Coalition of 100 Black Women's 1st Annual Luncheon
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09/27/10 Sarah Curran
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Women came together on Saturday to recognize some Tampa Bay heroes in at the 1st annual luncheon for the area’s chapter of the Coalition of 100 Black Women. The group works to increase and promote education and guidance for women and girls in the community.

"We've had people who have shed blood, sweat, and tears to get us this far, and it is our job to train the young girls so that when they become in our stead they will be the voice of the future, stand beside men, ahead of men, but never behind them"

That was Jacqueline Wilds, the vice president of membership for the Coalition of 100 Black Women. The coalition is part of a nationwide non-profit, volunteer organization, promoting community service and leadership among African American women. However, The coalition doesn’t just affect the lives of black women. The Tampa chapter aspires to help all young women fulfill their potential.

"Young women are graduating at higher rates than young men these days, we now have more women in law school and in med school. The opportunities are endless, but sometimes they need a little extra help so the c100bw is there to show that path."

Keynote speaker, US Representative Kathy Castor, said its important that organizations like the Coalition of 100 Black Women give young women the extra push to fulfill their goals.

"Young women today need to understand there is a path to success, to economic opportunity. They may not have those role models near them, but the Coalition of 100 Black Women, they are all about reaching out to young and showing young women there is a path to economic opportunity. It may not be a traditional path. They are here to help and they are mentoring teens there out in the churches and neighborhoods and the schools. And thank goodness for that. "

One of the many issues holding back young women today is teen pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control almost 42 out of every 1,000 girls in the United states will become pregnant before the age of 20. This issue hits close to home for women like Florida District 58 Representative Janet Cruz. Cruz acts as a positive role model for young women who struggle with having a child at a young age.

"I was 16 when my daughter was born. I was a junior in high school. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for me. So I am working on some initiatives for teen pregnancy. And working on initiatives that try to teach women the consequences of sex, which is sometimes a baby, or perhaps an unwanted pregnancy, or a pregnancy in general. So that's the direction of my future to tell some girls that live a life or come from where I came from that there are options and there are choices and stuff happens."

Cruz wasn't the only positive role model for young girls at the luncheon. The conference center was filled with Tampa judges, representatives, business leaders and everyday women making a difference. One of these, Tampa's Chief of Police Jane Castor, said what was once the unthinkable for women is now becoming the norm with the help of organizations like the Coalition of 100 Black Women.

"I think that we will probably do away with the word trail blazers, because that doesn't apply in most cases anymore. Its not unusual to have the state representatives, women in all walks of political life, women as CEO's, women as chief of police, it's not a big deal anymore and I think that's important to show these women that there are no boundaries."

The coalition will soon host a career exploration workshop, designed to promote self-esteem and leadership development in African American women from grades 6-12.

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