Some people didn’t realize March was (and is) National Women’s History Month. And then others know it, or saw it referenced on social media, but didn’t think of it as a celebratory event.
Well, this past March, my wife and I happened to walk into Urban Winery in east Nashville on a Sunday night and found that we weren’t the only ones with that same idea. There were dozens of women gathered together as one woman, who I later learned to be D’Llisha Davis, spoke to them from a makeshift stage beside a lush green wall of artificial vines mimicking an alleyway garden. There was a lot of enthusiasm and cheering in the crowd, and because I’m always wondering about who is doing what in Nashville, I decided to introduce myself at the end of the event.
That conversation turned into an interview scheduled two weeks later and I had the privilege of spending some time with D’Llisha to hear more about what she was trying to do with her Sunday gatherings.
Turns out, D’Llisha and I have a similar self-starter attitude. She had been sitting at Urban Winery herself a few months back and thought, “The service was great, the people were great – maybe we can do our event here?” They were organizing a party-event called “For the Homies,” which was an all-day music and brunch event in October which featured R&B, Hip Hop, Trap, and Underground music. This blossomed into a friendship between D’Llisha and the staff at Urban Winery and ultimately the reason why they agreed to gift the space for her to organize the “Her Story Brunch Series,” which is what I happened upon this past March.
D’Llisha had been in New York and LA and had been hearing about a lot of events spotlighting women for Women’s History Month, but back home in Nashville it felt like social media was silent on the subject. A full-time Metro teacher, D’Llisha runs events on the side to celebrate the Hip Hop community in Nashville so it was a natural move for her to start something herself.
So on every Sunday in March they invited artists, vendors, and business owners to come help celebrate women creatives in Nashville: teachers, board members, artists, entrepreneurs – they didn’t want to exclude any women who, in D’Llisha’s words, are the ones really getting things done in this city. As she put it, “Let’s put women in a room and see what happens while celebrating them.”
What started out as D’Llisha wanting to highlight women creatives and women in business blossomed into what she hopes will become a monthly gathering. “So many women came up to me and said, ‘Please don’t let it end here. This has become my safe place where I feel wanted and appreciated.’ And this was without even being spotlighted…”
This conversation was especially impactful as TEDxNashville recently released the videos from our first TEDxNashville Women event, which was held at another favorite spot for vinofiles, City Winery, back in November. We too had seen the need to celebrate what women are doing in this city and it was an honor to have so many powerful women influencers take the TEDxNashville stage. The ethos behind that event was the reason I reached out to D’Llisha in the first place: it was clear her motives and ours were in true alignment.
“Do you watch TED Talks?” I asked.
D’Llisha immediately told me about a quote she has up in her classroom:
I am somebody.
I was somebody before I came.
I’ll be a better somebody when I leave.
These words are from a 2013 TED Education Talk given by Rita Pierson called “Every kid needs a champion.” If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s only seven and half minutes long and in my view one of the finest examples of TED Talk artistry. Pierson is eloquent, convicting, funny, and inspiring, and if I had a classroom I’d put her quote on the wall too. I can’t express this enough: watch this TED Talk!
The fact is, her words are one of the reasons the TEDx brand exists. TED has a unique space in this world for celebrating new ideas, but it was too small and too exclusive. It was missing a lot by the sheer fact it was only once a year. The “x” was started to celebrate those thousands of people dreaming and changing the world; the “x” recognizes it is more than just a select group of people in southern California who have ideas worth spreading. D’Llisha knows this too, and she did something about it. It was a privilege getting to know her and I look forward to seeing how TEDxNashville can stand with people like her and do even more to celebrate women in this city.
Photos by Josh Behm
Article written by Jeremy Snow