How to Transform the World Through the Leadership of Women

“I’VE GOT YOUR BACK, BECCA,” one of our Shetroit sisters soothingly whispered in my ear at the wrap-up of a recent gathering of Shetroiters.

That’s our affectionate nickname for the Detroit women involved in this digital media endeavor known as (rhymes with Detroit, of course).

Her supportive words came following a bruising critique session of our women’s media collective, a hyperlocal experiment in New Media of which I’m the publisher – having launched it in December 2011.

Our first Shetroit gathering a year ago. A few of us in this pic – (l to r) Oya, Becca, Ammerah, Jackie, Shirley and Adela.

Although I may be the go-to person, Shetroit sailed off the ground only because a number of savvy local women stepped up to help launch it.

Thank you founding members Adela Nieves, Alicia Skillman, Ammerah Saidi, Desiree Cooper, Dessa Cosma, Diana Copeland, Jackie Victor, Kalimah JohnsonOya Amakisi, Sylvia Rosales-Fike, and our youngest Shirley Bolden – most of whom are still with us, others staying long enough to help birth the project before moving on to other undertakings.

Pioneering Intimate (New) Media

These sisters saw the value in creating a women’s literary media collective whose mission is to bring women together – using the Internet for now – to support each other in realizing their self-worth and recognizing their strengths by blogging about their most challenging and transformational moments.

Oya and Ammerah represent two of the major populations in the Detroit area. The largest Arab community outside of the Middle East is here.

When we do this, as Shetroit’s mission statement reads, new heights of feminine leadership can emerge as other women read and identify with the role models that our bloggers offer.

As more women join us, we’re seeing our mission in elegant action.

The magic ingredient is what I’ve taken to calling Intimate Media. (I’m officially hijacking this sociology term because nurturing intimacy describes what we as women do best.)

Shetroit advisory circle members Jackie with Shirley and Desiree wearing Des’ tees (her popular foray into fashion).


And when you pair intimacy with New Media, it can hit the moon – that is, when it’s delivered with the soul nourishing intention of deep sharing that Shetroit’s growing number of women have been contributing this past year. (Have an interest in joining the fun? Check-out our writer guidelines.)

Detroit as a Master Teacher

That brings me to the “I’ve got your back” comment.

Over my years in TV, radio and print media I’ve learned to take constructive feedback in the spirit it’s given.

Ever since I moved to Detroit nearly three years ago, I’ve been fumbling my way up a steep learning curve in introducing while at the same time learning the intricacies of this complicated, intriguing and culturally diverse city.

For instance:

  • As you can see, I often now call my women colleagues ‘sister.’

Once landed in Detroit, I was embraced by the rich African American culture of mutual respect and love – and the enlightened belief that we’re all one (sisters and brothers) – a hallmark of a city that’s 83% Black. (It’s a concept that’s antithetical to the cut-throat environment of professional media where everybody’s considered competition. Ask anyone in TV, radio or print – at least what’s left of them).

  • Or the understanding that leadership emerges from every corner of the home, the block, the neighborhood. “Leadership” doesn’t belong solely to the titles of executive director, CEO or council person.

In fact, “Mama’ (as in Mama Sandra Simmons of Hush House) or siSTAR (often conferred on Oya Amakisi) or Baba (i.e. Baba Malik Yakini) trump the ordinariness of fleeting office appointments. These “titles” are earned positions of respect and adoration conferred on those entrusted with the community’s best interests and mutual well being – because they’ve proved themselves to be worthy.

This authentic measure of leadership also informs the very DNA of

  • Or the infectious positive attitudes of strong, courageous and spiritually-endowed women. 

There is an abundance of women in Detroit who perennially reap life-affirming lessons from a gritty city ravaged by decades of self interest, greed and abandonment.


As I Was Saying About That “I Got Your Back” Comment

In the early iterations of I presented our women bloggers this way on our homepage:

The first iteration of our categories – how I made a group of really smart, sensitive women wince.


For many of our women, that ‘pigeon-holing’ was absolutely unacceptable.

“We’re more than our race or social orientation!” they winced – some very agitated at the compartmentalization I had unwittingly initiated.

“We’re those things yes, but our lives are full and complex as women – we’re mothers, sisters, partners, friends, professionals – and those are the ingredients that inform our writing, no matter what our race, culture and orientation have tried to tell us otherwise.”

Even after that first impassioned, prickly discussion and my embarrassed awareness that I had kicked off the project with something offensive to many of them, I saw the power of understanding and forgiveness that women leaders bring to their work in the world.

As we gathered to leave, I was generously hugged, acknowledged and thanked for introducing Shetroit.

Most reassuring were those words from a Black sister: “I got your back.”  That classic Detroit shorthand was like being cloaked with a force field and the endorsement that I – that we – were in this together.

Shetroit is a Work in Progress

From those early conversations over the following months, together we crafted and refined a new categories box* on our homepage, which calls to the important matters in our lives as women:

Now in our second year, we continue to explore the question that birthed this New Media endeavor:

How can we as women further encourage the shift toward a new paradigm of feminine leadership, partnership and collaboration by weaving them together with intercultural dialogue and action?

It’s going to be a most intriguing year.


 *Many thanks to the Media Women’s Center, which inspired our approach. 


About Becca

A transplant to Detroit, Becca Williams is wondering what's all this fuss about Detroit and its metro area? Eight mile, suburbs, lots of 'zebras,' pitting who against whom? She just says, "Let's get the women together and we'll figure it out." So here it is: Women Dreaming Detroit. And another thing, she comes from Chicago where the whole metro area was referred to as 'Chicagoland.' It's a big hug that says, "We share a land. We're community." From now on, Detroitland. Click here to read more about Rebecca

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