By Lena Foster

“Sis…Tell your story”: a call and response mantra used to encourage each woman who confidently took the stage at the Loud and Clear live storytelling event last weekend. 

Tashara Parker, founder and CEO of Loud Women Lead, brought these women together not to say a speech, but to share their personal stories in a welcoming and comfortable setting.

“We want to make sure that we’re giving women an opportunity to not just utilize their voice, but to really amplify their stories,” Parker said. 

On Saturday, July 22, Loud Women Lead hosted Loud and Clear, a narrative experience where women not only shared their story, but also encouraged the audience to take action for the betterment and development of themselves and others. 

Parker noted that although some people are not accustomed to a live storytelling event, her intentions with these stories were to educate, inspire and motivate attendees to do something based on what they heard. 

Loud Women Lead is a non-profit organization established to take down the stigma tied to loud women. The organization hosts events that recognize and appreciate voices that go unheard and ignored, while also providing opportunities for those involved to grow confidently and authentically as leaders. 

“The word loud historically has been seen as negative, especially as it relates to a black woman utilizing her voice. This platform is aimed to flip it on its head and make sure all of our voices are heard, even if we don’t utter a word.”

Tashara Parker

Entering the event, attendees were welcomed with empowering energy from people taking pictures in front of the Loud Women Lead photo backdrop, supporting the organization by buying their merch and admiring artwork of Parker. 

Smiles and guidance from the Loud Women Lead team invited guests into the theater, where it was lit up by a bright green circular rug center stage and large white letters spelling out “Loud Women” with colorful balloons surrounding it. 

Each person was given a Loud Women Lead notepad, pen and a Juneteenth flag that would be used for Opal Lee’s, the Grandmother of Juneteenth, entrance. 

Emceed by Theeany Shannon, the event highlighted each woman’s unique story as they used their presence and words to make a statement. There were 15 women who took the Loud and Clear stage including Lee who was interviewed by Parker.  Each woman, except for Lee, had to undergo an application process along with rehearsals and mentorship from Parker.

The event took attendees through a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings with engaging and uplifting storytelling. The Loud and Clear event allowed these women to be vulnerable yet strong in their presentation, which prompted audience members to listen and take notes. 

With the variety of ages on stage, each voice brought its own perspectives and experiences dealing with topics related, but not limited to, joy, mental health, social change and awareness, imposter syndrome and being unapologetically unfiltered. 

The event started on a high with one speaker, Janet Forney, using movement, singing and poetry to convey her message about truth, and ended on a high with conversational storytelling focusing on Black businesses unifying, instead of unhealthily competing, from Patrice Angwenyi of HustleBlendz and Mia Moss of Black Coffee. 

Karrington Bennett, a 22-year-old recent college graduate owned the stage with her beaming yellow jumpsuit as she educated the audience on food deserts in Dallas, particularly in Oak Cliff and South Dallas. 

Bennett is an advocate in the community and well involved in many organizations focused on food assistance, so she believed this was an issue that needed to be addressed in order for others to learn and get involved, especially in organizations like Harvest Project Food Rescue and For Oak Cliff.

“I wanted to make sure that I address the issue of food deserts, but also highlight the people and the workers who are working actively to alleviate the issue. Everybody needs to eat. Everybody is in a position where they have to focus on getting quality food and it’s just a human right that everybody doesn’t have, especially in the city of Dallas.”

Karrington Bennett

One speaker, Alyson Rae Lawson, a Dallas native, focused on taking a leap of faith and doing something uncomfortable that leads to self-discovery and success. 

Saniyah McGrew owning the stage speaking as a teen making change

Lawson wanted to also celebrate that she found her niche after transitioning from corporate America to franchising, and with that, she wanted to encourage others to take the daring steps they may need to take to change their lives. 

“People that are in corporate America, I want them to know that they’re not alone and how they feel. And if you decide to stay in corporate America, that’s on you. But just know that there’s people that took the leap of faith. And, you can overcome whatever,” Lawson said. “There will be obstacles, but you have to keep moving.”

