ATHENA Leadership Forum Goes Virtual with Candace Matthews

ATHENA Leadership Forum Goes Virtual

Thank you to all who attended our first Virtual ATHENA Leadership Forum! Our guest speaker, Candace Matthews, gave powerful insight on giving back to yourself and others. “Don’t just give until it hurts, give until it feels good.”

Growing up Candace was given a lot, and through her faith and education, she had an understanding from an early age that “when you are blessed, you have to bless other people.” Instilling this mantra throughout her everyday life has led her to pass on her knowledge to many others. With a focus on two areas, she shared perspective on giving back, both on an individual and broader level.

Giving Back on an Individual Level:

The first portion of Candace’s talk discussed the importance of having and being a mentor, advisor and sponsor.

  • Mentor: Someone who tells you what you need to hear and will give constructive criticism. This mentor is someone you should be vulnerable around and challenge you to leverage your strength to push yourself forward.
  • Advisor: Someone who inspires you and is an expert in your field. This person doesn’t have to be at your company and doesn’t have to be a person you talk to regularly; think of them as a guiding light who can help you in one-off situations.
  • Sponsor: A critical person, ideally within your company, who tells the room your story and highlights your accomplishments. This person must know about you and your aspirations and tells it to others. This person is always in your corner.

Serving as a mentor, advisor or sponsor to others is a rewarding way to give back on an individual level.

Giving Back on a Broader Level:

Candace encouraged attendees to follow and lead in their passions. She challenged people to be uncomfortable and push through the tension, to give until it feels good.

In light of the conversations being had around the world about racial injustices towards the black community, Candace shared her experiences being a mother to a black son, who she has had to have “the talk” with. This refers to a conversation that many, if not all, black parents have had with their children about navigating the world while being Black in America. This unfair but necessary conversation is to keep her son safe, something that all mothers will resonate with. Candace called us all on an individual and societal level to be better.

Candace emphasized that we must hold each other accountable. If you want to know what you can do, just CALL:

  • Challenge racism and injustice every time you see it. Being silent is no longer an option.
  • Actively listen to others and be part of the solution. Paying lip service isn’t enough.
  • Learn about someone unlike yourself, their lives and experiences. Only then can you begin to understand what it feels like to be in their
  • Love and value every life. Yes, Black Lives do Matter.

Candace’s leadership, authenticity and wisdom created a space for breakout groups to connect and discuss giving back on both individual and community platforms. It was a powerful time for our ATHENA Community to unite and push each other to give back.

On behalf of ATHENA Grand Rapids, we’d like to thank Candace Matthews, our breakout discussion hosts, the ATHENA Council and our generous sponsors for creating an exceptional first virtual forum.

Gifts purchased for giveaways from:

DEI Resources:

  • Many persons of color are finding it hard to articulate how to discuss issues of racism, injustice, discrimination and privilege, we’d like to encourage you to take some time to learn and listen.
  • The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: About the dominos of racial injustice and police brutality, and how the contract between society and black Americans has been broken time and time again.
  • Podcast on Spotify | Brené Brown with Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist
  • Information on Pride month celebrated in June

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