Virginia Harris


Leader of 100 Black Women

Ep. 82 - Virginia Harris is the current president and leader of the National Coalition of the 100 Black Women organization. Dee Dee Strum conducts the interview providing provacative questions to encourage Virginia to dig deep into her memory bank to share those life-lessons and career making moments that fueled her passion for advocacy. Virginia Harris describes how advocacy was deeply rooted in her since she was a teenager having been one of only three black girls to integrate an all-white high school in a small Georgia town. As a resident child and adult of the "deep south" living in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, she shares the family background to include a father in the military and her mother an educator. Virginia grew up with two sisters with her being "the middle girl." Her mother taught them all to be smart over feminine because she believed the latter to be a sign of weakness. She wanted all three of her girls to be "smart, strong, and independent in a world dominated by men."

Top Takeaways:

    • You must have a passionate advocating heart that is ready to give back to drive change.
    • Coming to understanding the mission of the National Coalition of the 100 Black Women provided the home and platform she needed.
    • Empowering and advocating for black women and girls is her fuel.
    • Advice on how the minority communities should handle the impacts of the coronavirus.
    • Understanding and promoting the role of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in offering quality education is as important today as it was yesterday and will continue to be far into the future.
    • The power of a determined woman.

Listen to how she believes integrating her high school was the launch pad for a lifetime of activism to eliminate both gender and racial inequity in America.

"Women need to make sure you're not always the first to leave and the last to show up."

Her high school years were followed by college years and then the early career-making years where she continually found the need to defend both her gender and her race.

Dynamic, highly respected, public servant and community leader. All these words and more describe Virginia W. Harris. She retired from the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners in July 2006, as County Auditor after 20 years of service. Other professional positions included Accounting Director & Financial Management Analyst, Gwinnett County, Audit Manager, State of Georgia, Comptroller, Governor's Office - Women's Services, State of Louisiana, Accountant, Sears Roebuck and Company, South Eastern Regional Office and Accountant with Arthur Young and Company.

She juggled the demands of being a wife and mother of two young children and the self-imposed strategy to succeed by being the first at work and the last to leave. She remained mindful of the needs of the young women who reported to her for both leadership and mentoring with consideration of the demands on becoming a wife, a mother and a professional; a journey that mirrored her own!

Listen to Virginia's journey and accomplishments, and you will agree that her mother was both smart and effective!

Key Moments:

The childhood influences that made her a lifelong giver. [1:34]
When did she take on the mantle of civic leadership? [5:38]
The role and mission of NCBW in encouraging women to participate in their civil rights in the 21st century. [8:33]
NCBW 2020's current agenda for tackling disparities in the areas of health, education, and economic empowerment. [11:54]
Advice for responding to the physical and mental strains caused by the novel coronavirus. [14:54]
Faith-based organizations and banks are offering help to local communities. [16:35]
The role of the alumni on giving back to HBCUs. [19:22]
HBCUs ARE still relevant. [22:24]
What difference was there between the HBCU and the graduate school she attended? [24:28]
Being the first woman of color executive in the Gwinnett (GA) county government. [26:20]
Survival strategies for a black woman working to become a breakthrough woman [30:08]

Relevant Links:

NCBW President
Carolina Panorama Article
WHYY Article
Wikipedia National Coalition of 100 Black Women

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