Lawson mentioned how this storytelling event differed from previous speaking engagements she has attended because of the shortened speaking time, which made it more engaging and have more of an impact with the audience. 

“It allowed me to put everything I wanted to say in a small amount of time to not overload somebody or not bore people,” Lawson said. 

After each woman exited the stage, DJ Queen Agnes played uplifting songs that complimented their narratives. 

Another speaker, Torrian Timms focused on living with ADHD, understanding it and learning how to not let that stop or halt any goals one may have. After having that awareness, Timms wanted to educate people about neurodiversity while encouraging those who might have ADHD or know someone with it to learn how to thrive in life with it through her storytelling.

“I really just wanted to challenge how people saw either themselves, loved ones, or people that they might work with, and how they are coping with their neurodiversity,” Timms said. 

Timms is the founder of Sistas with ADHD, an organization that gives neurodivergent Black women who are living with ADHD the opportunity to share resources, knowledge and support with each other. 

Some stories took a more humorous, but still effective approach. Devin Butler, owner and creative director of JoyPop, discussed finding joy despite one’s circumstances. Butler’s all pink attire lightened the room along with her own definition of joy. 

Butler found through her life experiences with developing her business that she had to understand and recognize joy in the darkest of situations.

“Earth, it can be very, very dark if you do not allow some of those challenges to be lessons,” Butler said. 

She used scriptures like James 1:2 to get her through, while also understanding what a difficult situation might be trying to you and the uncomfortable steps that need to be taken for better. 

“We all have these next steps that we know we should be taking that sometimes we’re avoiding, because maybe they’re going to be uncomfortable,” Butler said. “Take the next step towards joy.”

The women wore an array of captivating colors that made a statement just like their stories.

Florida native Danni Adams “AmaPoundcake” wore a light blue floral set that shined through her story. She spoke on being authentic, despite people that try to put you down. Adams wanted audience members to unlearn the negative ties and ridicule associated with being unfiltered and true to yourself and your value. 

Danni Adams about to tell her story

“I wanted people to interrogate the way that we socially discipline each other, but also just how we socially discipline women for being bold,” Adams said.

Adams mentioned how she understands the benefit of events like this in any community, especially when it pertains to sharing real stories. 

“I think storytelling is important,” Adams said. “It’s the way that we connect with each other, but also the way that we heal our community.”

After working for the government for 22 years, Shamara McFarland is now an advocate for those in need who develop programs and institutions. As one of the speakers, she focused on imposter syndrome and why she did not ever identify with it because of her radical confidence.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological condition where someone can feel anxious and not accept success internally, even if they are making accomplishments externally. 

McFarland mentioned the need for people to see people as who they were: people, not labels. Someone or yourself could be dealing with imposter syndrome, but it takes people to help redefine the way people are having negative internal conversations with themselves and turning it into a better narrative for themselves and others. McFarland also wants people to recognize and acknowledge their self worth. 

“We don’t have to be perfect. And we don’t have to do everything right to get love and to be accepted. Our value is not based on merit and achievement. It is based on just being who we are,” McFarland said. 

When Ms. Opal Lee took the stage, she not only sparked a roar of cheering and flag waving, but conjured a vibrant yet powerful energy with just her presence. 

Parker and Lee engage in a live interview where Lee highlights freedom as it associates with Juneteenth, yet citing how none of us are free until we are all free. 

With eyes that couldn’t look away from the stage, the audience paid attention as Lee recognized her community efforts and works that are impacting the community to a grand scale including Opal’s Farm, a farm focused on bringing life to those neglected communities with fresh food and genuine connections. She also discussed the push needed from the community to establish a National Juneteenth Museum. She has currently raised $40 million for this museum to happen. 

Once the event ended, the women gathered on stage, bonded by the experience they had as a sisterhood and the impact they made on the crowd as everyone stood to cheer. 

“It’s about people standing on that stage sharing their story and being welcomed in a room full of other men and women who also want to hear them and uplift them and inspire them, as opposed to providing any type of negative energy as it relates to them doing something that’s outside of the box.” 

Tashara Parker

Their presence was mighty and felt. Loud and clear.