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‘Don’t Have to Take a Back Step to Anybody’: Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Other Black Women Honored at International Women Of Power Awards

Eight black women in diverse industries from fashion to business to politics were in the spotlight during the fourth-annual International Women of Power Awards in Marina del Rey, Calif.

“We decided to bring this theme of bloom,” said Koshie Mills, founder and executive producer of Heirs of Afrika. “We’re coming out of a dark place. We’re showing that we are powerful. We’re showing that our voice matters and we’re showing that we need to be seen.”

Marina del Rey, California – Aug. 8: Halima Aden, Ivy McGregor, Opal Tometi, Koshie Mills, Maxine Waters and Alexis Kerr attend Koshie Mills Presents Heirs of Afrika Fourth-Annual International Women Of Power Awards hosted By Grammy Award-winning artist Michelle Williams on Aug. 8, 2021, in Marina del Rey, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

The most senior awardee of the night, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, was recognized for her immense contribution as a politician, and as an advocate since the 1970s for women and people of color. “To have been chosen to be here to be honored is a special time and a special day for me and I respect the work that has been done to support women,” Congresswoman Waters shared. She also shared what has helped her on her powerful path. “Well, I tell all of the young people, in particular, build the confidence in your children so that they know that they’re somebody and that they have power and they have influence and they don’t have to take a back step to anybody.  And with that kind of confidence, you can use that energy to do things, to change things. I believe in that and it has worked for me,” she said.

The youngest awardee of the night was former model Halima Aden, who was the first to wear her hijab on the cover of multiple international magazines. She was honored for her activism. “Sharing that refugees are human just like the rest of us and being able to showcase their resilience and strength — it’s been a dream for me. And so I try to use my platform to speak to that and, you know, different projects to highlight refugees and their voices. It’s very uplifting work,” Aden said. 

Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Opal Tometi was also an honoree and shared what she believes is the path forward for advancement for people of color. “We gotta link arms,” Tometi said. “We gotta join groups, organizations and just link up with one another and build the society of our future and of our dreams — you know, spaces that we deserve. If we get together with one another, we have more power. There’s strength in numbers and there’s creativity that can be actualized in order to create the reality that we deserve,” she continued. 

Another honoree, Ivy McGregor, is the director of Social Responsibility for Beyoncés charity initiative, BeyGood. In addition to working behind the scenes with the superstar, McGregor was excited about a project of her own called TheIVY inc. Soarers. “In the pandemic, I started this virtual mentorship community and it’s grown in less than two years to 13,790 that are across 100 countries,” McGregor gushed. 

Honoree Alexis Kerr who is the vice president of Mahogany, a division of Hallmark dedicated to celebrating black identity, says her legacy lies in the one to whom she leaves her seat.   “I’m most proud of the opportunity that I’ve had in the last 10 years of leadership throughout a number of corporations I’ve always left the seat I was in, filled by another African-American woman and so when I think about women of power it is how do you leverage your power to bring forward the next generation of women who can sit in the seats that I’ve had the amazing opportunity to sit in,” she said. 

Heirs of Afrika, the presenters of the Women of Power Awards, is an organization committed to bridging the gap and reconnecting Africans on the continent with their global descendants in the diaspora.

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