C. VIRGINIA FIELDS Former Borough President of Manhattan. The current president of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. Civil Rights activist as a teenager.

1. Name three women that inspire you, and tell us why.

Stacey Abrams: I am inspired by her tenacity, courage, and strength to stand in the face of tremendous challenges, at a time when it is increasingly hard to listen or engage people civically or politically. Stacey’s message of opportunity for all speaks to hope and is helping to renew a sense of belief and commitment that we can make a difference.

Dr. Adela Sanford: Educator extraordinaire; former Member, NYS Board of Regents. As a nonagenarian, Dr. Sanford continues to inspire through her teachings, sharing, mentoring, and commitment to preserving the African Diaspora history and culture. Her trailblazing success has touched the lives of many African Americans in education, business, and politics leading to important changes within the fields.

Dr. Marcella Maxwell: Retired Educator and considered by many as an education ambassador for the City of New York and at the national level. Dr. Maxwell has inspired my career and many other women in leadership development and education. Her passion for educating adults through networking and connecting woman across cultural, economic, and social lines has brought together women to address important issues of discrimination in shaping policy and budget decisions at all three levels of government.

2. What has been the secret of your success?

A. Preparation for opportunities that I have sought to pursue—academically, personally, professionally, and politically.

B. Willingness to accept advice, guidance, and criticism from people whose opinions I respect

C. Working with people in coalitions and from diverse backgrounds to achieve results.

D. Grit and determination!

3. If you were going to pass on one piece of advice to a young woman, what would it be? 

To know and understand that this is a journey. Prepare yourself for the journey!

4. In the fight for equality, what area do you think needs the most attention? 

The issue of income equality, including lower income wages between men and women as well as along racial lines among women.

5. What are you most proud of in your career?

Opportunities that have made it possible for me to make a meaningful impact in the lives of people nationally and globally through my profession as a social worker, elected representative, and non-profit executive. Seeing success in areas of affordable housing, healthcare, education, economic development, and establishing international relationships in South Korea and West Africa are proud markers in my career.

6. Where do you get your confidence

Growing up in the segregated south of Birmingham, Alabama, with a mother who encouraged me to believe in myself is how I began my activism. As a teenager, I marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spent six days in jail, and braved the fire hoses, taking a stand in the civil rights struggle that transformed our nation. These early experiences and exposure to many dangers and challenges helped to shape my views about civil rights, equality, and social justice issues.

7. What makes a woman beautiful

I am a firm believer that “beauty is only skin deep!” The inner spirit that comes forth through her words, actions, and behavior is indeed what makes a woman beautiful.

8. What gives you joy

Spending time with family, especially during the holidays; national and international travels that continue to expand my knowledge of respect and appreciation for different cultures, people, and ways of living. Seeing people treated with respect and dignity regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual identification, or status in life.