Stacye Montez

Executive Director of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

Washington DC

I learned to stand my ground when I'm in a room where no one else looks like me.

I grew up at a time when race and gender equality caused as much fervor as the introduction of social media. Minds were eager, engaged and willing to embrace a new way to think and live across America.

This era was a time for unlimited opportunities. I remember the pop song "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar." That was my soundtrack for life, and I sure did roar.

In junior high, I led a student body strike against a less-than-desirable environment to learn. My morning revolt landed me on the evening news, with a threat of expulsion from the school district and a summoned meeting before the Board of Education.

My 4'8" frame could barely see over the mass mahogany podium set aside for speakers. I began my statement. A mouth of metal bands and wires did not deter me from stating the issues and demanding that something be done. I left that meeting not with the expected expulsion, but with a reluctant apology from the superintendent and commitment from the board that my middle school experience would become a better place to learn.

That experience was an invaluable lesson on so many levels. I learned to stand my ground when I'm in a room where no one else looks like me. Often, I have been the only woman or the only black woman in the room. When my pedigree was subtlety challenged, my challengers quickly discovered that I had every right to be present and every right to lead.

The 21st century and the wonders of technology have expanded what is possible for all of us. But the thing I knew as a young student remains true: the voices of children and women of all ages remain dismissed and unheard. I am committed now, as I was then, to ensure that women and children have an opportunity to roar.

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