The Power of a Pop-Up

It was a privilege to spend some time getting to know the women of Femme Fatale DC, a collective of local woman-owned businesses on Florida Ave NE. FFDC represents the creativity, economic opportunity, empowerment, diversity, and equality that we as a community should aspire to in all aspects of our lives.

It was incredible to hear Yasmin, the founder of FFDC, share her experience in the business world. She told me stories of being underestimated, ignored, or dismissed in the workplace, and how those experiences inspired her to activate and elevate women in DC. Yasmin is an amazing leader who is going to continue to do great things in our community. I’m glad I was able to meet her and hear her story.

I also met Ary, a Latina whose brilliant Mexican-inspired jewelry matched her passion for advocacy. She is immensely talented, and was creating beautiful jewelry but struggling to bring her products to market. She needed a network, a village, to show her how to elevate her work and support her throughout her entrepreneurial journey. Now, with the collective behind her, Ary is doing more than selling jewelry; she’s working to leverage her success in order to raise money for natural disaster relief in Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, and Mexico.

Martina creates scarves and other clothing depicting unique and powerful messages of strength. When I told her about my candidacy for DC Council, she immediately directed me to a green scarf that uses soundwaves to say “I radiate confidence.” It will serve as a constant reminder of the support these women provide to each other, and the example of determination, togetherness and strength they are setting for all of us.

With each conversation, I found myself reflecting upon my service as a teacher in the Peace Corps. In my village, the expectation was that girls marry, raise kids, and if they are lucky and able, work at the market selling produce. That was it. In addition to being constrained by limited opportunities, some of my students were experiencing sexual abuse, neglect, and domestic violence at home. It was heartbreaking and I felt powerless.

I grew up playing soccer, and happened to bring a ball with me from the United States. I would play soccer with the men in the village after school, and it didn’t take long before my students sat on the sidelines watching ‘Miss Lisa’ playing with the taxi drivers, shopkeepers, fishermen, and others. Not only was Miss Lisa holding her own against grown men, she was better than most of them.  My students started playing during recess; the girls were especially thrilled when I would kick the ball around with them, teaching them how to pass. As their confidence grew, so did their soccer skills. It opened their eyes to a world in which they could stand toe to toe on the same field with anyone, including men. I was sent to Guyana to teach literacy, but I’m proud to know that I did more than that. Through soccer, I was able to teach my female students their value.

The women at FFDC are doing more than selling products, they’re elevating women throughout our community. They’re an inspiration to me, and to many others, who have encountered barriers in the workplace, sports, the arts, the business world, the political arena, and all other areas of our society. Having faced many of these barriers, I saw a lot of myself in these women; I’m not an entrepreneur, and I’m certainly not an artist, but I am inspired to know that I am part of a community that is determined, motivated, and inspired to use our voices and skills to enact change.

It’s important for me to know that my daughter is growing up in a community where women are breaking through barriers and defining their future success and happiness on their own terms. My trip to FFDC served as a reminder of the inner strength we can all summon to conquer those barriers, because our value does not come from external sources; it radiates from within. And with that strength comes an obligation to use our voices, our talents, and our votes to continue pushing forward.