On Tuesday night at The Wellmont Theater, women gathered for a panel discussion with local women of distinction at the first Women’s Empowerment Forum. The event was part of Montclair Center’s Women’s Empowerment Week, an annual event to benefit SAVE of Essex, the county’s only designated rape care center and a program of the Family Service League.
The Q&A was masterfully moderated by local entrepreneur Donna Miller, founder & president of C3Workplace. Miller asked thoughtful questions and kept the dialogue moving with the five panelists and the audience.
Panelists were WOR radio host Joan Herrmann; nationally recognized career and life coach Laura Berman Fortgang; producer and activist Peg Cafferty; Executive director of the Montclair Fund for Education (MFEE) Masiel Rodriquez-Vars; and business owner and teacher Omni Kitts Ferrara. Fourth Ward Councilor Dr. Renee Baskerville was scheduled to appear, but wasn’t on the panel Tuesday night.
Topics discussed were what empowerment means — the panel agreed that it means something deeply personal and unique for everyone, how to deal with our inner negative thoughts to overcome fear of failure, how to raise boys to respect women, and how to build a culture of respect with our fellow women. The discussion was personal and meaningful.
Herrmann talked about her life and how she felt trapped in an unhappy marriage. She left her career to raise her children and when she was in her 40s, she realized she didn’t know who she was. She made changes and started her own radio show. She shared her motto of “Fake it to you make it,” advising the audience to “Think of what you want ot be, Act it, believe it, and then it WILL happen.”
Cafferty talked about overcoming personal tragedy and moving forward with the help of support. She spoke of the problem of women demeaning and not supporting other women and said if we act with kindness, good things will happen.
And speaking of personal and meaningful, Israel Cronk, Executive Director of the Montclair Center BID and the organizer of this event, spoke about his inspiration for a Montclair Women’s Empowerment Forum (he attended a similar panel at the UN) and why the SAVE of Essex benefit means so much to him personally. Getting choked up and having to stop several times, Cronk spoke about his sister being a victim of a sexual attack and the damage it does to the victim and their loved ones.
Looking over the intimate crowd at this inaugural event, Cronk asked everyone to close their eyes and envision being back in their seats a year later in a theater packed with local women. After attending the inspirational event, I don’t doubt that it will happen.
Women’s Empowerment Week continues with talks at various locations and a Ladies Night celebration on Friday. See the full scheudle here.