Susan L. Taylor Calls Women to Action at UM

Former editor of Essence magazine delivered Women's Empowerment keynote Tuesday night

Susan L. Taylor speaks passionately about women uniting to change the world Tuesday night in Fulton Chapel. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Delivering the third annual Women’s Empowerment keynote address for Women’s Month observances Tuesday evening (March 7) at the University of Mississippi, Susan L. Taylor discussed social challenges and urged women to action to help solve our nation’s problems.

The former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and founder-CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement addressed more than 200 students, faculty, staff and community members in Fulton Chapel.

“There’s real work to be done by women,” Taylor said. “We have to be organized, focused, disciplined and have a clear vision. We have to stand up for what’s right.”

After 27 years as chief editor of Essence and the visionary credited with building the brand, Taylor left publishing to devote her life to building an organization that is devoted to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty among African-Americans. The National CARES Mentoring Movement, which Taylor founded in 2005 and serves as CEO, is a community transformation crusade dedicated to “changing the predictable futures defined for our young who are struggling along the margins and living with the indignity of poverty,” she said.

The National CARES Mentoring Movement is the nation’s fastest growing mentor-recruitment organization. In 58 U.S. cities, CARES affiliates recruit, train and deploy caring adults to schools and a variety of youth-serving organizations that need black volunteers to serve as mentors, tutors, reading buddies and role models.

Shawnboda Mead, director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, said she hopes that all members of the university community will respond to Taylor’s appeal.

“Ms. Taylor’s message was motivational, encouraging and inspirational,” Mead said. “Having engaged with Mrs. Taylor and learned more about her life, including the trials and triumphs, we should all be more determined to fulfill our purpose.”

Students and others in attendance said they were moved by Taylor’s words.

“I’ve always admired Ms. Taylor’s words and works,” said Leah Gibson, a senior broadcast journalism major from Starkville and reigning Miss University. “My admiration goes all the way back to my childhood when copies of Essence magazine were always coming into our house and being read.”

“She definitely motivated me to keep on working,” said Martha Thompson of Oxford. “I’m definitely inspired to continue teaching everything we know to the people of the community in which I live.”

Five awards were also presented during the evening’s ceremonies. Recipients and their awards were Brittany Brown, a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Quitman, the Breakout Award; Dominique Scott, a senior sociology major from Dallas, Texas, the Phenomenal Woman Award; Alexis Pam, a sophomore biology and journalism major from Sumrall, a Hidden Figures Award; Lynette Johnson, executive associate director in the Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, a Hidden Figures Award; and Toni Avant, director of the UM Career Center, Women’s Inspirational Award.

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