be defined well after I have left this earth, which is not my concern. My goal, every day, is to act. I chase impact. It is my divine purpose to provide access, support, and encouragement for those who are making their way, personally and professionally. Whatever success I achieve is intended to create opportunities for those coming behind me. My win is a win for our daughters, the work I love most is preparing them for that inheritance.”

As we wrap up this blog celebrating the incredible Black women leaders in Kansas, we want to inspire you to find a way to advocate and make a change in your community. Your voice matters, and your leadership is needed now more than ever.

Complete our Kansas Black Legislative Agenda survey now! It's all about amplifying the voices of Black Kansans and advocating for policies that uplift our community. Whether it's fighting for education reform, criminal justice reform, or economic justice, there's a place for you at the table. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get involved, get engaged, and let's keep pushing for progress together.

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