Event aims to empower young women


Heaven Lyons, 13, left, a seventh-grader at Rocky Mount Prep, laughs with Miracle Sinclair, 11, a sixth-grader at North Carolina Connections Academy, as they make ice cream in a bag Saturday during the second annual Young Ladies Empowerment Series at Rocky Mount Middle School.


By Corey Davis
Staff Writer

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Stand-up comedian and motivational speaker Les Long pulled no punches when talking to the several young girls in the audience at the 2017 Young Ladies Empowerment Series on Saturday at Rocky Mount Middle School.

While on the stage of the school’s auditorium, Long spoke candidly about the importance of young females not succumbing to the peer pressure by boys of having sex, which could lead to teenage pregnancy or worse having a sexually transmitted disease and, in some cases, those that are incurable.

“Most parents like to throw hints by telling their children not to do this or do that, but don’t give them the real reason,” Long said. “They tiptoe around talking to them about sex, drugs and relationships. Most kids lose their virginity in their teens, and lot of them become pregnant or catch a disease that could end their life. But Mom and Dad are scared to talked about it. My message to you all is respect yourself and save yourself as long as you can.”

Long’s insightful thoughts were a microcosm of the second annual one-day Young Ladies Empowerment series hosted under the umbrella of Tyson Multimedia Inc., which was founded and created by Dr. Tiffany Tyson, a psychiatrist at Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) Family Medical Center, who also is an author and motivational speaker.

The event focused on addressing issues relating to self-esteem, respect, peer pressure, substance abuse, teen violence, cultural awareness and community.

“I think there is a great need to have events like this because there are so many teens dealing with low self-confidence and low-esteem,” Tyson said. “A lot are adult ladies, and many of them have issues going back to when they were teens, which still bother them as adults. There are so many girls dealing with different issues and it’s important to help them learn how to cope with these things. When they hear it from someone different than their parents, sometimes it’s received better.”

The young girls and women were involved in several 45-minute breakout workshop sessions at different classrooms in Rocky Mount Middle School hosted by different breakout speakers. The sessions were broken up by age in groups of 12 to 14, 15 to 17 and 18 to 20.

Cassandra Richardson, a local hairstylist, hosted a session called “My Hair is My Crown,” where she gave the young ladies healthy tips about taking care of their hair. She also had Jada Star, 11, a sixth-grader at Rocky Mount Middle School, be on the receiving end of getting her hair braided.

Star found Richardson’s session informative and the overall empowerment workshop event inspiring.

“The things they’ve told us is great information that are going to help us grow,” Star said.

Shawanda Barnes, a breakout speaker, held a session called “Believe in Yourself,” to a group of girls between the ages of 12 and 14. Barnes expressed to the girls the significance of persevering in life, dealing with and overcoming adversity and achieving their goals no matter the naysayers.

Barnes shared to them how she overcame plenty of hardships of life dealing with substance abuse, thoughts of suicide and going to prison for three months. Barnes said she gave her life to Jesus Christ in 2008 and is a member of Word Tabernacle Church.

She currently is working on her third college degree at N.C. Wesleyan College and has plans to open a house in the future for women battling addiction.

“I wanted them to know no matter what their past experience or what they go through in life, they can achieve success as long as they work hard and trust in the Lord,” Barnes said.

Tyson said to help learn how to improve the Young Ladies Empowerment Series, she provides evaluation forms to the young females at each breakdown session to get feedback on what they like or want to see done in the future. Tyson is looking at the possibility of having some sort of a program in the summer.

“The thing I hope these girls take from coming here is as females they’re all dealing with some sort of the same issues, and that they will form unity with one another,” Tyson said. “Sometimes girls are envious of each other, so hopefully with these girls, they will build a bond with each other as well as come away with more self-confidence in themselves.”

At the start of the Young Ladies Empowerment Series, eight young females as part of the Envy-Us Steppers put on a 15-minute step show on stage in front of the audience, while gift prizes also were given away at the show, including grand prize winner Breilyn Wilks, who won two tickets to see singer and songwriter Bruno Mars performe in concert at PNC Arena in Raleigh on Oct. 12.