Posted Pamela Young on 2/26/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
This year, Girls on the Run will serve its one-millionth girl! We’re honoring this milestone by celebrating what makes each of us one in a million and by showcasing some one-in-a-million women who have made exceptional contributions to empowering girls and women. This week we showcase poet and performer Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley.
As a founding member of the Slam New Orleans Team “Mighty, Mighty,” Sha’Condria helped lead the team to multiple wins at spoken poetry competitions including the coveted National Poetry Slam Championship in 2012. In 2013, Sha’Condria was a featured poet on TV One's NAACP award-winning national hit show, "Verses and Flow." She is currently the host of the popular "Rhythm & Rhymes Spoken Word Performing Arts Series," a monthly open mic at the Alexandria Museum of Art. She is also working on "The Little Girls, Big Names Project" after the international attention garnered when her poem, "To All the Little Black Girls With Big Names" was featured on the viral media site, Upworthy.
Here’s what Sha’Condria has to share about life and being one in a million.
Q: Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams! How did you start to realize your own limitless potential and pursue the path to where you are today?
Sha’Condria: I think that the realization of one’s own limitless potential is an innate thing—just like fearlessness and love—that can be either nurtured, neglected, misguided or destroyed. Where I’m from, when you’re smart, people tell you that your only options in life are to become a doctor or lawyer, not an artist or a writer or a social justice advocate. Born to unwed, very young teenaged parents in a low-income neighborhood in a small Southern town filled with limits and boundaries and daily reminders of what one can’t do, I was fortunate to have parents [and a support system] who did everything they knew to counteract those limitations; however, I don’t think all of the members of the “village” raising me were even fully aware of their own potential. So initially, I followed their words and not my own heart… pursuing degrees in the field of science.
I knew deep down that my calling was in my creativity. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I realized that to be smart doesn’t mean that smart is all you are or all you can be. It wasn’t until I saw examples of people doing what was in their hearts instead of what was in their high-school career assessment or what others thought they should be doing.
I always had a voice. I just had to figure out what it was capable of—its magnificent range—and how to use it. And the discovery isn’t over yet. Every day, I am broadening that range… The key has been in realizing that I am vessel first, and that in order to be used, I must first be emptied of anything—any idea, any fear, any social norm, other people’s opinions—that may be limiting the fullness of what I’ve been put here to do and become.
Q: Of the traits and achievements that help make you one-in-a-million, what stands out most to you?
Sha’Condria: My ability to overcome—and knowing that I am capable of such—is the thing I am most cognizant of and the thing that I feel has propelled me most. Since conception, I have been persevering. I’ve always been able not only to take the worst and make do with it, but also to turn “worst” into excellence. For example, I was constantly teased about the depth of my voice as a child. Now, thousands of people listen to the sound of my voice daily, and it is the thing in which my biggest gift lies. Society says that no one with my background is supposed to be doing or accomplishing the things that I am. I am an anomaly hoping to one day become the norm for those who share a story similar to mine.
Q: Girls on the Run believes that big things are possible when you keep moving forward. Can you share an example from your own life?
Sha’Condria: There was a point in my life where I had everything a young woman could wish for. Then, there was a point where I lost everything I had. I had financially, emotionally and spiritually hit rock-bottom. At that time, I wanted to stop, sit and feel sorry for myself, and just give up. It was in that stretch of the race where I had to decide if I was a champion or a chump. Today, I look at all that I have accomplished and been blessed to experience since that time—winning a national poetry slam championship, being featured on several online websites/blogs, began working on my own social awareness movement, performed on a national television show… now this! If I would not have propelled forward during that rough time, I would have never known how liberating and fulfilling it feels to have these ribbons of victory brush across my chest.
Q: Which one of the core values of Girls on the Run resonates most with you and why?
Sha’Condria: For me, embracing our differences and finding strength in our connectedness is the one that resonates most. I think we, as girls (especially today!), feel that there is a certain standard we must adhere to—whether that be in beauty, behavior, expectation or expression—which makes us very competitive and unforgiving of ourselves. I have been guilty of comparing my beauty, capabilities and worth to others, which is definitely not productive or conducive to the symbiotic way we are meant to operate in this world. Our differences are what make this thing work. Like puzzle pieces, we create a much more beautiful picture when we recognize and operate in tandem—what one is lacking, the other has and vice versa.
Q: One of the many things our curriculum teaches girls is how to recognize and work through challenges in productive ways. What is a challenge you have faced (or still face)? How did/do you respond, and what have you learned from it?
Sha’Condria: One of the challenges I have faced and still face is procrastination/follow-through. I have figured out that this is mostly due to fear and/or doubt. As I stated earlier, I am still learning everyday what I am capable of by just jumping in and doing without thinking too hard about the what-ifs. I don’t always succeed at it. However, I am learning that if I was given the idea, and I know in my heart that my intent is pure, I owe it to myself and to the Creator (and to those who may be depending on my idea) to pursue it wholeheartedly. We were sent into this world with everything we need to fulfill our purpose (all parts and batteries included). We just sometimes fear the consequences, good or bad, of when an idea works or doesn’t work the way we envisioned. The crazy thing though—that should give us comfort—is that it always works out the way it should.
Q: What insight or advice would you offer a young girl today? What would you say now to your 8-year-old self?
Sha’Condria: I would say to a young girl today to pave your own way, run your own race, dare to be different. You are so much bigger than your body and what everyone else thinks of you and what you can do. You define you, and the beautiful thing is that you can be anything your heart desires. Start speaking it to yourself and out loud every day. Say it until it drowns out everything the world will try to tell you about you. Say it until it collapses every box they try to build around you. Say it until you begin to believe it. Say it until you’re bold enough to act accordingly. Say it even when you don’t feel brave enough to be it or do it. And when you feel attacked in a certain area of your life, keep pushing in that area, because most likely, that is where your victory lies.
To my 8-year old self, I would say… you are enough. You are not a mistake. You’re supposed to be here. The way you came here was not normal, nor are you supposed to be. Think big. And when it seems impossible, think even bigger. You were sent to this world to change it. I know you’re only 8, but get to work!
Who do you think is One in a Million? Take the One in a Million Challenge today and help build a chain of affirmation! Post a photo of someone you think is One in a Million, make a donaton to Girls on the Run in their honor and ask them to accept the challenge to do the same.