HOBY Was the First Place I Saw a Woman of Color in a Leadership Position

This is a transcript of a speech was presented by a HOBY alumna at the closing ceremony for the 2019 HOBY Connecticut Seminar.

Let me tell you a story about a student.

She has thick, brown, curly hair. Each hair follicle that sprouts from her head falls into its own individual curl pattern.

Some days she likes to wear her hair out.

    “That’s not your natural hair.”

But she loves her hair in protective styles: twists, cornrows, you name it.

    “That’s so ghetto”

She doesn’t just have brown skin—no—she has a caramel colored complexion that glows in the sunlight. Sometimes she wonders: is that all people see?

    “You’re pretty… for a black girl.”

In middle school, she was called an Oreo, got used to living in the shadows.

Too shy to break free from the mask she was cast.

She objectified herself to the stereotypes society fed her to fit in with the sea of white faces surrounding her; believed that her caramel colored skin wasn’t worthy enough to be black or white.

Confused as to who she was supposed to be, she just wanted to lead, HOBY helped her to succeed, and now I can finally be me.

As you may have guessed, I’m the student in that story.

Before coming to HOBY I was a lot more introverted, a lot less confident in myself, but I was filled with the desire and ambition to go out and create a positive change. I just didn’t know how to go about it. CT HOBY gave me the clarity I needed in order to see how outstanding I could be.

HOBY was the first place I saw a woman of color in a leadership position. The first time I saw someone who looked like me going out and being the change they wanted to see in the world. That honestly changed my life because it made me believe that could be me one day.

I remember being so inspired by my seminar, so empowered to start owning my story.

I am a first-generation college student. I come from a low-income family. I am a queer woman of color. I am a leader.

HOBY not only showed me what kind of leader I wanted to be, but it’s also helped become the person I am today.

It’s been a struggle and a half from when I was sitting in those seats until now but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

My hardships have shaped me into who I am today. With the support of HOBY—the friendships I’ve made, mentors I’ve gained, and lessons I’ve learned—I’ve gained the strength to stop conforming and embrace all that I am.

One of the greatest things you could do for the world is to learn to love yourself. Learn to embrace all that you are, the good and the bad. Find what sets your soul on fire and go after that because once you do, there’s no way of stopping you.

Ambassadors, you are all outstanding and I’ve had a pleasure of being one of your facilitators. I challenge you all to embrace your own story. To go out and have dialogues, to fail and learn from your mistakes, to learn from each other. Leaders make more leaders, not followers. I wish you all luck on your future endeavors; I have no doubt in my mind that you’re going to do outstanding things. Remember the journey is more important than the destination.

My name is Jenaea Duddie and I was a 2016 Connecticut HOBY ambassador. I’ve been a volunteer for CT HOBY for three years now, serving on the Executive Board for the Alumni Association during the 2018-19 year. I am a rising sophomore at Boston College majoring in International Studies and minoring in Women and Gender Studies. 

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