In our nation’s current climate, representation of marginalized groups is more vital now than ever. A group of women of color is hoping to bring the stories of often less represented populations to the group. Inspired by her grandmother, Johnnie Mae ‘M’Dear’ Lucas, who often shared with her stories of her triumphs and tribulations, Dr. Candice Bledsoe formed The Collective with the goal of helping connect minority women with mentors, audiences, community, and opportunities.
“The Collective is a group comprised of women of color who are artists, singers, scholars, writers, activists and academics,” Bledsoe says. “Our voices and our stories are often left out, and I feel like we have the power to inspire and motivate and cultivate an understanding of the human spirit.”
The Collective was inspired by the SMU Women of Color Research Cluster that is sponsored by the DCII and Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education. Dr. Bledsoe leads the cluster on the SMU campus. Women from the greater DFW community wanted to participate too, which lead to the formation of The Collective.
While Bledsoe has come across many talented artists, writers and other creators since forming The Collective, she also wanted to help cultivate an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit within young women of color.
“I am excited when I see young women taking a step forward and wanting to make contributions to their communities,” Bledsoe says. “I am seeing it happen earlier and earlier.”
Bledsoe recalls the founding of the Austin-based Me & The Bees lemonade company by Mikaila Ulmer, who was 13 years old at the time.
“I don’t want people to feel like they have to wait until they graduate college to start their business,” Bledsoe says. “You can start making that contribution now and giving back to your community.”
In order to encourage young people to pursue their dreams, Dr. Bledsoe created The Action Research Center over 7 years ago. The Action Research Center will host The Cutting Edge Youth summit on Sat., April 13, 2019, from 9am-2pm at SMU Cox School of Business. This program is designed to help high school students with the college application process, connect them with scholarship opportunities and provide resources to help them realize their dreams and aspirations.
“We have been working with students of color, minority students, and first-generation students,” Bledsoe says. “This conference is to support them and connect them with mentors who will be able to help them on their academic journey.”
The Collective and SMU Women of Color Research Cluster will host the Women of Color Symposium on April 6 at 1 p.m., at SMU Meadows School of the Arts.