Sunday, February 7, 2010

Today's top black women speakers: your list

Last year, another speaker coach asked me to help find video examples of today's top women speakers, because he was having trouble finding examples to share with trainees that were of current, rather than historic women speakers.  This year, for Black History Month, I asked readers on Facebook and Twitter to help me crowd-source a list of today's top black women speakers, to give us current role models and examples.  Here's the list you made, with video or speech excerpts where available.  Please add your favorites in the comments!

Tara Leigh Tappert recommended "my friend Ramona Austin, who is the curator at the Barron Gallery at Old Dominion University in Virginia. She is both an eloquent woman and speaker."  If there are videos, photos or speeches she's given that we can share on this blog, please share the links in the comments!

Elizabeth Schuit Crum and Stephanie Lanier both suggested First Lady Michelle Obama.  She's a poised and personable speaker, and you can go here to read about how she scored a win while introducing her husband at the Democratic National Convention.  It's a great speech, one that relies on stories she knows well and has told over and over again--one key to speaking smoothly without notes.  Check out the speech below:


Jeanette Raine thought of political adviser and pundit Donna Brazileand said, she is "very poised and on top of it." She's worked on Capitol Hill and was the first black woman to manage a presidential campaign, been an educator and a pundit.  Here's an excerpt from a speech in which she talks about her nephew, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, who was inspired by President Obama to study harder and become an honor student. Notice how, even from a lectern, she looks at and engages her audience in all parts of the hall.  You can read her book Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in America for more inspiration.



Jeannette also gave "many, many thumbs up to Maya Angelou!"  I agree.  Check out these posts on how Angelou uses hope and humor on the college lecture circuit to customize her speeches, and on an hour-long interview she did about her inspirational book for women, Letter to My Daughter. The interview demonstrates her speaking skills, and I give you ideas about what to listen for.

Ginger Pinholster recommended two women in science. "Of course I'd have to vote for Shirley Ann Jackson and Shirley Malcom, champions of science, technology and science education," she wrote on Twitter. PhysicistShirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, serves on a variety of corporate boards and government panels as well as overseeing RPI. Many of her speeches involve building the scientific infrastructure and workforce of the U.S. to expand innovation and research. Here's an excerpt from a recent speech she gave on innovation and infrastructure at the Detroit Economic Club:


Shirley Malcom, director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's programs in education and human resources, spoke about how science inspired her as a young black child growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, when she accepted a medal from the National Academy of Sciences years later.  She said:
It wasn’t clear what you did with science and math even if you liked them. For African Americans and women the options in the South in the 1950’s were limited. So you just went to college if you could and trusted that you’d find out later what you could do with what you learned. So that’s what we did…and when conditions changed and we were presented with a wider range of options, we seized them. I stand here today only because I eventually began to imagine myself as a scientist and only because my mentors looked at me and imagined the same thing. Making the improbable happen begins with imagining something different.
She then uses "imagine" to help propel the speech forward with a vision for science education.  Read the full text of her speech here.

Beth Schacter recommended astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to go into space. But she's also a dancer and art collector, as well as a scientist. Much of her post-space career has focused on science education, and this TED talk recommended by Beth looks at teaching arts and sciences together. Listen to how she uses her voice inflection, tone and cadence to emphasize her points:



Angelica Simmons suggested motivational speaker Patricia Russell-McCloud, and in this video for American Airlines, McCloud applies her inspirational thoughts to a topic many women can appreciate: "juggling it all."


Are you a member of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook? Join our thriving community to get extra content, early input into my blog posts, and to share your questions, photos and video.

New! Sign up for The Eloquent Woman's free monthly newsletter, Step Up Your Speaking